George Washington men's basketball beats La Salle, 72-67, in Atlantic 10 opener

By Kathy Orton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 5, 2011; 11:54 PM

Much like his team, George Washington guard Tony Taylor has had an up-and-down season. There was his impressive performance against East Carolina followed by a lackluster effort against Alabama-Birmingham.

The Colonials can't afford to have Taylor be so inconsistent. With all the struggles it has had this season producing points, GW depends on Taylor for its scoring.

Taylor came through in a big way against La Salle on Wednesday night at Smith Center in the Colonials' Atlantic 10 Conference opener. He scored a career-high 28 points to lead GW past the Explorers, 72-67.

"Coach [Karl] Hobbs trusts me a lot," Taylor said. "He puts the ball in my hands. My teammates were there for me. They told me to take over."

And take over he did. It seemed whenever his team needed a basket, GW's leading scorer found a way to put the ball through the net. There were times when it seemed Taylor was the only player scoring for the Colonials (8-6, 1-0 Atlantic 10).

From late in the first half until the first scheduled timeout of the second half, Taylor scored 10 consecutive points for GW. Then late in the game, he almost single-handedly secured the victory.

With less than four minutes remaining and the outcome hanging in the balance, Taylor sank a three-point basket just as the shot clock was about to expire to put GW up, 66-61. After a couple of empty possessions by both teams, La Salle (7-8, 0-1) made a pair of free throws to pull within three.

In a scary moment with 1 minute 25 seconds remaining, Taylor was upended as he drove to the basket and lay on the floor for a moment. Jerrell Williams picked up his fifth foul on the play, which gave Taylor a few moments to shake off the fall before going to the line. He made one of two foul shots to extend the Colonials' lead to four.

"I seen an opening and I went to go dunk it and I think the guy just came under me," Taylor said. "I fell on my arm and then I fell on my head. I'm tough."

Steve Weingarten answered with a layup to pull La Salle within two. Time was running out on the shot clock when Aaron Ware forced up a shot then batted his miss out to Bryan Bynes, who passed the ball to Taylor. La Salle immediately fouled Taylor, who went to the line and made both his foul shots

The Explorers quickly brought the ball up the court and Tyreek Duren scored to get La Salle within two with 17.3 seconds remaining. GW tried to take some time off the clock before La Salle could foul. The Colonials advanced the ball to Joseph Katuka who was fouled by Duren. Katuka made both his free throws to extend the lead to four once again.

Duren was on his way to the basket to score again when Taylor stripped the ball away. He was quickly fouled by Earl Pettis. Taylor closed out his career night by making one of two free throws. He scored seven of the final nine points for GW.

This was a game of runs. GW sprinted out to an 11-2 lead. La Salle answered with a 12-2 surge to take a one-point lead. The Colonials went back ahead, 24-17, then the Explorers ran off 15 unanswered points. GW closed out the half on a 10-3 run to go into halftime down, 35-34.

The Colonials made 40.7 percent of their field goals and would have shot an even better percentage had they made their layups. It seemed the closer GW was to the basket, the more difficult it was to make shots.

Fortunately for GW, it was making La Salle miss shots as well. The Colonials held the Explorers nearly 12 points below their scoring average and to 38.3 percent shooting, nearly 10 percentage points below their field goal percentage for the season.

GW, which has won six of its past seven, seems to be hitting its stride at just the right time. Most importantly, the Colonials started off Atlantic 10 play with a win.

"It's a huge advantage," Hobbs said. "It gives you a little momentum. It gives you a little confidence. The most important thing about league play is winning at home. We really believe if we can have success at home we'll really have a great opportunity to finish very strongly in league."

Geo. Wash.La Salle

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