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Senior Omar Williams, senior Mike Hall, freshman Rob Diggs, and junior Danilo Pinnock celebrate March 4 after the team completed its first perfect Atlantic 10 season with an 86-85 overtime victory over Charlotte.

Mitchell Layton

By Laura Ewald

Forget March Madness—this year the GW men’s basketball team, which finished 27-3, inspired strong fan support at home and national media attention from the preseason through the NCAA tournament, setting records along the way. The depth of the team became obvious as the season progressed; the experience of seniors including Omar Williams and Pops Mensah-Bonsu was complemented by the talent of rising stars such as sophomore Maureece Rice. Coach Karl Hobbs was named Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year, a first for a GW men’s basketball coach. Hobbs also was among four finalists for the prestigious Naismith Award. And, for the first time in half a century, the Colonials earned a Top-10 national ranking.

GW men’s basketball coach Karl Hobbs addresses the media following the team’s 88-85 overtime victory against UNC Wilmington. Hobbs was named Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year.

Cause for such excitement and attention is obvious. The Colonials were 26-1 in regular season play and 16-0 in the Atlantic 10. Single-season records were set for most victories (27) and longest winning streak (18 games). After overcoming an 18-point deficit to defeat the University of North Carolina Wilmington in overtime during the first round of the NCAA tournament, the Colonials fell to Duke, the tournament’s overall number one seed expected by many to win the Big Dance.

But for Hobbs, the team’s success wasn’t measured by the numbers. Bringing out the best in his players—namely the seniors, his first recruiting class as the Colonials’ head coach—and maintaining focus were his primary goals. Despite the disappointing tournament loss, Hobbs made it clear that the team was proud of its extraordinary season and appreciative of the support of the Colonials community.

“To go undefeated in the Atlantic 10 with this group, to sell out many games at GW, and the support they’ve captured around the district … it’s just been incredible,” Hobbs said. “The loss [in the second round of the tournament] doesn’t diminish what these kids have accomplished.”

Students, alumni, and a growing number of GW fans across the nation are looking forward to next season, hoping the Colonials will continue to rise to new heights.

Six-foot-nine senior forward Pops Mensah-Bonsu has been a key to the Colonials’ success during the past four years.

Mitchell Layton

Senior Mike Hall and the Colonials defeated Maryland in the BB&T Classic in Washington at the Verizon Center.

Julie Woodford

Building Strength

Entering a season with seven new players is a challenge under any circumstances, even more so when playing the first five games “against the Knicks, the Lakers, the Celtics, and the Spurs,” which is how Coach Joe McKeown described Virginia, Purdue, Texas, Villanova, and Tennessee. But trial by fire proved advantageous for the GW women’s basketball team as they gained strength and confidence during a tough schedule, taking them to a 23-9 record, co-champion honors for the Atlantic 10 regular season, and a victory against Old Dominion in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

The win against Old Dominion was especially exciting because it was a battle fought on the Lady Monarchs’ home court.

“They get great support here at Old Dominion. It’s just one of the challenges we are going to have to face—it’s just part of the tournament,” McKeown said before the game. But the Colonials were able to neutralize that home-court advantage, at one point leading the game 40-18. Despite a late run by Old Dominion, GW won 87-72 and advanced to face Tennessee in the second round. McKeown attributed some of the team’s success to the leadership and performances of senior Jessica Simmonds and sophomore Kim Beck.

While the Colonials fell to the Lady Vols, the team was proud of their strong season and looks to enter the next with more experience.

Coach Joe McKeown praised the leadership of senior Jessica Simmonds as part of a successful season.

Photos by Julie Woodford

Sophomore Kimberly Beck led the Colonials in assists and was named to the Atlantic 10 All-Conference First Team, All-Defensive Team, and All-Tournament Team in 2006.