By Kathy Orton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 15, 2011; 11:06 PM
George Washington's best opportunity to put the game away came early in the second half. Harvard's leading scorer had just limped off the court with an injury to his midsection that eventually sent him to the hospital as a precaution. The Crimson's point guard picked up his fourth foul less than a minute later. Its second-leading scorer had left the game late in the first half with a hip injury.
As depleted as Harvard was, the Colonials failed to capitalize on the Crimson's misfortunes and lost, 67-62, on Saturday afternoon at Smith Center. The loss was only the second for GW (10-7) in more than a month and snapped the Colonials' five-game winning streak.
When GW looks back on this setback, the Colonials will shake their heads at a number of squandered opportunities. Their pressure defense that had caused Harvard (12-3) fits early went missing much of the second half. They allowed Crimson players to drive past them or fouled them rather than stopping them. And, most egregious of all in GW Coach Karl Hobbs's mind, they gave up too many second shots.
"I thought it was a game that really came down to our inability to keep them off the offensive glass in the second half," Hobbs said. "I thought that was the difference in the game."
Although Harvard grabbed 15 offensive rebounds, which it turned into 15 points, the Crimson did even more damage at the free throw line. Harvard leads the nation in free throw shooting percentage, having made 81.3 percent of its foul shots entering Saturday's game. On this day, the Crimson wasn't quite up to par, making only 71.4 percent of its free throws, but almost a third of its points (20) came from the line.
GW committed 25 fouls, sending Harvard to the free throw line 28 times. The Colonials, meanwhile, attempted only 16 foul shots, making 10.
"Well, you know, I can't really comment on the officiating," said Hobbs, who received a technical foul just 6Â½ minutes into the game after arguing a charge called on Tony Taylor. Harvard drew at least four charges against the Colonials.
Not long after the first scheduled timeout of the second half, the momentum shifted against GW. The Colonials had gone up 41-34 on David Pellom's alley-oop dunk and seemed poised to break the game open. But then the Colonials started having trouble putting the ball in the basket. After making 48.1 percent of its shots in the first half, GW struggled against Harvard's zone defense, making only 37.9 percent of its shots from the floor after halftime.
"They played a packed-in 1-3-1," said Taylor, who led GW with 14 points. "They haven't really played that all season. It was a real different look. We had to make adjustments. I think that kind of slowed us down."
Harvard had every reason to lose hope after its leading scorer, Keith Wright, hobbled off the court clutching his midsection a little more than five minutes into the second half. Wright joined the Crimson's second-leading scorer, Christian Webster (Landon), on the bench where Webster was nursing a hip injury he sustained late in the first half. Neither Wright nor Webster returned to the game.
When point guard Brandyn Curry picked up his fourth foul and sat down with 13:51 remaining, Harvard could have faded. Instead, the Crimson surged behind the savvy play of Oliver McNally and freshman Laurent Rivard.
Rivard sank a three-pointer to tie the score at 50, then McNally sank another three to cap a 13-3 run by Harvard that put the Crimson ahead, 55-51. GW never led again.
With its nonconference slate complete, the Colonials now turn their attention back to Atlantic 10 Conference play. GW, which is 3-0 in the conference for the first time since the 2005-06 season, visits Richmond (13-5, 2-1) on Wednesday.
"It's a long season, and now we're going into the second phase of the season," Hobbs said. "This is all a part of it. You take one game at a time, and now we've just got to look at this game tonight, then after tomorrow we will totally forget this game and our focus will be on Richmond, and we'll block everything else out of our minds and find a way to beat Richmond."