By Kathy Orton
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, December 4, 2006
Carl Elliott gave himself the nickname "Big Shot" because he wants the ball in his hands at the end of games. Recently, the 6-foot-4 senior guard from Brooklyn, N.Y., hadn't been making too many shots of any kind for George Washington. But that changed during the second game of yesterday's BB&T Classic, when he made the two that mattered most for the Colonials.
Elliott converted two free throws with 7.1 seconds remaining and then made a key defensive play to lift GW to a 63-62 victory over Virginia Tech at Verizon Center.
"Carl has a great feel for the moment," GW Coach Karl Hobbs said. "I thought he made some great plays down the stretch. [Coleman Collins] ended up with the ball with a clear lane right to the basket, and then Carl made just an incredible play, really saved the day."
After Elliott's foul shots, Virginia Tech (4-3) had two chances to win in the final seconds. Collins, who had missed a dunk on the Hokies' previous possession, was driving to the basket when Elliott swatted the ball out of his hands. Elliott claimed he hit the ball off Collins's leg, but the officials awarded possession to the Hokies with 1.7 seconds left. A.D. Vassallo got the inbounds pass, but as he went up for the shot, he was shoved from behind.
"I felt the guy just pushed me in the back pretty much the moment I caught the ball," Vassallo said. "I tried to lay it up, and it got caught on the backboard."
Vassallo's errant shot marred an otherwise spectacular second half by the reserve forward who scored all 16 of his points after halftime. The sophomore was one of the few bright spots for the Hokies, whose three losses have been by nine points combined. Virginia Tech, which led 38-29 at halftime, made only one field goal and scored just four points over the final six minutes. Its usual leading scorer, Zabian Dowdell, was held to six points, more than 10 points below his season average.
"When you have a team down, you need to finish them off," Hokies Coach Seth Greenberg said. "Our sloppy offensive play put them in a position to get back in the game."
Elliott, GW's leading scorer at 15.6 points per game, entered this game mired in a shooting slump. He had made only 20.6 percent of his shots over the past three games, going 3 of 11 in the Colonials' 86-67 loss to Providence on Nov. 26. But after a sluggish opening 20 minutes, Elliott asserted himself in the second half. He scored eight points during a 16-2 run that put GW ahead 45-40. Elliott scored 12 of his 16 points after halftime.
"Coach Hobbs wanted us to attack those guys a little more," Elliott said. "I felt coming out in the second half I needed to attack and get into the paint a little more and try to create for my teammates, and that's what I did."
None of the shots he made, though, were as big as the two free throws at the end. Besides knowing that the outcome was riding on his free throws, Elliott also had to overcome a delay while the officials determined how much time to put on the game clock. If any of that bothered him, he didn't show it. Elliott, a 96 percent free throw shooter, sent both cleanly through the net.
"I just gathered myself," Elliott said. "I tied my shoes. They held the ball up for me. I figured I'd hold them up a little bit."
Elliott admitted that going through his recent slump had been difficult. He worried about missing shots, being too aggressive and in turn, picking up fouls. But he knew eventually he would work his way through it. And for one game, at least, he did.
"You have those games where you're not having a good game," Elliott said. "You have a little stretch were you're not having it go in. You can't let it get you down."