GW 78, Maryland 70
The point guard, Carl Elliott, had his forehead stitched at halftime. The top reserve, Maureece Rice, battled cramps in the second half. And George Washington's best player, Mike Hall, flung himself into the second row of the crowd last night.
Last year, the Colonials out-ran Maryland to win the BB&T Classic at MCI Center. This year, 19th-ranked George Washington flustered the 21st-ranked Terrapins with rugged and relentless defense to win the final game of the BB&T Classic, 78-70, before a crowd of 11,712.
"We left blood," George Washington Coach Karl Hobbs said.
The Colonials (5-0) also left a strong imprint on the local basketball scene, scoring their second straight victory over the more touted program from College Park. Hobbs said his program is trying to be "D.C.'s college basketball team."
George Washington had several key contributors, including Hall, who had 14 points and 12 rebounds, guard Danilo Pinnock, who scored 19 points, and reserve Rice, who scored 12 of his 19 in the first half.
But the difference against the Terps (5-2) was the Colonials' pressure defense, which forced Maryland to commit a season-high 25 turnovers.
Terps point guard D.J. Strawberry, in his first full season as the team's primary ballhandler, committed seven turnovers.
In Maryland's locker room after the game, Coach Gary Williams quickly ushered his players out of the arena. Williams, holding a crinkled copy of the game's box score in his left hand, remained in the hallway to talk to the media about the loss that he blamed on himself.
"I told the players it was my fault," Williams said. "I didn't have them prepared to handle the pressure. I take the responsibility. I don't put it on anyone else. I've got to do a better job."
Hobbs said his team's only chance to win the game was to quicken the pace for Maryland's ballhandlers and to disrupt them, often before they crossed half court. At one point, Hobbs told Hall, who was a key player in the full-court press, that if he got tired Hobbs would call it off.
But Hall told his coach that winning was more important than being tired. He played 39 minutes.
"After seeing Carl go down and come back like a warrior," Hall said, "and hearing the fans and the band and the chants going back and forth, I couldn't be tired."
Added Hobbs, "I just hope the guy can stand up tomorrow."
George Washington held a five-point halftime lead (34-29), but it was tenuous. Hobbs told his team at the break that Maryland is a particularly strong second-half team, and indeed he was right.
The Terps stormed back from a nine-point second-half deficit largely behind senior Chris McCray, who scored 18 of his team-high 21 points after the break. McCray was held without a field goal in the first half, during which he attempted only one shot from the field.
Three consecutive three-pointers by McCray in a span of 45 seconds tied the score at 51 with 12 minutes to play. The Terps, however, could never grab the lead after that.
Trailing by one with 5 minutes 24 seconds remaining, Maryland's offense went quiet for the next four minutes, when the Terps did not score a field goal, and George Washington pulled away. Hobbs credited his players' experience as being a factor in their ability to stretch the lead even as the Colonials battled foul trouble in the second half. Pops Mensah-Bonsu and Pinnock fouled out; Elliott and Omar Williams finished the game with four fouls each.
The first half was littered with fouls, turnovers and missed alley-oop dunks. At halftime, Maryland had more turnovers (14) than field goals (nine). The teams committed three turnovers in a row during one sequence.
Perhaps the most memorable play from the first half was a collision near the basket. The scrum left Maryland's James Gist and Elliott on the ground for minutes as both coaches came onto the floor to tend to their player. Both players later returned to the game; Elliott had a bandage covering the cut on his forehead.
"I think Maureece Rice and Carl Elliott deserve a medal," Hobbs said. "We had one guy with blood on the floor. We had a guy that got stitched up at halftime. Those guys showed a terrific amount of courage."