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Saturday, March 19, 2016 12:24 p.m.

NIT Preview: Men’s basketball vs. Monmouth

Graduate student Alex Mitola dribbles the ball in GW's win against Hofstra in the first round of the NIT. Mitola hit the game-winning shot with under three seconds left in the win. Kiana Robertson | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Graduate student Alex Mitola dribbles the ball in GW’s win against Hofstra in the first round of the NIT. Mitola hit the game-winning shot with under three seconds left in the win. Kiana Robertson | Hatchet Staff Photographer

What:
Men’s basketball (24-10, 1-0 NIT) at Monmouth (28-7, 1-0 NIT) in the NIT second round.
Where: Multipurpose Athletic Center, West Long Branch, N.J., ESPN (T.V.)

When: Monday, March 21 at 7 p.m.

After a last-second game-winner got them by No. 5-seed Hofstra at home, the Colonials travel to No. 1-seed Monmouth Monday night with a chance to advance in the National Invitation Tournament.

GW has shown that it has a higher ceiling than Monmouth this season. The problem for the Colonials, though, is that they haven’t always played up to that ceiling. Meanwhile, Monmouth has exceeded expectations in a year in which the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular season champions knocked off USC, UCLA, Notre Dame and Georgetown.

The winner will play either No. 3-seed Ohio State or No. 2-seed Florida after the Buckeyes and Gators face off Sunday afternoon. If the Colonials beat Monmouth, they would definitely be traveling as the lower seed for a quarterfinals game.

First, though, they would have to get past Monmouth, a good team that poses matchup problems for GW. Here’s what to expect from the game:

The Case for the Colonials:

If the Colonials win Monday, it will likely be because they’ve succeeded in pounding the ball inside, controlling the rebounding battle and getting to the line – as has been the case in wins all year.

Monmouth has a 6-foot-10, 240 body inside in junior center Chris Brady, but Brady doesn’t have the numbers (6.7 points, 6.0 rebounds per game) to show that he could compete to GW’s one-two punch of Kevin Larsen and Tyler Cavanaugh. Of the five players who see the most minutes for Monmouth, none are above 6-foot-7.

Monmouth has played good defense this year, owning the 55th-best adjusted defense in the country according to Kenpom while forcing 15 turnovers per game, but dominating the interior could help the Colonials counteract that.

The Case for the Hawks:

Monmouth is a guard-driven team in the clearest sense. The Hawks’ five leading scorers are all guards and it’s a group of five guards who get the most playing time.

Justin Robinson, a 5-foot-8 junior guard, leads the Hawks in scoring with 19.6 points per game while dishing out 3.7 assists. Micah Seaborn and Deon Jones, both long, athletic guards, add 12.9 and 10.4 points per game, while Jones adds 6.2 rebounds per game.

That gives Monmouth some fast horses. With their personnel, the Hawks play at one of the fastest tempos in the country. Their average possession on offense takes 14.7 seconds, eighth-fastest in the nation according to Kenpom.

Typically, GW struggles to stop teams with quick guards. Another game in which they allow an opponent to shoot over 50 percent from the field would likely spell the end of the Colonials’ season.

The Bottom Line:
In March, anything can happen. Monmouth, playing at home as one of the first four teams left out of the NCAA Tournament field, is the favorite. If the Colonials can find their defensive presence, though, they could extend their season.

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Head coach Mike Lonergan huddles up with his team during GW's win at VCU on Feb. 6. Lonergan interviewed for the vacant Rutgers head coaching job on Monday but is unlikely to leave GW. Cameron Lancaster | Senior Staff Photographer

Head coach Mike Lonergan huddles up with his team during GW’s win at VCU on Feb. 6. Lonergan interviewed for the vacant Rutgers head coaching job on Monday but is unlikely to leave GW. Cameron Lancaster | Senior Staff Photographer

Men’s basketball head coach Mike Lonergan interviewed with Rutgers athletic director Patrick Hobbs Monday for the Big Ten program’s vacant head coaching position, according to NJ.com.

Lonergan, in his fifth year at GW, is unlikely to leave Foggy Bottom, sources close to the Colonials’ coach told The Washington Post. Lonergan grew up in Bowie, Md. and has close ties to the region, including children enrolled at Elizabeth Seton High School where his mother was a former athletic director.

