George Washington 64, Virginia Tech 50
Wednesday, February 25th, 1998

Wow, was this ugly.

Until I watched this game, I had forgotten what a slugfest last year's game was. A buzzer-beater will do that to you. You tend to forget what happened the rest of the game.

On the surface, this game appeared to have a lot of intrigue and the makings of an exciting contest. This is a bitter rivalry, and Tech went into it with a 15-1 record against GW at Cassell. The icing on the cake was a half time ceremony in which Ace Custis was honored and his retired jersey was unveiled in the rafters of Cassell Coliseum.

In the end, nothing went right, not even the half time ceremony. Ace looked resplendent in a designer suit, and the crowd cheered him lustily during the ceremony, but when the cover was dropped from his jersey in the rafters, the jersey wasn't hanging straight. It was clearly crooked, tilting to one side.

Yep, that's kind of how Tech's night went.

Most observers will agree that this is one of the worst jobs of officiating that has ever been witnessed on a college basketball floor. GW once again pushed, shoved, and hacked their way to a win over the Hokies in a game that featured more blown calls than most fans of other conferences witness in a lifetime. And to be honest, a few of those calls went Tech's way, though many didn't.

There is no question that Atlantic 10 referees are among the worst in the country. On a good night, in a game where the two teams actually try to play basketball, A-10 refs are mediocre at best.

But when a goon-filled team like GW comes into town and starts indiscriminately hacking their way around the floor, the untalented A-10 officiating crews fall apart. Instead of calling every foul, which would require blowing the whistle on GW about every 15 seconds, the A-10 refs make up the rules as they go along.

Here are some of the rules they use, as near as I can tell:

  • When a GW player goes over the back on an offensive rebound, it's not a foul.
  • When a GW player hacks the arm off of a Tech player, and the Tech player loses the ball, it's not a foul.
  • When a GW player knocks a Tech player to the deck, it's not a foul.
  • When a GW player bumps and knocks a Tech player who's trying to drive to the basket, it's not a foul.

As you can see, like Rolan Roberts, I'm having a lot of trouble figuring out what does constitute a foul in the A-10. If anybody out there knows, please email me.

I will say this: I no longer question why attendance at the Tech games is so poor. Sure it has something to do with the losing, but I think it has more to do with the brutal, physical, mind-numbingly dull style of play that has settled over basketball, in particular the A-10 and Big East conferences.

This is not fun basketball to watch anymore, folks. Even if Tech had won this game, I would not characterize it as a fun game to watch. To watch the game of basketball, which is supposed to be a game of speed and grace, get turned into a joke of a wrestling match is just ridiculous. The A-10 needs to clean up its act, and soon, because the style of play that is allowed in this conference is killing fan interest.

But I digress. I certainly don't mean to blame this loss on the refs, but I have to admit that I'm sitting here having one devil of a time thinking of anything else to talk about.

There's only one player on GW's team that I respect, and that's Shawnta Rogers. At 5-3, Shawnta is one of the premier hustlers and defenders in the league, and is a sheer nightmare to try to play against. His thievery of the basketball (5 steals, but it seemed like twice that many) led to at least 10 GW points.

In the half-court, I thought Brendan Dunlop did a stellar job of guarding Rogers, who only went 4-11 from the field and didn't make a single three-pointer. But in the open court, or on defense, Rogers was a terror, and I take my hat off to him.

The rest of GW's team stunk and showed little or no talent. Other than Rogers, the rest of GW's starting five went 11-34 and missed numerous open jumpers, lay-ups, and foul shots. GW shot an abysmal 18-37 (48.6%) from the free throw line and didn't hit a single three-pointer, going 0-for-8. But yet the Colonials kept the Hokies at bay with their brutal style of play.

GW creates total havoc by pushing and shoving and climbing over the backs of their opponents. Not only does the team that GW is playing get out of synch, but as I mentioned before, the refs do, too. The result is that even when GW is having a terrible shooting game, like they did tonight, they throw their opponents so totally out of whack that they get the victory anyway.

Amidst all the warfare, GW snared a mind-boggling 20 offensive rebounds, and that was the difference in this game. Thanks to that, the Colonials wound up taking fifteen more shots than the Hokies (60 to 45) and 16 more free throws (37 to 21). You don't need to make many shots when you're getting that many more tries at it than your opponent.

My one lasting image of this game, other than the constant pushing and shoving and the irate cries of the Tech fans, is a sequence that demonstrated how truly inept the referees were on this night.

A GW player, whom I believe was J.J. Brade, drove the baseline for a layup. Brade missed the layup, but proceeded to hang on the rim, catch the missed shot, and direct it into the basket. The whistle blew, and the referee under the basket called what was clearly a technical foul, the correct call. He made the signature T and started toward the scorer's table.

The other refs ran up to him, huddled with him, and talked him out of it. The call was downgraded to basket interference, the two points were waved off, and Tech was given the ball out of bounds. Hey, ya gotta give 'em this much - at least some sort of call was made. That's more than can be said for the rest of this game.

Bobby Hussey said diplomatically after the game, "This wasn't basketball."

Amen to that, Bobby. Amen to that.

USA Today Game Summary (includes stats)

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