With Obamas in Attendance, Colonial Rally Falls Short
Josh Tarver of Oregon State goes up for a layup underneath the basket during an NCAA basketball game at the Smith Center in Washington, DC on November 28, 2009. Kirk Queen/DC Sports Box
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The last time a U.S. President showed up at a Colonials game it proved to be a good omen.  In 1995, President Bill Clinton was on hand to witness the George Washington men’s team upset the then number-one ranked UMass team on national television.
This time…eh, not so much.

With the entire First Family in attendance in support of Beavers’ head coach Craig Robinson, the brother of First Lady Michelle Obama, the visiting Beavers had all of the mojo working their way early and burst out of the gate with a flurry of offense and hard-nosed defense to build a lead the Colonials would never be able to overcome.

George Washington (4-1) headed into Saturday’s contest perfect on the season and Coach Carl Hobbs’ Colonials squad had quickly developed a reputation for playing smothering trap defenses that stymied offensive effectiveness and forced turnovers by the boatloads.  From the outset of this contest though, it was the Beavers who played the aggressor on the defensive end.

Oregon State (2-3) forced George Washington into five turnovers before Colonials notched their first basket, a thunderous dunk by big man Hermann Opoku.  By then though the Beavers had built a 14 point lead and the Colonials could not put together enough sustained offense to make a contest of the game in the first half.

George Washington managed to convert just 39 percent of their first half attempts from the field and missed on five of eight free throw attempts while allowing the Beavers to drop in 50 percent of their shots.  By halftime, the Colonials had as many turnovers (nine) as they had field goals and Oregon State threatened to run away with the game.

The Colonials had no intentions of allowing the visiting Beavers to embarrass them in their own building though.  George Washington came out of the locker room following the half with a renewed sense of urgency.  They responded to Oregon State’s intensity with their own intensity, pressing opposing ball handlers the entire length of the court before forcing them into traps at either corner across the midcourt timeline.

The Colonials limited Oregon State to just 12 field goal attempts and forced 13 turnovers in the second half of play.  The Beavers were able to stay just ahead by burying their free throw attempts, but George Washington’s ferocity escalated as time ran down in the second half when the combination of pressure defense and timely offense allowed them to pull within two points on an and one play with under a minute left in the contest.

With 47 seconds left to play the Colonials made a final push.  Bryan Baynes converted a lay-in and the George Washington defense pressured the Beavers into a turnover following the inbounds pass, which Tony Taylor quickly converted into a lay in.  The basket pulled the Colonials to within five points (59-54) and prompted coach Robinson to rally his troops and sent the home crowd into a spirited rally of “Yes We Can!” chants.

On the Colonials next possession freshman Lasean Kroma found himself open for a clean look at a three point attempt which he nailed to close the margin to two with 32 seconds remaining on the clock.

President Obama watches from the stands during an NCAA basketball game at the Smith Center in Washington, DC on November 28, 2009. Kirk Queen/DC Sports Box
With the clock working against them the Colonials were forced to foul immediately and Beavers forward Seth Tarver converted both attempts.  George Washington failed to convert on the offensive end and put the Beavers back on the free throw line where they closed the game.

Tarver led the Beavers with 18 points on 50 percent shooting from the field and 90 percent shooting from the free throw line.  Tarver’s brother, guard Josh, was the only other Beaver to score in double digits.

For the Colonials, Kromah combined with forward Damian Hollis to account for 28 of GW’s 57 points.

In post game remarks, both coaches acknowledged the circus atmosphere surrounding the President’s attendance at the game created.  For Robinson’s team it wasn’t a distraction, it was the cherry on top of a positive weekend experience for his Beaver team who were desperately trying to put it all together and get a win.

“This game was extremely important for us,” Robinson said. “We hadn't played well yet. We really needed to have a good start. We got a chance to take our team to the White House but it was really important to win the game to make this trip a treat."

Robinson joked that his team didn’t care about him yelling and screaming, they just didn’t want to lose in front of President Obama and his family.

While the Beavers were motivated by the presence of the President, coach Hobbs said his Colonials might have been a little too wide-eyed and excited early in the contest which made them susceptible to the quick run they experienced early in the game.  Hobbs said his team fought to the end, but could never really dig themselves out of the hole they allowed the Beavers to dig for them early in the game.

"I thought that we had to play catch-up through the entire game,” Hobbs said.

“We had a tough time shooting the basketball and we couldn't make shots from the outside consistently. We played like we never felt we were out of the game."

Hobbs publicly thanked the President and his family for attending, and coach Robinson for making the long trip across country to play his team, before reminding the Colonial faithful that they’ll need the same kind of support coming up against local rival George Mason University.