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Article Image
Courtesy: George Washington

A Colonial Comeback

Lonergan, Creek Rebuild Tradition at GW
Release: 12/10/2013
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By JOSEPH WHITE
AP Sports Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - Two days later, George Washington graduate student Maurice Creek was asked to recreate his shot that beat Maryland.

''Kind of right here,'' he said, hovering by the spot to the left of the free-throw line and just inside the 3-point arc. ''Let's see.''

Creek took a few steps toward midcourt, started his dribble, arrived at the appointed spot, stepped back and let it fly.

The clock wasn't running down, as it was on Sunday. The score wasn't tied. No one was guarding him. Only a few people were watching, not thousands of paid customers. This was at the on-campus Smith Center, not the city's marquee Verizon Center.

Never mind. The result was the same. Swish.

When he pulled off the feat in the 77-75 win over the Terrapins, he achieved bragging rights for GW over a big bad neighbor from a power conference.

He improved the Colonials to 8-1, their best start in eight years. Miami went down, then Creighton, Rutgers and now Maryland.

Little wonder that, on Sunday, Creek celebrated by running into a mob of ecstatic teammates.

On Tuesday, he celebrated his successful reenactment with a simple smile.

''It means a lot. Being from the D.C.-Maryland general area, a lot of people focus on Maryland and Georgetown, and I knew that,'' Creek said. ''And I wanted to make this one a big program, and now we're 8-1, hottest team in the area.''

Move over, Hoyas and Terps.

The Atlantic 10 team that plays in Foggy Bottom, not far from the White House, is back on the national radar.

Rebuilt by coach Mike Lonergan, the Colonials are receiving votes in The Associated Press poll with a sophomore-heavy lineup that should only get better.

''We've played a lot of teams on our schedule from the supposed power conferences,'' said Lonergan, whose team hosts Boston University on Wednesday. ''We feel the A-10 is a great conference, but talk is cheap. You've got to beat some of those teams to get some recognition.''

Lonergan, 47, won a Division III national championship at Catholic in 2001 and took Vermont to four postseason tournaments, but the reclamation project at GW presented quite the challenge when he arrived in 2011.

The program had slumped under Karl Hobbs, who was dismissed after going 52-64 over his final four seasons.

Not surprisingly, Lonergan had to endure some hard, rebuilding days to implement his plans. He went 10-21 in his first season, then 13-17 last season.

''I felt we had to change the culture of the program,'' Lonergan said. ''This program had tradition, but for whatever reason I felt the talent level was down. And just getting to know the guys, they accepted losing. It was a lot of work. And I wasn't a 26-year-old head coach anymore.

''It was probably more tiring, it was depressing, it was tough. I'm a pretty confident guy, but there were days when I was like, `Are we doing the right things?' And we couldn't reach every kid.

''But I had great support from my athletic director. He wanted to do everything the right way. He wanted to graduate the guys we inherited and not run anybody off. So felt good about how we handled things. We gave everybody the opportunity. Clean slate. And some of them really bought in, and some of them didn't.''

The final piece for the current team turned out to be Creek, who graduated from Indiana in May but had a year of basketball eligibility remaining. His snakebit career with the Hoosiers included a dislocated left kneecap, a stress fracture in his right kneecap and a torn left Achilles tendon.

But he was exactly what Lonergan needed - a shooting guard with experience. He enrolled in GW's Graduate School of Education and Human Development and made an indelible mark after requesting in the huddle not once, not twice, but three times to be the one taking the final shot vs. Maryland.

''I was just making sure he knew really how important this was for me,'' Creek said. ''By my tone and everything, he knew that I wanted the shot. ... I'm happy I made it.''

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