Nine days ago George Washington was a top the basketball mountain, a victory over Maryland and claimant to the title of best team in the area.
Now the Colonials are at the bottom. GW fell again last night, 81-80, to Richmond as John Holloran's forced shot from the corner with two seconds left barely reached the front of the Smith Center rim and bounced harmlessly out of bounds.
It was the third defeat in five days to less than earth-shaking teams, William & Mary, VPI (75-73 in overtime) and now Richmond's 13-9 Spiders.
"Instead of gaining confidence from beating Maryland, we seen to have lost every bit of confidence we had," said coach Bob Tallent. "I can't tell anybody what's happened. I have no idea."
Last night G-W thought it finally had snapped the post-Maryland blues when it came back from a 79-72 deficit with 2:50 to play to lead, 80-79, and control the ball with 31 seconds left.
"I thought we'd won and we were out of the woods," said Les Anderson (20 points), who along with Holloran (24) tried to carry the confidence shaken colonials by themselves.
GW's comeback had Smith Center jumping. Tom Glenn had hit a jumper to make it 79-74 and suddenly Anderson and Holloran made back-to-back steals and layups out of GW's 2-2-1 zone press.
"Good night, I was all relaxed," said Richmond coach Carl Slone, who went to Richmond three years ago after four seasons as GW coach, "and in a second it seems like they were all on top of us."
Richmond tried to stall, leading 79-78, but GW pressure caused a bad pass. Anderson and Holloran struck again, the senior guard hitting the 6-4 forward under the hoop with a pass.
Anderson was fouled, hit two free throws and GW led 80-79. That was with 1:19 left. At 1:08 on the overhead clock GW had the ball back again as Richmond, for the first time all night, failed to get across the time line in 10 seconds. Holloran made the defensive trap for the turnover.
Just when GW seemed home free, the bottom fell out. With 31 seconds left, Richmond guard J. D. Harrison, the little speed merchant who was the "other guard" in the Maggie Walker High backcourt team last year with Clyde (the Glide) Austin, tied up Holloran for a jump ball.
Harrison won the jump, Richmond called time and set up a play for its mainstay, 6-8 forward Jeff Butler. A pick and a lob pass into the lane later, Butler had head-faked Anderson into a two-shot foul.
GW called time, but Slone told Butler, "I'm not even putting in a defense for in case you miss. I know you're gonna make 'em." He did with 12 seconds left.
The whole gym knew Holloran had to get the ball and he did, driving from the left of the circle all the way to the deep right corner. He shook Harrison off a Kevin Hall pick, but in exchange ended up with Richmond's tallest and slowest starter, 6-8 Bob Boehling.
"I went low with him," said Holloran, who was the outstanding man on the floor all night despite his team's misfortunes. "But the big guy was still there. I just shot it."
An ugly, forced thing it was, smacking the bottom of the rim and carooming off the 7-2 Hall's hand before he could get it up over his head where it should have been all alone.
"I don't think I could put into the words the change my feelings have through in the last nine days," said Tallent. "We're streaky . . . not playing with intensity and confidence except for John and Les . . . stupid mistakes. We ran just the play we wanted at the end and got Holloran switched onto their slowest man, but I think John was just so mad about everything he couldn't get free."
GW had problems throughout, the see-saw game. Both GW centers, Hall and Mike Zagardo, were in foul trouble before the half, and the Colonials made their second-half push with 6-6 frosh toward Glenn at center.
Richmond's alert passing was a sharp contrast all night to GW's per-chant for the incredibly wild shot at the worst possible time. Richmond's 30-for-55 marksmanship was a reflection of its patient good judgement while GW's 34-74 mark was proof that sharp shooting can partially overcome poor shot selection.