Ben Krimmel, a senior majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist.
After Sunday’s win, GW head coach Mike Lonergan said it best: “My stomach right now is killing me — and we won.”
You can’t really blame the third-year head coach. The past few seasons, the Colonials had a tendency to fold down the stretch. Their troubles caused stomach cramps, ulcers, you name it, among GW fans and coaches.
So were you surprised when GW overcome a five-minute stretch of terrible play and escaped with a 77-75 win over Maryland? It certainly surprised the Terrapins.
But this is the new look, re-branded George Washington Colonials. This is a GW team that survives a rough stretch late in the game rather than falling apart when their opponent ratchets up the pressure. At least so far.
For the first 35 minutes GW was the dominant team in Sunday’s game, forcing Maryland into contested jump shots while attacking the basket and drawing fouls with relative ease on offense.
The Colonials looked like the team from the power conference and Maryland the mid-major. With five minutes to play GW held a 14-point advantage and seemed to have the game well in hand.
Eight GW turnovers later, the score was tied with one minute remaining. Lonergan’s stomach was fully churning, his players had a dear in headlights expression and the large contingent of Colonials’ fans was thinking: “Here we go again.”
“We were so shaky late,” Lonergan admitted at the postgame press conference. “We panicked.”
Panicked might have been a bit of an understatement. GW was so rattled by the Maryland press that they only managed two shot attempts in the final five minutes of play. Why Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon waited so long to go the press is beyond me.
Lesser teams in this situation completely collapse, but GW kept cool enough to stay in control—Maryland tied the score twice, but never took the lead. The Colonials converted seven of eight from the free throw line and managed to give themselves a chance to win the game with 8.1 seconds to play and the score tied.
At the end of the day, GW bended, but didn’t break. And while the lasting memory of the win over the Terps will be Maurice Creek’s game-winner, the game’s biggest takeaway is that GW showed the mental toughness to survive an opponent’s late surge.
With two days to prepare for Boston University, Lonergan will look for plays to break the press and ways to keep his squad from panicking. And to keep his stomach settled.