- The Washington Times - Friday, March 16, 2007

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — George Washington’s eight-game winning streak ended abruptly, decisively and officially in 40 minutes yesterday. In reality, it took about five.

Vanderbilt, showcasing its 3-point shooting and a stringent defense, cruised to a 77-44 victory against the Colonials in the opening round of the NCAA tournament at ARCO Arena.

Shan Foster paced Vanderbilt with 18 points, and Derrick Byars contributed 12 points and team highs of seven rebounds and five assists as the favored Commodores advanced to the second round of the East Region.

Long-range shooting prowess (9.2 3-pointers a game) was the Commodores’ expected approach, and it succeeded. Vanderbilt, seeded sixth and appearing in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2004, made 12 of 31 3-point attempts.

Vanderbilt, which improved to 21-11, also stymied George Washington’s offense throughout the game.

Travis King led George Washington with nine points, while the team’s leading scorer this season, Maureece Rice (16.2 ppg), scored only three points on 1-for-9 shooting in 27 minutes.

George Washington, appearing in the NCAA tournament for the third straight year, finished its season 23-9. The Colonials entered the game as the Atlantic 10 champions and without a loss since a 62-56 road setback Feb. 14 to Saint Joseph’s.

But 11th-seeded GW went scoreless for more than six minutes of the first half, made only five of 20 field goals attempts in the first half and never recovered. The Colonials finished the game shooting only 27.1 percent, including 3-for-14 from 3-point range.

“I think they moved the ball pretty well,” said George Washington forward Dokun Akingbade, who had a game-high nine rebounds. “They found all their open guys in their halfcourt sets and in transition, and those guys just knocked down their shots.”

The Commodores made 10 of 18 3-point attempts (55.6 percent) and 15 of 29 field goal attempts (51.8 percent) and built as much as a 29-point first-half advantage. It got worse.

Vanderbilt extended its lead to as many as 34 points in the second half, and George Washington’s 44 points were the fewest by a Vanderbilt opponent this season.

“I like how we defended today,” Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. “I thought the first half was as intent and as aware as we’ve been in a long, long time. That was the difference for us. I just thought we generated a lot of energy and confidence from our defense.”

Vanderbilt was up 7-0 before Regis Koundjia made two free throws with 15:44 left in the first half for GW. But the Colonials, eventually trailing 13-2, made only two of their first nine shots and didn’t get their first field goal until Damian Hollis banked home a jump shot with 13:40 left.

“I thought after the first five minutes of the game, it was just a matter of trying to survive,” Colonials coach Karl Hobbs said. “We fell behind very, very quickly, and that put us on our heels for the rest of the game.”

George Washington narrowed its deficit to 15-7, but the Colonials’ shooting woes continued, and Vanderbilt extended its lead to 30-10 on Byars’ 3-pointer with 5:27 left before intermission.

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