Saturday, March 22, 2014

GW falls 71-66, but a good game and a great season


All good seasons must come to an end. It was a close game, but in the end, shooting, fouls and bench play gave Memphis the edge. That said, the entire time was a lot of fun and it was great to see the Colonials in the tournament after a few years and hanging with their opponent. The team definitely deserved to be there, and I'm proud of the team, the university, and the fans.

Memphis led the entire game, but it was back and forth with an average difference of about 5. The Tigers were never able to pull away and the Colonials have a few opportunities to tie or take the lead late in the second half.

With 2:40 to go, GW brought the game to within two. Memphis kept answering with clutch shots, but the Colonials kept coming back. Nemanja Mikic had a chance to tie up with an open three with 58 seconds to go, but he missed. Then with 15 seconds to go, Joe McDonald made an acrobatic layup to bring the game within one. After a couple of fouls and then two Memphis free throws, Maurice Creek had an opportunity to tie it with 5 seconds left, but he airballed. After that, Memphis made free throws and that was game.

For the game, the good guys shot 44.6%, while struggling at the line (14/24) and from three (2/13). If GW makes a few of those, it's a different game. Memphis were hot from outside, hitting 5 threes in the first half, and then shot 66% in the second half from the floor. Creek had some good driving moves but didn't shoot well from outside, going 2/8 from three. That said, he also proved his toughness: he was hit in the face on the first possession. The team took him to the locker room, he got 10 stitches, then returned to the game.

GW played well inside though, with Kevin Larsen and Isaiah Armwood scoring seemingly at will, with 37 points between them. However, this is where the refereeing really took effect -- the stripes called GW very closely while allowing Memphis to get away with a lot more. Colonials on offense kept getting hit under the basket when going up for putbacks, with no call, but then on the other end the good guys were called a lot. Memphis actually had more fouls, but it seemed like the more important ones went against GW -- or at least the ones that hurt their style of play the most. (CSN's Chick Hernandez and Baby Lonergan didn't like it either.)

Bench play hampered the good guys too, with GW getting outscored 25-3 off the bench. John Kopriva had the 3 points, playing well in 10 minutes.

That said, with all the negatives, it was a fun, exciting game. The team hang close and played hard.

The fans were also amazing. GW fans outnumbered the Memphis fans and were exponentially louder. The lower student section stood the whole time, as usual, and kept the volume up and the crowd engaged the whole time.

Athletic Director Patrick Nero deserves special praise too -- the stadium ushers kept hassling the GW fans (mostly students) close to the court, and Nero constantly defended them. At first, an usher came down and was questioning the girl who leads the Colonial Army cheers. They actually kicked her out, but she returned shortly thereafter. The ushers came back 4 or 5 times, asking students for their tickets, kicking a few out (who returned shortly thereafter,) and most bizarrely of all, trying to get them to sit down. Nero defended the students to the ushers and in the end prevailed, the ushers left, nobody was kicked out and everybody kept standing. A very strange scene, and lucky that Nero and other staff were sitting next to the students. (Also in the section was women's coach Jonathan Tsipis and the Lonergan family, and I got on the jumbotron going nuts for like a minute straight during a break.)

The pregame events and fun were also well-done by GW. The first event, a send-off for the team at the Hilton, had a huge crowd. The team got a great reception as they boarded the bus, with the band, cheer team and tons of excited fans. The second event was an alumni event in the box overlooking NC State's football stadium, with free drinks and food. Nicely organized all around.

It was also great to see some of the GWHoops.com crowd in Raleigh. On Thursday I hung out with Igor... not Yegor, Totti and Bigfan, and at the Friday events I ran into GWHoops.com founder Herve, plus BCD and a few other guys. I also saw a lot of my friends from school and fellow season ticket holders. Great to see that kind of turnout and camaraderie.

So while the Colonials didn't win in the end, the game was fun and the experience was great. I look forward to next year and I'm proud of everybody -- the players, the team, the staff and the fans.

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