Before his season began, men’s basketball coach Karl Hobbs outlined what his team needed to do to be successful this season. A higher shooting percentage, shooting more threes and averaging somewhere around 75 points per game as a team would all be crucial, he said, if his team was going to compete this season.
GW met those requirements Saturday afternoon in its first game of the season, a 82-64 win in an exhibition game over Division II Bowie State at the Smith Center.
The Colonials shot an impressive 52.5 percent from the floor against the Bulldogs and shot just over 30 percent from behind the three-point line. GW scored 42 of its points in the paint and 23 off turnovers. All but one starter for the Colonials scored in double figures.
“I think the biggest success is that I thought we were able to get easier shots,” Hobbs said of his team’s offensive performance. “We took a good number of threes. I thought some of them weren’t the good variety, but the fact is we got them up and that’s one of the things that we talked about, being a better three-point-shooting team.”
GW was led by sophomore guard Tim Johnson, who came off the bench to score a career-high 19 points against the Bulldogs. Johnson, who averaged just over 10 minutes per game last season, played more than double that Saturday. He said he was happy to be able to get into a rhythm, especially in the second half, when he scored 12 of his 19 points.
“It’s not about my minutes I’m playing, but what I’m doing with them, just trying to put a lot of energy and a lot of enthusiasm to help my team out,” Johnson said. “A lot of the points I scored was because of my teammates, the way they’re cutting, the way we’re executing our plays. It was great.”
Hobbs said he was particularly pleased with the sophomore’s shot selection and with his energy off the bench.
“It was really encouraging, particularly the threes. He took four threes and he made three of them. He’s been shooting the ball extremely well,” Hobbs said. “He played with a lot of energy, a lot of poise and he played with great confidence. That’s the thing that he has to give us when he comes into the game is his energy and his athleticism and I’m very pleased with what he contributed today.”
The game was not without its difficulties for the Colonials, who gave up 16 turnovers in the loss, a number that Hobbs said was troubling against a team like Bowie State but would be more acceptable in a more fast-paced game. Fouls also proved to be an issue for GW, especially for junior point guard Tony Taylor, who was whistled twice in the first three minutes of the game and had to be taken out.
Taylor, the team’s starting point guard, shared the back court for much of the game with either sophomore Bryan Bynes and freshman Dan Guest, a strategy Hobbs has said he hopes will give Taylor more scoring opportunities. After getting off to a slow start because of his foul trouble, Taylor rebounded to score 13 points.
“I was a little disappointed with the early fouls for him because he knows that puts tremendous amounts of pressure on us when he gets into early foul trouble like that,” Hobbs said of Taylor. “I thought once he kind of warmed up and the pace of the game sort of picked up, I was very pleased. I thought he played much, much better in the second half.”
Another bright spot for the Colonials was the play of freshman Nemanja Mikic, who played a team-high 31 minutes and started in the place of sophomore Lasan Kromah, who sat out the game with a minor toe injury. Hobbs said Kromah will be ready to play Nov. 16 against Boston University.
Mikic had 11 points against the Bulldogs and was three of six from behind the three-point line. He also grabbed six rebounds and had two steals in his Smith Center debut. Hobbs said the minutes Mikic saw against Bowie State weren’t an aberration and that he expects the Serbian freshman to be a significant contributor this season.
“I really wanted to give him a great deal of minutes today because I’m really trying to get him ready for what’s to come and I’m trying to figure him out a little bit too,” Hobbs said. “I’m just trying to get a sense of how well can he play when he’s tired. Is he still gonna rebound when he’s tired? And today, he most certainly did pass the test. I’m hoping to play him those kind of minutes this year.”
GW will be in action again Nov. 16 for the first game of the NIT Season Tip-Off hosted by Villanova. Game time for the Colonials’ regular season opener is set for 8 p.m.