The men’s basketball team’s loss Saturday afternoon to Harvard might not mean much in the long run. With its undefeated Atlantic 10 record still intact after the loss to the Ivy League foe, the Colonials’ spot atop the early conference standings remains unchanged, but the true ramifications of Saturday’s loss might not be best represented on paper.
With the 67-62 loss to the Crimson Saturday, the Colonials (10-7, 3-0 A-10) had their season-best five-game winning streak snapped and lost just their second game since Dec. 8. Prior to Saturday’s contest, GW had been flying high, having opened A-10 play 3-0 for the first time since 2005-2006.
Now instead of heading into Wednesday night’s road game against Richmond, a team that beat the Colonials twice last season, on a six-game winning streak, GW will roll into Richmond with a bruised ego and looking to answer many of the same questions it has dealt with for much of the season.
The Colonials, who had seemingly found their rhythm on offense before struggling during last Wednesday’s win over Fordham, struggled once again to score for much of the game Saturday, shooting 42.9 percent for the game and just under 38 percent in the second half. Just as they did against the Rams, the Colonials leaned on their defense for much of the game, but unlike Wednesay night’s victory, GW wasn’t able to find its legs on offense against the Crimson.
“I don’t know if we were necessarily making all the baskets, we only had 33 points at halftime. I just thought we played very good defense,” head coach Karl Hobbs said. “We knew we could do that for 20 minutes, but we didn’t expect to be able to do that against this caliber of team for 40 minutes.”
While GW wasn’t able to find any sort of consistent offense, the Colonials were able to score effectively for stretches against the Crimson, relying on their trademark pressure defense to force turnovers and create easy baskets that led to a 33-26 GW lead at halftime. It was a strategy that Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker said he and his team had prepared for in practice in the week leading up to the game, and once the Crimson made the necessary adjustments in the second half, GW found itself unable to keep up.
“They played like a packed in 1-3-1 and they haven’t really played that all season,” junior guard Tony Taylor said. “It was a real different look, so we had to make adjustments and I think that kind of slowed us down.”
It was Taylor who once again led the Colonials with 14 points against the Crimson, but the GW guard who has been the go-to scorer in games down the stretch faltered late against Harvard, watching as his potential game-tying layup was swatted away by Crimson forward Andrew Van Nest with a minute and a half left to play. Taylor, who was on the floor for all but two minutes of Saturday’s loss, said that while he played almost the entire game, he refused to use his abundance of minutes as an excuse.
“I think fatigue plays a factor, but if we’re tired, we’ll come out of the game,” Taylor said. “I think we played through fatigue today and we just came up short.”
Compounding GW’s problems Saturday were issues with referees, who called 25 fouls on the Colonials Saturday compared to 18 against Harvard, the best free-throw shooting team in the country. Hobbs, notorious for his fiery coaching style on the sidelines, was also called for a technical after arguing a charge call that went against Taylor.
“You’ll have to ask the official,” Hobbs said when asked what prompted the technical foul call. “Because I coach the same way every time on the floor. I think that’s something you gotta go to the official on.”
More than his team’s inability to find rhythm offensively or any problems with officials, Hobbs blamed his team’s struggles on an inability to keep the Crimson off the offensive glass, despite the fact that GW and Harvard were even in the category with 15 apiece.
With a road date against the Spiders looming next week, Hobbs said that his team would try to move Saturday’s loss into the rear-view mirror as quickly as possible. Tip-off for that game is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday night, by which time Hobbs said his team will have learned its lessons and moved on.
“It’s a long season, you know, and now we’re going into the second phase of the season. This is all part of it, and you take one game at a time,” Hobbs said. “Now we just gotta look at this game tonight and then after tomorrow, we totally will forget this game and our focus will be on Richmond and we’ll block everything else out of our minds and get ready to find a way to beat Richmond.”