Colonials dash Eagles’ hopes of a comeback

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With teammates Garrison Carr and Derrick Mercer struggling, Brian Gilmore did his best to rally American to an improbable second-half comeback.

The senior outhustled George Washington defenders, drove the lane and found his stroke from 3-point range. Getting caught up in the ferocity of the rally, Gilmore even was whistled for an intentional offensive foul after bowling over Damian Hollis.

But GW’s fundamental advantages of size and athleticism proved too much for Gilmore and AU as the Colonials held on to win 63-50 on Wednesday at Smith Center.

Rob Diggs led GW with 17 points.

After building a comfortable lead late in the first half and into the second, the Colonials (5-2) survived Gilmore’s effort to reverse the previous trend. Gilmore scored 10 of 12 points in a two-minute span early in the second to pull the Eagles within three.

But AU began looking to Gilmore too many times, and GW took advantage of its inside prowess and the Eagles’ cold shooting to capture the first meeting between the two teams since Jan. 2, 2003.

“I think you gotta give GW credit. We had the momentum, and they started pounding the ball inside,” AU coach Jeff Jones said. “They kind of took back control of the game by pounding the ball inside.”

Trading the occasional 3-pointer for more consistent free throws, AU couldn’t get closer than five down the stretch. The game got heated with technical and intentional fouls assessed in the final minutes. GW ended the game on a 7-0 run.

GW coach Karl Hobbs went early and often to his post players, who backed down AU defenders for easy baskets.

“It felt real good that my teammates was starting to find me,” said Diggs, who was 4-for-9 from the floor. “They felt as though I had a mismatch, and they took advantage of it.”

And when the Eagles (4-5) collapsed on the paint, GW’s 3-point shooters took aim and had success. The Colonials scored 18 points off 3s.

The difference early was a defensive switch for Jones’ team, which went from a shifting zone to a man defense as a result of some 3s - specifically after senior guard Noel Wilmore drilled one from NBA range.

Still, GW found a way to get to the basket with plenty of speed and athleticism. Travis King carved through the AU defense to register a dunk and draw a foul midway through the first half to spark a 13-5 run from the Colonials.

GW showed just as much on the defensive end of the floor, blocking several midrange shots and layups and forcing AU into poor shot selection.

Playing its first game in 11 days because of exams, the Eagles again struggled from 3-point range - going 6-for-21. AU came into the game shooting 31.8 percent from 3-point range, a serious drop-off from last season (40.8).

And despite a game-high 23 from Gilmore, the Eagles couldn’t keep up with the Colonials, given the shooting woes from Carr and Mercer. Carr finished 1-for-14 with six points, while Mercer had five on 2-for-9 shooting.

“All the shots [Carr] seemed to take, they were all under duress, and they were all pressure shots that they sorta needed,” Hobbs said. “We never allowed him to feel comfortable.”

Wednesday was a continuation of a rough stretch for the backcourt duo, which led AU to its first NCAA tournament appearance last season. During the Eagles’ four-game skid, Carr and Mercer have combined to shoot 27-for-102 from the field and 6-for-44 from 3-point range.

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