RICHMOND, VA. – For exactly 20 minutes Wednesday night, it seemed like the men’s basketball team had finally figured the Richmond Spiders out.
GW went into the locker room midway through Wednesday night’s game at the Robins Center with a 33-24 lead, having found success both shutting down the Spiders on defense and getting to the rim with ease on the offensive end, shooting a lights-out 55.6 percent from the floor.
Even better, the Colonials had limited Richmond’s star guard, 2009-2010 Atlantic 10 Player of the Year Kevin Anderson, to a very quiet five points.
Everything seemed to be going GW’s way, so with Richmond forward Justin Harper scoring 13 first-half points, the Colonials seemed to have the Spiders’ number. Then the second half started, and everything shifted for GW.
Harper, the only Spider who had managed to do anything against the GW defense in the first half, opened the second half with a three, the beginning of a 15-2 Richmond run that turned a nine-point Colonials lead into a four-point advantage for the Spiders, a lead that GW would never regain for the rest of the game.
“I think someone went and told Anderson and Harper that there was a basketball game going on and they need to get involved,” men’s basketball head coach Karl Hobbs said. “And they got involved in a big way in the second half. The difference in the game: They had two guys who were just far superior, better basketball players than what we had on the floor, and that was the difference in the game.”
Anderson, who has consistently earned Hobbs’ praise even as he has tormented the Colonials throughout his career at Richmond, scored 15 of his 20 points in the second half. His counterpart Harper got even hotter in the second half, pouring in 17 points to finish with a career-high 30 for the game, making him the lead scorer in his team’s 68-58 win over the Colonials.
“I think they made some adjustments defensively against us, and once again, you’re not gonna stop two guys that are that good for 40 minutes of basketball,” Hobbs said.
While the Spiders’ dynamic duo shined throughout the second half, the Colonials (10-8, 3-1 A-10), who had been scoring with relative ease in the first half, went ice cold from the field, making just six baskets after halftime. Junior guard Tony Taylor, GW’s leading scorer this season and the only Colonial who averages more than 10 points per game, went just two for eight from the floor and had only seven points, less than half his usual output.
“They really play their 3-2, switching man [defense] really well. We tried to run all our plays and then they started switching their defenses and we didn’t execute as well as we would like to,” Taylor said. “That zone [defense] is really well coached. I thought I just didn’t attack as much as I normally do. Next game, I just need to attack more and get to the free throw line a lot more,” he added.
The lone Colonials in double figures Wednesday night were sophomore forward Dwayne Smith, who had 10, and senior center Joseph Katuka, whose strong performance over the game was buried somewhat by the final score. The GW big man tied his career-high with 17 points against the Spiders and was one of the only Colonials to score more than four points in the second half.
Even with the Colonials offensive struggles in the second half, GW managed to keep the Spiders within striking distance, never allowing Richmond a lead greater than 11. GW mounted a late comeback, pulling to within six with just under two minutes to play in the game, but when a Richmond layup followed a pair of misses from the free throw line by Smith, the Spiders finally put the game out of reach.
The loss leaves GW with the first blemish on its conference record this season and puts the Colonials on their second losing streak of the season, a skid they’ll try to snap back home at the Smith Center Saturday against St. Bonaventure.
“It’s just another basketball game,” Hobbs said of Wednesday night’s loss. “We play St. Bonaventure the next day. We’ll forget about this, we’ll correct the mistakes tonight when we get back to watch film, and then we’ll focus on St. Bonaventure.”