- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 18, 2006

George Washington heads to Richmond tonight poised to continue its record-setting season. The seventh-ranked Colonials (21-1, 11-0 Atlantic 10) have won 13 straight, can equal the program’s longest winning streak with a victory and have the school-mark of 24 wins on their radar.

But the rosy outlook somewhat masks the Colonials’ offensive woes the past two games, both near losses. GW shot 25 percent in the first half at Saint Joseph’s and trailed in the game’s final minute before escaping 64-62. The Colonials shot 35 percent in a 69-66 win over Massachusetts on Wednesday, including three of 18 from 3-point range.

Most perplexing, though, is that GW has struggled despite getting the shots it wants. Players have botched dunks, blown layups and missed short-range shots. The Colonials shot poorly against UMass even though GW’s defense caused 29 turnovers and created countless fastbreak opportunities.

“That’s ridiculous,” said forward Mike Hall, who was 1-for-10 against UMass and is just 2-for-18 in his last two games. “We have to correct that. We can’t have that problem in March.”

The Colonials will try to end the slump against Richmond (11-13, 4-7), which has lost five straight and is the source of St. Bonaventure’s only conference win. Richmond can’t match GW athletically, but might try to use its ball-control offense to slow down the game and a zone defense in hopes the Colonials keep misfiring.

But GW has struggled even with open looks. Coach Karl Hobbs said his team “missed 15 layups” against UMass.

Hall looked dead-legged and missed an early layup. The senior NBA prospect is battling tendinitis in his knees, but hopes extra stretching and treatment — he was in a cold whirlpool following Thursday’s practice — while spending less time working out outside of practice will keep him fresher.

“I have always had [tendinitis], but it wasn’t as bad as it was [Wednesday],” said Hall, who is averaging 11.3 points and converting on 46.3 percent of his shots on the season. “I’m just in a slump. … They have just been rattling in and rattling out. Everybody has those days. I just had two back-to-back.”

While Hall believes rest is the key, the rest of the Colonials plan to simply fire their way out of their doldrums. Over the two-game scoring slide, the Colonials made only seven of 33 3-pointers (21.2 percent) and 34 of 63 free throws (54 percent).

Hobbs said he likes the shots his team is taking and has not changed anything in light of the shooting struggles. The coach likes his defense and overall intensity, and feels it is just a matter of time before shots start to fall.

“We missed 15 layups,” said Hobbs, whose team averages an A-10 high 80.2 points. “If we make half of those, now we got our 80 points and the game is over. The main thing is our effort is good. That is the first dunk J.R. [Pinnock] missed this year. Carl Elliott missed a couple layups. He is not going to miss those layups.”

The Colonials had only one close game — at Xavier — in their previous eight before the pair of nail-biters. And although they have been resourceful and hit the big shots when the last two games were on the line, it is not a trend they want to continue — not for a team eyeing a perfect regular season and a deep run in the NCAA tournament.

“We don’t want to go into the tournament missing layups and easy shots,” said Elliott, who made six of 20 shots (30 percent) over the two-game span. “It’s not like we’re taking bad shots. We just have to keep taking them — and hopefully they will go in. We’re definitely getting the shots we want. There are no corrections to anything. We’re getting open looks. It’s all about the ball going into the hoops. It’s that simple.”

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