- Category: Volume 87 (Fall 2015 - Spring 2016)
- Published: 23 March 2016
- Written by JOHN SORCE | STAFF WRITER
A season to remember came to an end for the men’s basketball team at the hands of an 87-71 defeat by the George Washington Colonials in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament on Mar. 21.
The Colonials had the lead from the first basket on, not trailing once all game. MU head coach King Rice gives them all the credit.
“We didn’t play our best basketball but that was because of their physicality and their size, so give George Washington a lot of credit,” Rice said. “We need to hold our heads high. A lot of firsts happened for these guys this year and at some point we will look back and know it was a pretty good year.”
GW contained junior guard Justin Robinson to just six points on 2-16 shooting. Colonials head coach Mike Lonergan had 6’8” sophomore guard Yuta Watanabe guard Robinson for the entire game. However, Robinson does not think the mismatch effected his performance.
“I’ve seen longer defenders all season,” Robinson said. “Drexel threw a 6-7 defender on me. When we play pickup in the summertime, I’m going against Micah [Seaborn], who’s 6-5, or Deon [Jones], who’s 6-6. Seeing a longer defender is not anything different. I just wasn’t hitting shots tonight.”
That could be said for the entire team, who only shot 34.2% (25-73) from the floor compared to 51.9% (28-54) from George Washington.
Senior guard Deon Jones finished the final game of his colligate career with 11 points and nine rebounds. He walked off the floor for the final time to a standing ovation and “Thank you Deon” chants after he fouled out at the 1:31 mark.
“These last three years I’ve played, Coach Rice has just been wonderful,” Jones said. “Being around guys like Justin and Micah, we really have a brotherhood that’s going to last forever. Coach Rice, I really look up to him, everything he did for me throughout these years. He’s going to be coming to my wedding one day, and we’ll stay friends for a really long time.”
Almost three thousand fans came to The MAC on Mar. 16 to watch the blue and white defeat the Bucknell Bison in the program’s first ever NIT game and first postseason game since 2006. Robinson finished with 23 points on 8-14 from the floor and 4-7 from three. Junior guard Collin Stewart added 16 points and Jones had 15. Both were 6-13 from the floor.
With the game tied at 30 with 38 seconds in the first half, Robinson took charge and knocked down two three-pointers, the second at the buzzer, giving the Hawks a six point advantage into the locker room.
Bucknell would not be easy to put away as the game was tied at 52 with 12:20 to play. But three consecutive Hawk three-pointers in a 1:35 stretch run, two by Stewart and one by Robinson, gave MU a nine point lead and forced the Bison to call a timeout with 9:56 to play. MU had the lead from that point on, leading by as many as 14 at the 2:23 mark when a layup by junior guard Josh James made it an 84-70 game. The Hawks went on to win 90-80.
While many felt that the Hawks deserved to be in the NCAA Tournament, the selection committee left them out of the field of 68 teams. But King Rice and his team have put that behind them and are looking at what’s ahead.
“This was hard for us after (selection) Sunday but as I told the team on Monday, this isn’t the hardest thing I’ve had to deal with,” Rice said. “And even though they are young, every single one of our guys have had to overcome something harder as well. The message was that life isn’t always fair, and you can either stand there and complain, or you can move forward and try to get better.”
The Hawks finished the season with a 28-8 record and 17-3 in the MAAC. And while there were plenty of positives to take away from this year, the players who will be returning next season cannot wait to accomplish more.
“I’m usually driven by stuff that I still want to reach,” Robinson said. “Knowing that we couldn’t end the year with a MAAC Championship and a trip to the NCAA Tournament—even though we played in the postseason, which was pretty cool—we didn’t get everything that we wanted. That’s just another driving force that is going to propel us throughout the offseason and into next year.”
“I’ll be back in here tomorrow working,” redshirt freshman guard Micah Seaborn said.
PHOTO COURTESY of Taylor Jackson