By Marc Carig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 25, 2007
For most of the second half last night, the anxious student section at Smith Center braced for an outburst. The occupants had watched George Washington fall behind early against Saint Joseph's before rallying in a frantic second half.
Bodies flew, clutch shots fell and the Colonials tied the score six times, keeping the crowd on the brink of an explosion, only to hear disappointed groans seconds later, when the Hawks inched ahead again. But finally, with 3 minutes 22 seconds left, the students could cheer -- and keep cheering.
After falling behind by 14 points, the Colonials took their first lead since the opening seconds of the game when Maureece Rice made a driving layup, part of an 8-0 run that powered George Washington to a 74-65 victory in front of 4,195.
The Colonials (14-4, 5-1 Atlantic 10) closed out the game on an 18-3 run to preserve the fourth-longest home winning streak (24 games) in the nation.
"This is my sixth season here," said Coach Karl Hobbs, whose team won its fourth in a row and seventh in its past eight. "I can only remember one other game when we played as hard, that was the very first game I ever coached at Marshall in the second half. I thought we played tremendously hard."
The Colonials moved into second place in the conference to raise the stakes when they travel to play front-runner Rhode Island on Saturday.
Senior point guard Carl Elliott scored 20 points and, along with backup guard Travis King, played a big role in the Colonials' closing outburst. Rice finished with 19 for the Colonials, who shot 51.8 percent.
George Washington battled back from an early double-digit deficit to tie the game at 38 less than four minutes into the second half when Rice forced a turnover, then finished with a layup. Back-to-back Colonials turnovers led to baskets that pushed the Hawks ahead 60-54 with 7:52 left. The Colonials tied the score less than four minutes later with Regis Koundjia's inside basket.
Saint Joseph's forward Pat Calathes, who had been perfect until that point -- 6 for 6 from the field, 6 for 6 from the line, tried to answer with a three-pointer. But, finally, he missed, and Rice turned the long rebound into a fast-break layup to put the Colonials ahead for good.
Elliott and King helped finish off the Hawks.
King fell after getting a steal. But while on his back, he hit Elliott with a perfect pass. Elliott raced down the court and finished.
"That was the play that actually won the game," Hobbs said.
A little more than 30 seconds later, King finished off the push, using a crossover move with 2:28 to score and put GW up by five. The Colonials held on from there.
After the game, Hawks Coach Phil Martelli, who once yawned to the crowd at the end of a Saint Joseph's victory here, tracked down Elliott to shake his hand. "You're the most valuable player in this league," the coach told the guard.
The Colonials clawed their way back into the game after a disastrous start. After GW forward Dokun Akingbade scored to open the game, the Hawks embarked on a 15-0 run, making all six shots, half of them three-pointers.
But George Washington clamped down defensively, holding the Hawks to just three free throws over a span of seven minutes. The Colonials trailed just 34-30 at halftime after Rice made their only three-pointer of the half with 26 seconds left.
GW's defensive push continued as Saint Joseph's finished with 20 turnovers, a number that the Hawks (11-8, 4-3) couldn't overcome despite a 21-point effort by Calathes.