Had the game gone differently, Lonergan ran no risk of being criticized as overconfident, but it didn’t. The Colonials’ game went according to plan Friday night when they dominated the paint and cruised to an 85-76 win over the Leopards while playing 11 men deep.
“I thought we came out ready to play and did a good job, we wanted to establish the inside game,” Lonergan said.
A week after he made his coach promise to mention his assist-turnover ratio during the press conference after GW’s exhibition game, senior forward Kevin Larsen put up gaudier statistics, leading his team with a career-high 24 points and adding 11 rebounds.
Fellow big man Tyler Cavanaugh also posted a double-double with 15 points and 17 rebounds to help GW to a 42-20 lead in points in the paint, 50-32 rebounding margin and 43.5 percent shooting from the field.
Larsen scored almost at will in the paint, making seven-of-10 attempts from the field and 10-of-13 from the free throw line. It was clear before the first media timeout that Larsen, who walked off the court snarling and high fiving opponents after sinking a jumper from the stripe and drawing a foul, was going to have himself a game. He also added three blocks and an assist with three turnovers.
“I was just trying to set the tone for my team, be aggressive, and I know that opens up a lot of other things for people but I shot 13 free throws today,” Larsen said. “I think that’s the most ever I’ve gotten close to, so I think that helped a lot.”
Had the team shot well from outside, they might have won by more. Senior point guard Joe McDonald got each of his three points from the free throw line, missing all four attempts from the field. Lonergan said that McDonald hadn’t practiced much during the week due to a “minor injury” but that he was fine and was only going to be held out of the game late if it was no longer in question. McDonald played 25 minutes and did take a trip to the locker room, but only because of a scrape between the eyes.
Sophomore guard Paul Jorgensen added 10 points and four assists, sophomore forward Yuta Watanabe had seven points and seven boards and graduate student guard Alex Mitola added five points, but the three combined to miss eight three-point attempts. GW ended the game shooting two-for-17 from beyond the three-point line.
“I spoke to our alumni before the game and I said I think we can really shoot and then we went out and went two-for-17 from threes,” Lonergan said. “But I don’t think, a guy like Alex he missed four open ones and he’s a great shooter so I don’t think that will happen too often.”
Eight players saw more than 10 minutes, allowing everyone to go into one of the biggest games of theseason, Monday night’s matchup with No. 6 Virginia, relatively rested. Senior guard Patricio Garino had the most exhausting assignment, playing a team-high 34 minutes and often defending the Leopards’ best player, point guard Nick Lindner.
Lindner was held to a single bucket from the field during the first half, but got going in the second to keep Lafayette in the game. He finished with 27 points, 21 of them coming in the second half.
“They played much harder than us in the second half and that’s something we have to work on going into Monday night’s game,” Cavanaugh said.
Lindner was joined by senior guard Zach Rufer, junior guard Monty Boykins and sophomore forward Matt Klinewski as Leopards to score in double figures but, shut down inside, the team shot just 33.3 percent from the field and 28 percent from beyond the arc.
Aside from often drawing Lindner on defense, Garino also contributed 17 points and two blocks, slicing and dicing in transition while hitting two-of-three three-point attempts.
The Colonials also had a good night from the free throw line, making 29 of 40 attempts, though Lonergan said he wants to see those numbers improve to around 80 percent.
With the first win of the season in the books, Lonergan admitted after the game that he’d been watching a little bit of Virginia tape in preparation for the game. The Cavaliers, as well as the ESPN cameras and a whole lot of hype, visit the Smith Center at 7:30 p.m. on Monday.