FAIRFAX, Va. – With the game over and the teams in the locker rooms after GW’s 60-46 loss at George Mason Wednesday night, the sounds of a heated exchange in the Colonials locker room was audible through the green and white walls of the Patriot Center and over the post-game comments from Patriots head coach Jim Larranaga.
It had all the hallmarks of a coach taking out his frustrations on his team after a lackluster performance, but once he sat down for questions, junior guard Tony Taylor said it wasn’t the coaches doing the shouting.
“We’re passionate about winning, so we just talked amongst ourselves and said we gotta pick it up,” Taylor said. “That’s just us. We have to take care of business. Coach always comes in and talks to us, but we are a close-knit group and whenever we see something that needs to be done, we all come together and talk about it first. We just need to play a lot better,” he added.
Playing better, men’s basketball head coach Karl Hobbs said, will simply boil down to making more shots. The Colonials shot just over 31 percent from the floor Wednesday night and just under 16 percent from behind the three-point line. Freshman Nemanja Mikic, who scored 23 points Monday night against UNC-Wilmington, was limited to just three points on one-of-six shooting. Taylor, the only Colonial to score in double figures, had 11 points.
“I think we gotta focus on just executing a little bit better. I think we gotta take a few better shots and then we just gotta hit some of the open shots that we’re getting. It’s not really that complicated,” Hobbs said. “We thought coming into the season that we would be a pretty good shooting team and right now we’re just really going through a real shooting slump.”
The Colonials were especially cold from the field to open both halves, allowing George Mason to open up large leads. The Patriots opened the game on a 9-2 run over the first nine and a half minutes and clung to that lead for much of the first half. The Colonials clawed their way back into the game, taking their only lead of the night with 1:39 left in the half, and went into halftime down 28-26, thanks largely to their defense.
“I thought we played terrific defense throughout the game, I just thought that we really struggled making shots,” Hobbs said. “We started the game out, I think we were one-for-nine at one point, and then we started the second half in a very similar fashion and I think that didn’t allow us to keep the game within reach.”
GW couldn’t keep the little momentum it had generated in the first half, allowing Mason a 16-6 run over the first 10 minutes of the half, giving the Patriots a 12-point lead that later ballooned to as high as 20 with 2:21 left in the game.
The Colonials’ defense, which had been the team’s saving grace in the first half, slacked after halftime, allowing the Patriots to shoot 50 percent from the floor in the second period. GW also struggled to keep George Mason from getting to the free throw line, which it did 33 times Wednesday night, 26 of which came in the second half. The Colonials attempted just nine free throws against the Patriots, but Hobbs dismissed the disparity, reasoning that most of Mason’s shots from the charity stripe came late in the game and had “no bearing on the game whatsoever.”
With preseason all-conference third-team guard Lasan Kromah likely sidelined for the season with an injured left foot, the Colonials have labored to find an offensive identity. As a team, GW has shot under 40 percent in each of its last four games, wasting defensive performances like the one the Colonials had Wednesday night in defeats.
“These last three games, we’re just really struggling with shooting the basketball,” Hobbs said. “We gotta find somebody just to make a few shots for us, because our defense, I think, has really been pretty good and I think it was really good tonight.”
Next up for the Colonials is the BB&T Classic at the Verizon Center Saturday, where the team will look to find its offensive rhythm against Navy. Whether it finds it against the Midshipmen this weekend or somewhere else down the road, Taylor said after talking it over with his team, he was confident that Wednesday night’s misses will eventually turn into points.
“I honestly think its mainly because we’re not finishing plays, and like coach said, we gotta make shots,” Taylor said. “We’re moving the ball well, we’re executing well, we’re getting the shots that we want but they’re not just going down right now. But as the season goes on, they will go down.”