By Kathy Orton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 18, 2010; D04
With a logjam at the bottom of the Atlantic 10 Conference standings, the game between George Washington and Massachusetts had huge ramifications for both teams. The Colonials came into the game tied with two teams for 10th place, while Massachusetts was tied for eighth place. Each needed to emerge from this contest with a win in order to keep their hopes alive for a conference tournament berth.
Given those circumstances, it came as no surprise that this game was fiercely contested. After 19 lead changes, GW emerged with a 66-60 victory on Wednesday evening at Smith Center and moved a half-game ahead of U-Mass. in the standings into ninth place. Behind Lasan Kromah's 22 points, the Colonials beat the Minutemen -- who dropped to 10th place -- for the first time since 2006, snapping a three-game losing streak to them.
In a game where every possession mattered, the Colonials (14-10, 4-7) survived U-Mass.'s three-point barrage -- more than half of the Minutemen's shot attempts came from behind the arc and they made 11 three-pointers -- by outrebounding Massachusetts, 55-26. Twenty-six of GW's rebounds came on the offensive end, and most impressively, in the final two minutes, the Colonials turned three offensive rebounds into points.
"We really stressed" rebounding, GW Coach Karl Hobbs said.
With both teams desperate for a win, the second half deteriorated into a free throw shooting contest as the teams accumulated fouls faster than the Washington area accumulated snow the past few weeks. U-Mass (10-16, 4-8) had seven team fouls before the first scheduled timeout, and GW reached that mark 4 1/2 minutes into the half. The teams combined for 20 fouls in the first eight minutes of the half, and 33 of the 52 fouls in the game were called after halftime.
"Both the teams knew we were in a desperate position," Damian Hollis said. "We came out and we were aggressive. In return, the refs had to call it tight because we were going so aggressively at each other."
Massachusetts' Javorn Farrell, a freshman forward from Woodbridge, was ejected at the 17 minute 45 second mark. After Hollis fouled him, Farrell responded by throwing a punch. The officials reviewed the video then told Farrell to leave the game. He will miss the next game per NCAA rules.
"I thought as the game progressed it was just more aggressive," Hobbs said. "Everybody was playing a lot harder, and both teams were attacking the basket. . . . I thought the game was officiated very, very well. I thought there was consistency.
"It was two young teams basically that played with a lot of energy. That second half, it was who can make a free throw at one point."
Turned out, neither team shot the ball well from the foul line. GW missed 16 of its 33 free throw attempts, while U-Mass. missed 10 of its 23 attempts.
Joseph Katuka, who didn't play at all against Duquesne and played just nine minutes at Fordham, entered the game early in place of Hermann Opoku. The senior forward made his third consecutive start but picked up a quick foul less than a minute into the game and went to the bench less than two minutes later.
Having seen very little action the past two games, Katuka quickly made up for his lack of playing time. The junior forward went on his own run, scoring nine consecutive points midway through the half.
Katuka, whose season high was nine points, had 10 points and 4 rebounds in 12 first-half minutes.
Between them, Katuka and Opoku accounted for 17 of GW's 29 points at halftime. Their effectiveness was remarkable considering U-Mass.'s hefty center, 6-foot, 275-pound Hashim Bailey, didn't give them much room to operate underneath the basket. Katuka finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Opoku had six points and two rebounds.