Cameron Lancaster | Assistant Photo Editor
Sophomore Joe McDonald passes the ball during GW’s game against George Mason on Saturday January 25th. The Colonials came back from a 1 point deficit to win the game 75-69 over the Patriots.
Fairfax, Va. – Despite a week off from their last win against St. Bonaventure, the Colonials needed an extra 20 minutes Saturday to find their rhythm.
After a sluggish first half of play, GW (16-3, 4-1) embarked on a huge second half, in which they shot 66.7 percent from the field, to silence the Patriot Center crowd and run away with a 75-69 victory over George Mason.
Sophomore Joe McDonald would score all of his team-high 14 points in the second half, with the frontcourt duo of Isaiah Armwood and Kevin Larsen combining for an additional 26 points on 11-20 shooting. As a team, the Colonials would finish with five players in double figures.
Isaiah Armwood drives past a George Mason defender on Saturday. Armwood was one of five GW players to finish in double figures. Cameron Lancaster | Assistant Photo Editor
“We started scoring,” Lonergan said. “We struggled to score late in the first half. Isaiah sat a lot with foul trouble, but he played more and made some baskets, did a good job going inside the whole game. And then our 1-3-1 was pretty effective, at least early on in the second half.”
GW got off to a fast start to begin the game, opening on 4-4 shooting from the field and executing head coach Mike Lonergan’s plan to establish an inside game. But a host of troubles would halt the progress for the Colonials.
As starters began to tire, Lonergan called for a platoon swap, substituting his reserves for an extended period in the first. Lonergan admitted he did that because they couldn’t get a whistle and didn’t want to waste a timeout.
The long stint, though, revealed the bench still wasn’t ready to handle the load or be a big difference maker in the game. They seemed confused, unable to run a play through point guard Miguel Cartagena without having a ticking shot clock force them to shoot the ball.
On the day, the GW bench would be outscored 30-13 by the Mason reserves.
Mason (7-13, 0-6), on the other hand, began to heat up thanks to hot shooting by Jalen Jenkins and Johnny Williams. Williams would shoot 5-5 in the first half, while Jenkins would put up nine points against a GW frontcourt that was without Armwood for all but four minutes in the first.
“He got me on my heels a little bit in the first half, that’s why I got my two fouls,” Armwood said about Jenkins. “I just knew I had to stay disciplined, and that’s just what I did in the second half.”
Larsen and fellow sophomore Patricio Garino would carry the Colonials offense in the first half, combining for 17 of GW’s 29 first half points. Similar to Armwood, graduate student Maurice Creek would play just a total of eight minutes in the first, combing for a first half stat-line of four points, one rebound, and one assist.
In the second half, GW – with Armwood on the floor – would find the balance and energy they had been missing. The Colonias would quickly erase the slim Patriots’ lead, going on an 18-7 run over the first seven-and-a-half minutes of the half. They would score a total of 46 second half points.
Armwood led GW during the run, scoring eight points on two ferocious one-handed slams. He would finish the game with 12 points and two rebounds.
Surprisingly picking up the slack on the boards would be forwards Nemanja Mikic and John Kopriva, who would combine for 10 rebounds. Mikic would add seven points, highlighted by a fast-three off an assist from Larsen.
In the backcourt, GW was propelled by the balanced attack of Creek and McDonald.
After starting the game 1-3, Creek would shoot 3-5 in the second half and finish in double figures with 11 points, four rebounds, and a team-high seven assists. After going scoreless in the first half, McDonald would score 14 second-half points on 5-6 shooting, going 2-3 from deep. Without Savage, McDonald was able to control the ball well, only surrendering a single turnover.
The solid inside-out attack that the Colonials were able to find in the second half served as a good sign that GW may be able to survive without the highlight-reel play of Savage. They will need to continue to be unselfish, and have more 20-assist days like they did Saturday.
“We have no one on our team really that plays like Kethan, so we’re just gonna have to make up for his rebounds and for some of the things he does as a team. But that’s one good thing about our team, we really are a team,” Lonergan said.
GW will return to the Smith Center Wednesday at 7 p.m. when they host La Salle for their second conference meeting of the season.