Growing Pains: GW Drops to Richmond in Final Minute 69-65
George Washington forward #12 David Pellom hangs on to the rim after powerful dunk during the Colonials' 69-95 loss to Richmond at the Smith Center in Washington D.C. on Wednesday, February 9, 2011. Eugene Huskey/DC Sports Box
WASHINGTON, D.C.—The George Washington Colonials men’s basketball team (12-12, 5-5 A-10) held its own against the A-10’s top team in Richmond (19-6, 8-2 A-10) in one of the most highly contested games in college basketball this season. The game featured 13 ties and 17 lead changes and in the end, the Spiders limped away victorious but not naïve to their battle with GW.
 
"Winning on the road is a difficult thing in the A-10, said Richmond Coach Chris Mooney. “This has always been a great game, a very intense rivalry, a great home court, and a great program. We're thrilled that we made enough plays at the end of the game to win. We have a lot of senior players who have played a lot of games, won a lot of games. From my perspective they were the difference today.”

With the score tied at 65-65 with under a minute left in the game, Richmond’s seniors stepped up and made plays with what the Spiders simply described as poise. Richmond’s John Harper drove baseline and converted on a tough layup to give his Spiders a 67-65 lead. GW’s Tony Taylor, who was money in the second half—where he scored 10 of his game-high 15 points, lost the ball after the Harper basket on an open drive to the cup. And that was the difference in Wednesday night’s game. Coach Mooney summed up the difference between his team and GW’s.

“I think we have a certain poise,” Mooney went on to explain. “Most teams with as many seniors as us would exhibit some poise, and we really did. We came to the time out, and Kevin Smith spoke up and said this is our game, be calm--all the things you'd expect to have said, but it's coming from the player. He's very sincere and passionate. These guys have played in a lot of games, and it's hard to rattle them.”

Taylor, who committed the very last turnover, understandably didn’t have much to say to reporters after the game but fellow junior, forward Andre Ware summed up the Colonials’ experience afterwards.

“The game came down to the possession at the end. It always comes down to defense and will, really. I think we just had a couple of missed opportunities on the defensive boards. And obviously, turnovers aren't going to help either. We just need to cut those, box out and that's the difference in the game.”

Ware, who was second on the team in scoring behind Taylor and Nemanja Mikic’s 15 points, with 14 also helped lead the Colonials to a 33-31 rebound advantage over Richmond with a tied team-high six rebounds.

"They have three seniors who are trying to have a special senior year, said GW head man Karl Hobbs. “We did a good job on one of them. But those are the things you battle when you're a young basketball team. We played them close all the way to the end, but unfortunately we didn't finish a couple of plays, we didn't get a rebound off a missed free-throw. Those were big plays."

But who on GW can step up the way Harper did for Richmond? The Colonials are still looking for that player or players who can, as Taylor said after the loss "Just (stay) focused…and just (try) to will ourselves to win”.

“Aside from the Duquesne game and St. Bonaventure game, we've been playing pretty well, said Hobbs. “But we still have some growing to do, we still have to finish some plays down the stretch, we have to make some defensive stops. So there's still a lot more improvement for us."

The Colonials have until Sunday to show some improvement as they take on Massachusetts (5-4 in A-10 play) who is currently a half game above GW in the standings. The game will be at 4 p.m. at Mullins Center.