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Saturday, January 25, 2014

Sweet 16th: GW overcomes a frustrating first half and downs GMU 75-69

Today, I traveled with the Colonial Army (the student organization that attends each GW home basketball game, and a handful of road games as well)  to suburban Fairfax, Virginia-just outside the Beltway. The George Washington University Colonials men’s basketball team was slated to play George Mason at the Patriot Centre.

    I am not a member of the Colonial Army, but I do try to go to games when possible. And I am extremely happy I decided to take part in this trip.

    After the short drive out to Fairfax, we entered the 10,000 seat stadium on GMU’s campus. The adrenaline started to rise within me as the smell of greasy stadium food filled my nostrils.

    We were all handed tickets, and headed to our respective sections-each in different corners of the  Since the stadium was only about 80% full, we collectively decided to crowd into one of the sections we had tickets to in order to increase our volume. This created a large block of buff and blue in a stadium where nearly everything was green and gold, almost an exact reflection of the colors of the Oakland Athletics baseball club. 

    There was excitement in the air, but also anxiousness. Recent news revealed that during GW’s win against St. Bonaventure, Kethan Savage fractured a bone in his foot and would miss 6-8 weeks. Savage has made huge contributions to the team this year, providing depth and vital scoring. Despite his injury, he was on the floor with his teammates, and received a supportive “Ke-than Sa-vage” chant from GW fans as he followed his teammates to the locker room before tip-off.

    This anxiousness continued for a while after the first tip off. The GMU Patriots, losers of their last six games and winless in the Atlantic 10, played with visible desperation, making several mistakes. Unfortunately, the Colonials’ offense looked lost after a solid start, and the teams headed to the locker room with GMU up 30-29.

    In previous years (especially last year), GW often started slow in games, falling behind early and making mistakes. They’d chip away at the hole they dug themselves, and make a game of it before coming up just short and losing by an often paper thin margin. This was especially frustrating at last year’s heartbreaking meeting with Butler, when the Smith Centre played host to the first sellout in years.

    Luckily, that frustrating habit of last year has mostly evaporated. Despite lackluster offensive play, GW was able to stay on Mason’s heels. And in the second half,  the team that has already won more games than last year’s squad appeared again. They regained the lead, and while Mason did cut it to 51-46 with 10:21 to play, GW’s efficient shooting from the field created a 15-4 run and shut Mason fans up for good.

And man was it fun to see them pour it on. The section we’d all piled into roared with approval, getting louder with every basket, and with it, chants of “Who’s George Mason?”, “We can’t hear you!”, and “Thanks for hosting!” echoed through an otherwise sullen Patriot Centre.

    To give credit to the Mason fans, many of them stuck around until the very end, and the student band (The “Green Machine”) was very entertaining all game long, especially their strikingly charismatic conductor, who wore a hilariously awesome green three-piece suit, coupled with a staff, sunglasses, and a pretty fantastic beard. (I especially enjoyed the nods to Rage Against the Machine and Earth, Wind, and Fire).

    GW is now 16-3, and 4-1 in the suddenly-formidable Atlantic 10. Their 4-1 record in the conference puts them in second, only behind the St. Louis Bilikens. Only Saint Louis and UMass (University of Massachusetts) have better overall records. Isaiah Armwood, Joe McDonald, Maurice “Mo” Creek, and Kevin Larsen all contributed to another solid victory. The injury to Savage will be difficult to surmount, but this team showed a lot of heart today. Great job on #16, Colonials and get well soon, Savage!

For more GW basketball, check out Colonial Hoops - the George Washington University basketball blog.


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