Colonials hold off 49ers in Charlotte

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – It had been just three days since the men’s basketball team’s 84-59 loss to Duquesne last week when GW took the court Saturday afternoon on the road against Charlotte. Sixty-seven hours was all that separated the Colonials from one of their worst performances of the season, a sloppy game that featured a season-high 26 GW turnovers.

With the Duquesne loss still looming large in the Colonials’ rear-view mirror, a short memory was a prerequisite for GW Saturday against the 49ers, and making sure that his players weren’t still thinking about the Dukes was a priority for men’s basketball head coach Karl Hobbs.

“The greatest thing sometimes in coaching is that you got a short-term memory and sometimes you tend to forget things. We never talked about the game, we never talked about what happened. We took showers, we got on the bus and we had a good ride home,” Hobbs said. “We never even talked about that game. We simply burned the tape. It never happened.”

Hobbs’ plan to help his players put the Duquesne game behind them worked to perfection with the Colonials Saturday. GW shot better than 50 percent from the floor against the 49ers, something the team hadn’t done since beating Howard Jan. 2. As a team, the Colonials dished out 17 assists against Charlotte and gave up just 10 turnovers.

The game was not without drama though for the Colonials, who were up nine with 8:04 to play in the game when Charlotte guard Derrio Green got white hot, scoring 17 of his 21 points Saturday in the final 7 minutes. Almost entirely by himself, Green kept the 49ers in the game, shrinking GW’s lead to as few as five with 19 seconds to play. The Colonials managed to stay composed down the stretch though, matching Green’s offensive output as a team and making just enough free throws in the game’s final minutes to earn the 73-67 win.

“He was just phenomenal today,” Hobbs said of Green. “The last 2 minutes of the game, he was just a one-man wrecking crew. I just haven’t experienced anything like that in my 10 years of coaching, just one guy single-handedly willing his team to almost a victory.”

For Hobbs, Charlotte’s late rally brought back shades of the Colonials’ game last year at Halton Arena, when GW’s five-point lead with less than a minute and a half to play evaporated thanks to a pair of turnovers. Saturday though, Hobbs said he was impressed with his team’s ability to remain composed in the face of Green’s late offensive barrage.

“The thing that we kept telling these guys is that you have to will yourself to win,” Hobbs said. “I said to the guys, ‘This is the point of the game where you have to will yourself and force him to miss it. It’s all about will. Either he’s gonna out-will you to make it or you’re gonna have to out-will him to force him to miss it.’ “

The Colonials (12-11, 5-4 Atlantic 10) were led offensively by junior guard Tony Taylor, who had 25 points and nine assists against the 49ers. Senior center Joseph Katuka joined Taylor as the only other Colonial in double figures Saturday. Katuka scored 10 of his eventual 13 points in the first half, an encouraging statistic for the Colonials, who often look to the Nigerian big man early in games to help the team establish its offensive rhythm.

“I think it allows the other guys to get freed up,” Hobbs said of Katuka’s early offensive output. “I think it allows Tony to get open looks, I think it allows [freshman forward] Nemanja [Mikic] open looks. Anytime Joe is playing well and making baskets inside, we’re a very difficult team.”

Saturday’s was the first of two scheduled games against Charlotte, with the rematch set for Feb. 23, at the Smith Center. Drawing parallels between the 49ers and his own team, Hobbs said he expected another close game when Charlotte makes its return trip to D.C. later this month.

“I think that down the road this is going to be a very good basketball team,” Hobbs said. “I’m just hoping that down the road we’ll only have to play them once and not twice.”

GW will return to Foggy Bottom Wednesday night for the second half of its home-and-home series against Richmond, with tip-off set for 7 p.m.

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