Men’s basketball suffers late heartbreak, 66-64

By: Abe Rothstein

As NBA Hall of Famer Walt Frazier would say when a player dribbles the ball off his foot: “the old foot trick”. And it certainly was the “old foot trick” that would cost GW the game at the end on Thursday night in Hawaii. 

GW entered the Diamond Head Classic at 6-4, looking to bring back the magic that led them to win the yearly tournament in Hawaii in 2014. After suffering some early season losses to lower opponents such as UC-San Diego and American, GW looked to make a statement against a Pac-12 team that has hung with some of the best this year, and a statement was surely made. 

From the opening tip, GW was outmatched on the glass, with sophomore forward Muhammed Gueye taking charge for Washington State. Gueye was absolutely dominant inside the paint, both scoring and rebounding early on. After a fast paced offensive start from both teams, including the first four points for GW from junior center Noel Brown, they both fell quiet. GW, who was down as many as eight points during the first half, slimmed the lead to two going into halftime following an assist from senior guard James Bishop to a cutting Hunter Dean.  GW held the Cougars to 1-8 shooting on their final eight shot attempts from the floor in the half. 

The second half proved to keep all fans on the edges of their seats. While both teams struggled to do anything offensively, this was by far the most impressive defensive performance from GW this year. GW trailed, as graduate student guard Brendan Adams became the focal point of the offense today with Bishop (5-14 FG) struggling to do much against double teams. Adams, who finished with 17 points, started to attack the basket in the second half, and drove from the corner on a beautiful reverse layup to tie the game with 8:40 to play. From that point on, the Cougars went back and forth with the Buff & Blue taking advantage of WSU moving to a zone defense. From the zone, senior forward Ricky Lindo found a cutting Dean for a slam, and redshirt freshman Max Edwards three on the ensuing possession to take a 55-53 lead with 6:25 to play. 

Both Ricky Lindo and Hunter Dean were in foul trouble as Lindo fouled out in a crucial spot with 2:05 to play, and Dean finished the game with 4 fouls. Dean’s foul trouble was exploited by Washington State, as he was reluctant to make any contact with the bigs of WSU. 

With a tie game, the play that turned the tide of the game was a missed offensive goaltending call on Gueye, where the ball had still been sitting on the rim as he tipped the ball back in. It is important to note that this was the 4th attempt on this trip down the floor, highlighting the struggles of GW on the glass. This call has led to much controversy regarding the use or lack of use of video replay. 

“I haven’t [seen it],” GW head coach Chris Caputo said. “A couple of the other guys have and say it’s a goaltend. I don’t know the rule on whether they can review things like that… I asked for a review and couldn’t get one.”

Following the no-call, graduate student guard EJ Clark was fouled and made one of two free throws with 15.6 seconds remaining. Washington State declined to call a timeout as they took it up the court, and the “old foot trick” took place. 

The ball bounced off the foot of junior guard TJ Bamba, and a melee ensued. The ball popped out, junior guard Jabe Mullins grabbed it among a slew of diving bodies, and swished the three with three seconds remaining. In true heartbreaking fashion, GW could not answer on the other end leading to another crushing defeat. 

While Coach Caputo was notably deflated speaking after the game over the phone, he was proud of the effort of the Buff & Blue. 

“When you play that hard and that well over and over and over everyday… the score will eventually take care of itself.” Caputo said. “Very heartbroken locker room, but very proud of our guys.” 

Heartbreaking is really the only way to describe this loss, which GW played so well in despite many challenges. Bishop, the 3rd leading scorer in college basketball entering this game, shot only 5-14, finishing with 10 points. As a team, GW shot 3-17 from beyond the arc, but did shoot 50% from the field overall. GW was outrebounded by Gueye and the Cougars 39-26, including 13-4 on the offensive glass. But Caputo could only praise Gueye’s game: “He has such a good second jump… he’s like a magnet to the ball… he’s a really good player.” Gueye, a member of the 2021-2022 All Pac-12 Freshman team, finished the game with 21 points, and 10 rebounds to propel the cougars. 

For GW, the starting lineup included Noel Brown, with normal starting center Hunter Dean dressing for the game but not starting as he returned from an injury, which cost him two games. Dean, a senior forward, not only has his presence felt on the defensive end, but offensively too, as he is an excellent passer from the center position. When discussing the 6-foot-10 Louisiana native, Caputo said “He obviously gives us another element.” Even as Brown started the game, Dean would receive a majority of the minutes playing 28 to Brown’s nine. Dean also knocked down a jumper and several floaters, and Caputo stressed that he has not even found his full stride yet.

“Just the injuries make it difficult for him…” Caputo said. “The rhythm of playing basketball with his teammates, the amount of missed practice time, he’s still getting in the rhythm of playing.”

GW will next face Pepperdine, who fell 76-70 to hosts Hawaii in the final game of the day. GW will look to roar back against the Waves after such a crushing defeat. The Buff and Blue are in good hands with Chris Caputo and the care that he has was evident in the postgame call tonight. You could hear it in his voice; he cares. His attitude, personality, and will to win has led GW to be competitive, and now is a good time to start as conference play follows shortly after the new year. Lets just hope that the “old foot trick” goes the way of GW next time.

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