When George Washington defeated Fordham on Sunday, ending its 11-game losing streak, the victory brought more relief than joy. The Colonials did not celebrate wildly their first Atlantic 10 Conference victory of the season. Instead, they took it in stride, much as they had done the string of losses. But there was definitely a change in the mood surrounding the team.
“The win was real good,” senior forward Robb Diggs said. “It really brought a whole lot of good emotions to the locker room. It sort of took a lot of negative aspects we had out of the locker room. It got guys happy again, hungry, letting guys know that we’re still in it, that we can still accomplish something great.”
The most striking aspect of GW’s win was its offensive transformation. For many years, the Colonials were a fast-breaking team that loved to score in transition. The fewer passes they made, the better off they were. But in Saturday’s win against Fordham, GW ran its half-court offense nearly flawlessly. The Colonials worked the ball inside, outside and around the perimeter until they found the best shot. They had 15 assists on 31 field goals.
“This guy right here [Coach Karl Hobbs], he’s been talking about the whole week get the shot that we want,” junior forward Damian Hollis said. “I was just trying to do that. [If] I didn’t think it was a good shot, I passed it out and tried to run something else, see if we can get a better shot. The past few days, [Coach has] been really stressing [passing the ball]. We really took that to heart.”
The Colonials were patient, poised and unselfish on offense, and they were rewarded for these qualities. They shot 57.4 percent from the floor, their second-highest field goal percentage of the season, and scored 87 points, their highest scoring output in a regulation game this season.
GW also was balanced. Instead of relying on a few scorers to carry them, the Colonials received contributions from many. Ten players scored for GW, led by Damian Hollis’s 19 points, and four players finished in double figures.
“When you look at our games, we have really struggled [to get] four guys playing well in one basketball game,” Hobbs said. “We’ve had some games were Rob is playing great and Damian is not shooting the ball so well, or Damian shoots the ball well this game and now Noel [Wilmore] is struggling a little bit. We’re at the part of the season where we need collectively three or four guys to get the points that they average and hopefully this is the start of it.”
GW needs more than just its top scorers playing well; it also must get contributions from its reserves. Sophomore center Joseph Katuka gave the Colonials a big boost off the bench by scoring eight points on 4-of-5 shooting and grabbing nine rebounds, one short of his career high. Katuka came into the contest averaging just 3.8 points and 2.8 rebounds per game. Hobbs would love to see Katuka develop into a defensive force around the basket.
“That’s something we need,” Hobbs said. “One of the struggles we’ve had throughout the year has been rebounding. He’s given us a nice physical presence, and he’s really starting to come on. He’s really starting to become a factor in basketball games.”
Despite the win, GW (7-13, 1-7) remains tied for last place in the conference standings with Fordham (3-17, 1-7). The Colonials still have a long way to go to qualify for the Atlantic 10 tournament and avoid missing the postseason for the second consecutive year. The schedule appears to be in their favor, however. Six of their eight remaining games are against teams from the bottom half of the standings.
“For us it’s about the process,” Hobbs said. “It’s about playing well. It’s about executing. . . . This game coming up Wednesday [against LaSalle], obviously, it’s an important game. I’m just happy that we’re playing at home and we have to put ourselves in a position to win the game at the end, and I think if we do that, being at home, we’ll be in great shape.”
February 9, 2009; 6:01 AM ET
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