Smith Center at its Finest
Two years ago, GW fans provided an unforgettable atmosphere as the Colonials knocked off No. 6 Virginia; they'll look to do it again Saturday vs. No. 6 Miami
By Eric Detweiler, GW Athletics Communications
The scenes are etched into Maurice Joseph's memory.
The sea of white-clad students packing every available inch of their section in a sold-out Charles E. Smith Center. The Colonial Army decked out in beach garb with 15-foot blow-up palm trees and flamingos perfect for catching the eye of a visiting free throw shooter. The baseball team in full uniform and at full throat behind the visitors' bench.
That boisterous bash provided the backdrop for GW's 73-68 upset win over then-No. 6 Virginia on Nov. 16, 2015.
What sticks out above all else for Joseph from that night? The sound.
"It was just really, really live the entire 40 minutes," said Joseph, the GW head coach who has been on staff since 2011. "We've had other sellouts -- VCU and games like that -- but that was the loudest I've ever heard Smith Center."
Joseph is ready to hear that kind of excitement again Saturday. The second-year coach is hoping a similarly raucous atmosphere can yield the same result with sixth-ranked Miami coming to Foggy Bottom for a noon tip on CBS Sports Network.
To pull another surprise, the Colonials will need to take full advantage of their home court -- and the legion of fans that comes with it.
"Hopefully," senior guard Yuta Watanabe said, "it's going to be crazy."
Joe McDonald knows what kind of difference the Smith Center crowd can make. GW's director of player development was a guard on the squad that beat Virginia.
McDonald said the sight of all the white t-shirts slung over chair backs waiting for fans provided an extra bounce in his step during shoot-around. That feeling only intensified once the seats were filled and the volume turned up.
During the game, ESPN's broadcasters marveled that they had to adjust their microphones to be heard over the crowd.
Afterward, Virginia coach Tony Bennett was wearing a pullover during his postgame press conference when he praised the high-intensity environment that quite literally made him sweat through his suit.
McDonald called that night his favorite playing in the building.
"I don't know exactly what it is, but you can feel the energy," said McDonald, who finished with 10 points and seven rebounds in the victory. "It seems like you can do no wrong. It doesn't matter what's going on. I'm excited for our guys to feel that. I'm going to feel it again, too. It's going to be awesome. I can't wait."
Cecily Dreyfuss is taking that challenge seriously. The co-president of the Colonial Army has had this matchup on her mind since the home-and-home series was announced in June 2016.
Dreyfuss has leaned on her own memories from the Virginia game in setting the student fan group's plans for this one. She wouldn't mind following the script right down to the victorious celebration.
"It may sound a little dramatic, but it was honestly euphoric," said Dreyfuss, a senior majoring in Criminal Justice. "It was like all our hard work had really paid off."
Dreyfuss has been on the front lines of the Colonial Army's efforts to ensure a packed house for another Whiteout against a Top-10 opponent. She was among a group of leaders that met with Joseph on Sunday to brainstorm ways to bring out more students Saturday and beyond.
This week, the Colonial Army planned a sweep of the dorms and a hot chocolate and donut giveaway on Kogan Plaza in an effort to add new recruits.
Of course, the group will have a host of new props and signs ready for Miami, too.
"This is a big deal," Dreyfuss said. "There's no way around it."
GW has a proven formula in place. The Colonials have won 34 of their past 36 non-conference games at Smith Center, a stretch that includes the 2015 upset of Virginia.
If they are going to shake up the national rankings again, they'll need everybody to put their best foot forward. From the five guys on the floor to the fans adding their voices to the din from the far corners of the arena.
"I think everyone realizes that if we show up and do what we're supposed to do, then we could make a memory that lasts us a lifetime," graduate forward Patrick Steeves said. "I think we're all really excited about it."
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