PHILADELPHIA – All it took was just a few plays in just a few minutes for GW’s game at No. 20/16 Temple (AP, ESPN/USA Today) to irreversibly shift to the host’s favor. A quick layup by Lavoy Allen, one a minute later from Ryan Brooks, and a midcourt Brooks steal that led to a breakaway dunk, turned what had been a one-point Owls lead at halftime into a seven-point Colonials deficit after just over 90 seconds of second-half basketball.
“We just kind of lost our way in that first three or four minutes,” head coach Karl Hobbs said after the game, and that way would never truly come back. The Owls ended up scoring 10 straight points out of halftime and ballooned their lead to double-digits before beating the Colonials by a 70-57 final.
For much of the first half, GW (16-13, 6-10 Atlantic 10) was able to hang with conference-leader Temple, thanks to an ability to best the Owls on the offensive glass. Junior Joseph Katuka grabbed four offensive rebounds and seven total in the first half, helping the Colonials get nearly a third of their first-half points on second chances and keep pace through the first 20 minutes.
That advantage relented after the break as Temple’s big men began to take back the post that Katuka had so firmly controlled. Just as the Owls began the half with a tone-setting burst of scoring, so too did they establish themselves by grabbing three of the second half’s first four rebounds.
At the same time, Temple turned the Colonials over twice in a row, converting both such instances into points and putting GW’s back to the wall with an 11-point lead before the Colonials could even get on the board in the second half.
“We came out flat, a little bit relaxed,” Katuka said of his team’s post-halftime slump. “They’re a great team and we let them have that cushion. It’s hard playing a top-15 team when you’re giving them a 10-0, 8-0 run – to come back is hard. We just made some easy mistakes and turnovers and they took advantage of our mistakes.”
Much of that cushion was built in the paint, an area GW not only controlled via rebounding but also scoring in the first half, putting up 12 points in the paint compared to Temple’s six before halftime.
But Temple’s low-post combo of Allen and Micheal Eric took control in the second half – Hobbs would say they “dominated the game” three times in his post-game comments – helping the Owls out-score the Colonials 26 to 12 in the paint after halftime.
“Obviously they came out and said, ‘We’re going inside.’ That’s what they did,” Hobbs said.
The duo dueled with Katuka for the rest of the game, often coming up on the winning side. During one four-minute stretch, Eric scored nine of Temple’s 11 points on his way to a game-high total of 18, while Allen scored all but two of his 12 points after halftime.
The low-post battle – and a technical foul – earned Katuka the ire of the Owl faithful, who began to boo him as soon as he touched the ball down the stretch. But the third-year forward, who finished with a team-leading 13 points and 10 rebounds, said the crowd’s noise did not bother him.
“I wasn’t paying attention to the fans,” Katuka said with a smile. “I banked a shot, I looked at them and they started booing. That’s all I remember.”
The Colonials travel to Dayton Tuesday to play their first A-10 tournament game since winning the conference championship in 2007. GW lost 65-51 to the Flyers Jan. 20 in Ohio, but Hobbs and Katuka both said the team’s focus is not on its previous defeat but on cleaning up its own play moving forward.
“We have 40 minutes left in our season and we just gotta come out and we just gotta play as hard as we possibly can,” Hobbs said. “And then we just gotta try to minimize beating ourselves.”
Number Crunch: 10
The number of unanswered points the GW men’s basketball team gave up to open the second half in its 70-57 loss at No. 20/16 Temple Saturday. The Colonials were down one at halftime.