Following each of his team’s four previous games, men’s basketball head coach Karl Hobbs found himself searching for answers after watching the Colonials shoot less than 40 percent from the floor and score more than 60 points just one out of four times.
Hobbs found the remedy for what had been ailing his team Wednesday night against Towson not by devising any sort of magical offensive adjustment but instead by making focusing on playing what the 10th-year head coach likes to call “GW Basketball.” That refocusing translated into 23 Towson turnovers, 14 fast-fast break points, three GW players in double figures and, perhaps most importantly, the stress of a four-game losing streak lifted off of the shoulders of the players and coaches.
“Tonight we said, ‘hey, we’re just gonna go back to who we are and how we play,’” Hobbs said after GW’s 73-67 win over the Tigers. “We wanted to change the tempo of the game and we wanted to create tempo. Most importantly, we felt it was important that we had to get steals. We told guys, you know, we need to be flying all over the place tonight, and we may lose the game, but we’re gonna make sure that our fans are entertained,” he added.
Coming into Wednesday night’s game, GW (3-5) was shooting just 34.7 percent from the floor as a team, good enough for 341st out of the 346 NCAA Division I basketball teams. The Colonials managed to find the bottom of the basket with some frequency though Wednesday night, shooting 44.4 percent against the Tigers and almost 41 percent from behind the three-point line.
Defense, which had actually been a strong point for the GW even throughout its losing streak, was a catalyst for the Colonials on offense Wednesday night. GW scored 20 points off of Towson’s 23 turnovers and the Colonials’ 13 steals were a season-high. The Colonials were especially successful in frustrating Towson with their pressure defense, utilizing double teams to trap the Tigers.
“We knew this team had four losses, we know that thay’re a trapping, aggressive basketball team. They trapped and they came at us and they did a good job of staying in their traps. They not only went to the first trap but they got to the second trap and at times almost the third trap,” Towson head coach Pat Kennedy said. “That was pretty impressive because the tapes that we watched, we did not see them get to a second and third trap…Karl made some pretty good adjustments coming back home and being in their position having lost a few games in a row.”
The Colonials were led on offense by sophomore forward Dwayne Smith, who had 18 points and six assists off the bench Wednesday night. Senior center Joseph Katuka and sophomore guard Tim Johnson both joined Smith in double figures with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
With sophomore and Preseason All-Atlantic 10 Third Team selection Lasan Kromah sidelined with an injured left ankle, Hobbs said that his team would have to rely heavily on the offense-by-committee strategy that GW put on display against the Tigers. 10 of the 11 players that got into the game for the Colonials scored Wednesday night, and Hobbs said that he was pleased to see Smith take on the lion’s share of the scoring for the first time this season against the Tigers.
“It’s gonna have to be a team effort, and every night it’s gonna have to be a different guy stepping up. I think tonight, Dwayne stepped up all the way around. He had some big buckets, he had a big steal,” Hobbs said. “He had a very critical play down the stretch where he got a drive, got the rebound, went back up. He was resilient, he wasn’t going to be deined, he understood the importance of it and went back up and finished the play.”
Smith, who scored a total of five points over the course of GW’s first three games of the season, had begun to find a rhythm offensively in the Colonials’ last three games, scoring in double figures against both UNC-Wilmington and Navy. The Toronto native said that as he’s found his role on the Kromah-less Colonials, he’s gotten more comfortable as a scorer.
“I’m definitely feeling more comfortable with shooting the ball, attacking. Before, I was more tedious, more nervous a little bit,” Smith said. “I’m definitely feeling more comfortable. I’m definitely finding my stride.”
The Colonials will take a nine-day break for final exams after Wednesday night’s win and won’t play again until Dec. 18 when they’ll be on the road in Corvallis, Ore., to take on Oregon State. The win, Hobbs said, was well timed, giving the Colonials a shot o confidence before their final exams and their trip to the West Coast.
“This win definitely sort of takes the heat off,” Hobbs said. “I think these guys can now go into final exams feeling a little bit better without thinking about the losses and things like that.”