As recently as a week and a half ago, it seemed that the men’s basketball team finally had its problems on the offensive end of the court figured out. The Colonials weren’t setting the court on fire with points, but GW was at least being consistent, scoring points and, most of all, winning games.
Whatever was working for the Colonials then hasn’t worked lately and certainly wasn’t working in GW’s 62-49 loss to St. Bonaventure Saturday afternoon at the Smith Center. It was the third time this season that GW (10-9, 3-2 Atlantic 10) has been held to fewer than 50 points, and the first road win for the Bonnies at the Smith Center since 1989.
The Colonials struggled to make baskets of every variety Saturday, shooting just under 31 percent from the floor, the team’s second-worst shooting performance of the season. GW shot 15.4 percent from behind the three-point line, also a runner-up for worst performance of the season in that category.
Statistically, the Colonials had the most success shooting the ball from the free throw line. GW shot 57.7 percent from the charity stripe, but even that number was skewed upward by the surprising performance of sophomore forward David Pellom, a 50 percent free throw shooter this season, who made all nine of his free throw attempts against the Bonnies. Subtract Pellom’s perfect afternoon from the line, and GW’s free throw percentage drops from almost 58 percent to just above 35.
“I’m not so sure what [the Bonnies] were doing in particular. We just really [were] playing like there was a lid on that basket, whether we got fouled and [were] at the free throw line or whether we were driving to the basket, and it was a struggle throughout the entire game,” head coach Karl Hobbs said. “I thought at some point, we’ll make some consecutive shots in a row, but for whatever reason, we just couldn’t make a shot, and I would have to give their defense some credit because of that.”
The Bonnies, who were themselves less than impressive offensively, were bolstered by a larger-than-usual contingent of St. Bonaventure fans, a presence that was made even more noticeable as significant chunks of the student section, which had been mostly full for GW’s annual Greek Game promotion, started to file out beginning at halftime.
The Colonials did receive a lift from senior center Jabari Edwards, who hadn’t played since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery Dec. 22. Edwards didn’t score in his 8 minutes of action against the Bonnies, but did have an impressive blocked shot and an offensive rebound.
GW’s starting center, senior Joesph Katuka, played a season-low nine minutes after drawing two quick fouls to open the game. Hobbs said that while establishing Katuka’s presence early on in games is always a priority, once the Colonials fell behind midway through the first half the team needed to rely more on speed than size to try to climb back into the game.
“It was a game that kind of got out of control, and we spent the next – pretty much the whole second half, really – trying to play catch up,” Hobbs said. “It was that kind of game and we needed more speed in the game to try to create some turnovers.”
Also noticeably absent from the stat sheet was junior guard Tony Taylor, the Colonials’ leading scorer this season, who had just nine points and made just three field goals against the Bonnies. Taylor, one of the Colonials’ better free throw shooters, made just 33 percent of his shots from the charity stripe, and the absence of his usual offensive output left a difficult hole to fill for GW.
Perhaps the lone bright spot for the Colonials against St. Bonaventure was the play of Pellom, who finished with a career-high 15 points and 10 rebounds to record the second double-double of his career.
Next up for the Colonials is a road date Wednesday night in Cincinnati against perennial A-10 power Xavier at 7 p.m. As he prepares his team to face the Musketeers, Hobbs said he would steer his players’ focus toward fundamentals as GW tries to snap out of its current shooting slump.
“We went through this kind of a slump, I guess, early in the season and then we kind of came out of it and it looks like we may be back into it, I have no idea,” Hobbs said. “I think for us, we just gotta go back to fundamentals. We just gotta go back to spending time running guys off screens, getting shots up. I think we gotta do a little bit better job of screening to get guys open so they can get a little cleaner looks, and hopefully that will solve our shooting woes.”