Torrent of 3-Pointers Buries GW

George Washington Coach Karl Hobbs reacts during his team's 77-44 loss to Vanderbilt. The Colonials' scoring output was their lowest of the season.
George Washington Coach Karl Hobbs reacts during his team's 77-44 loss to Vanderbilt. The Colonials' scoring output was their lowest of the season. (Marcio Jose Sanchez - AP)
By Marc Carig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 16, 2007

SACRAMENTO, March 15 -- George Washington Coach Karl Hobbs hopped up off his seat several times Thursday and ordered his shellshocked players to create the type of defensive pressure that had squeezed the offensive life out of their last three opponents to get them to the NCAA tournament.

"Attack the ball," Hobbs screamed throughout the first half, pleading with the Colonials. When his voice gave out, Hobbs resorted to thumping the floor with his feet. But his stomping could do nothing to resuscitate the 11th-seeded Colonials, who fell under an avalanche of three-pointers during a 77-44 loss to sixth-seeded Vanderbilt in an East Region first-round game of the NCAA tournament. The Commodores ended the Colonials' third straight NCAA appearance by dishing out the worst postseason defeat in George Washington basketball history.

After facing a week of questions about the Colonials' swarming defense, Vanderbilt nullified GW's pressing and trapping defense with precision passing and offensive execution. Then, the Commodores (21-11) crafted a defensive performance that ensured that the Colonials (23-9) would never lead and never even get close.

"We were pressuring the ball," freshman guard Damian Hollis said. "They would make that extra pass, and that extra pass just broke our backs."

A mere five days ago, Hobbs walked on the stage at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City after the Colonials clinched their NCAA trip with a victory against Rhode Island. His team was playing its best basketball in March, what he called a coach's fantasy. But he walked off the court at Arco Arena after suffering through a coach's nightmare.

"They punched us in the stomach," said Hobbs, who watched his team get off to a sluggish start and never recover. "And we couldn't get up."

Vanderbilt's Shan Foster scored a game-high 18 points and made 4 of 10 three-point attempts, while Southeastern Conference player of the year Derrick Byars weathered a slow start to finish with 12. The Commodores shot 52 percent in the first half, 55 percent from beyond the three-point arc. They freed each other with sharp ball movement.

"We realized that if we just took care of the ball, we could get any shot we wanted," Foster said.

GW didn't hit a three-pointer until the second half, when the game had already been decided. The Colonials finished at 27.1 percent from the field and didn't have a player score in double digits.

The Colonials took their worst loss in 14 NCAA tournament games, surpassing a 108-88 defeat to Indiana in 1999.

GW guard Maureece Rice, who spent the season as the team's leading scorer, shot just 1 of 9 from the field.

"My shots just weren't falling," said Rice, who finished with three points. "I was hoping that they would start falling eventually. But it was one of those days when I couldn't find my shot."

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