This post was written by Hatchet Staff Writer Daniel Wright.
Bowling Green, Ohio – The Colonials were determined to present a different front against Detroit.
After a 27-point loss to California, where the team shot just 37.9 percent from the floor, GW looked to shake the defeat in the second round of the Progressive CBE Classic.
The new focus was evident as soon as they stepped on the court. While the Colonials struggled a week ago to find a consistent offensive rhythm, they got out to a fast start against Detroit. After giving up the first basket of the game to the Titans, GW (2-1) went on a 9-2 run over the first three and a half minutes of play, and did not lose the lead for the rest of the night, earning a 86-73 victory.
The Colonials earned vital early production from freshman forward John Kopriva, who added four points and an assist in the run, before being pulled from the court with two fouls. Senior guard Tony Taylor, who posted back-to-back 20 point performances in the first two games of the season, continued his impressive play in the first half, adding eight points and six assists. Taylor’s total 22 points on the game earned him a berth in the 1,000-point club, just the 43rd player in program history to grab the honor.
Shaking off previous shooting troubles, junior guard Lasan Kromah had his best outing of the season, connecting on two threes in the first half and posting 14 points, pushing the Colonials into a 45-28 lead into the half. It was a new effort from the guard, returning to the court this season after missing last year due to injury, that head coach Mike Lonergan said came from revamped focus in practice.
“I thought [Kromah] practiced well this week, where he has not been practicing that well this season,” Lonergan said. “I’m a big believer that how you practice is how you play. He got after it this week in practice and hopefully he’s pleased with the results.”
On the other side of the ball, the Colonials played tight defense against a hot-shooting Detroit team, who entered the game fresh off of a victory over Concordia where they posted 113 points.
Switching to a 2-3 zone for much of the first due to early foul trouble, the Colonials limited the Titans to just 28 points on 32 percent shooting from the field in the first. Graduate student forward Jabari Edwards stepped up on the low post defensively for the Colonials, tying career-highs with eight points and six blocks and grabbing five rebounds in 33 minutes of play. It was a clear measure of the post-up play that Lonergan’s emphasized this season.
“We tried to contain the ball and pressure their shooters,” Taylor said. “[Edwards] did a great job of holding down the fort, anytime anybody got by us he was there to alter their shot. We did a good collective job together.”
The Colonials continued their dominance over the first part of the second half, leading by as much as 26 with 10 minutes left to play. Taylor added 14 points in the second half, finishing 7-8 from the field and pushing him to 20-plus points for his third consecutive match. With 5:24 to play in the second half, Taylor cut through the paint and put down a reverse lay up to score his 1000th career point at GW.
“It’s important that I got it on a win,” Taylor said of the milestone. “It means a lot to me that I can score the basketball and I’m just happy I did it on a win.”
GW held the Titans to 39.7 percent shooting on the night, supplementing a strong defensive front with an equally potent backcourt- joining Taylor and Kromah in success at the net was senior forward Aaron Ware, who finished with 13 points. But Detroit’s strong full-court press disrupted the Colonials’ offensive presence towards the end of the second.
The Titans made a run over the last eight minutes of the game, narrowing the deficit to just six points with 3:31 to go. Two late baskets by sophomore forward Nemanja Mikic put the game out of reach and the Colonials held on for the victory, shooting a season-best 55.2 percent from the field.
“We were up at halftime 17 points and got the lead really up there, and in the second half we lost our composure,” Lonergan said. “They did a good job with the press and I think we were tired. We missed easy shots, we missed layups and free throws and kind of let them back in the game.”
Junior forward Dwayne Smith made his season debut after being sidelined with injury, playing seven minutes and grabbing a board and two steals. Though Smith’s presence on the statistics sheet wasn’t remarkable, Lonergan said the forward’s return to the court was a clear difference-maker for the team, giving the Colonials more depth off the bench and freedom to spread points across the roster.
“I think what really helped our team was to have a week to practice,” Lonergan said. “[Smith] practiced with us and that helped us in practice. He’s not quite ready yet, but having another quality player helped us, as well as having the guys get another week to learn our system. Tony and the players did a great job executing plays in the first half, and that gave [Kromah] and [Mikic] open shots.”
GW continues play in the CBE Classic tomorrow, facing Austin Peay at 5 p.m.