Rhode Island head coach Dan Hurley is reportedly the top choice for the Rutgers job, which would likely come with a large salary bump for either Atlantic 10 coach. Scarlet Knights skipper Eddie Jordan was making $1.15 million per year before he was fired after a 7-25 season. Lonergan’s salary is not public but sources told the Post that he makes about half that, which squares with the general figures GW must report to the Department of Education. GW extended Lonergan’s contract through 2020-2021 two years ago.

Gaining interest from a power-conference program, even a struggling one, may give Lonergan some leverage with the athletic department. The Post reported that Lonergan wants more resources directed toward the men’s basketball team, particularly after the team had to take a 12-hour bus ride to Olean, N.Y. for a game against St. Bonaventure when a flight was cancelled instead of chartering a plane. GW lost that game 64-57.

Relative to other A-10 schools, GW has made large increases to the athletic department budget in recent years. Those increases, though, have been spread around to all teams more equitably than at many schools which focus resources more heavily on men’s basketball.

Lonergan has a 468-225 record as a head coach and will go for win No. 467 Wednesday when the Colonials open NIT play against Hofstra at home at 8 p.m. GW missed the NCAA Tournament after a 23-10 season and an A-10 Tournament quarterfinals exit at the hands of Saint Joseph’s Friday.

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Freshman Yuta Watanabe and junior Kevin Larsen on a visit to the White House to watch the arrival ceremony for Shinzo Abe, the Prime Minister of Japan. Watanabe was invited as a sports ambassador between the U.S. and Japan. Hatchet File Photo

Freshman Yuta Watanabe and junior Kevin Larsen on a visit to the White House to watch the arrival ceremony for Shinzo Abe, the Prime Minister of Japan. Watanabe was invited as a sports ambassador between the U.S. and Japan. Hatchet File Photo

The men’s basketball team is planning a trip to Japan sometime during the 2016 summer, athletic director Patrick Nero told The Japan Times on Monday.

Nero is currently in Japan with men’s basketball head coach Mike Lonergan to explore potential exhibition game opponents for the squad, which last toured internationally in 2012 when the team went to Italy.

The Colonials are allowed one foreign trip every four years according to NCAA regulations. The trip would give Japanese star Yuta Watanabe, who will finish his sophomore year before next summer, a chance to play with GW in front of fans at home. Watanabe is from Kagawa, Japan.

Nero told The Japan Times that sports business students could also join the team on the trip and would use it as an educational opportunity to study sports administration and get a taste of Japanese culture.

The details of the tour have yet to be ironed out, but Nero said it would likely take place in August but could also happen in June. The destinations would likely be Tokyo and Okinawa, with stops for games, cultural sites and volunteer work. The men’s team held a basketball clinic for children when it toured Italy, and the women’s basketball team did the same on a tour of England and France last summer.

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What: GW (21-11, 11-8 A-10, 1-0 Tournament) vs. Rhode Island (21-8, 13-5 A-10, 0-0 Tournament)
When: Friday, March 13 at 9 p.m.
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY, NBCSN

The Ides of March are nearly upon us, and in college basketball terms that means throw out the rule book and your expectations with it.

Still, the Colonials will play their first Atlantic 10 championship game as an underdog Friday in a matchup with No. 3-seed Rhode Island after beating No. 11-seed Duquesne Thursday night.

Rhode Island is a much stronger team than the Dukes, but also a very different one. The Rams rely on their defense, the best in the A-10 and 19th in the nation at 59.4 points per game allowed, but sometimes struggle to score with just two scorers in double figures.

If the Colonials can get the win Friday night, they’ll have to take on the winner of No. 2-seed Dayton and No. 7-seed St. Bonaventure in the semifinals.

The Case for the Rams:

GW was forced to prepare for a block party in Brooklyn after Duquesne tied a tournament record with 12 blocks in their first round game, but wound up being the dominant presence inside as the Dukes blocked just five shots.

The party may, however, just have been postponed. Hassan Martin, a 6-foot-7 sophomore forward, leads the A-10 and is ranked seventh in the country with three blocks per game. Kevin Larsen showed what he can do when he plays big against Duquesne, throwing his body around for 10 points and 15 rebounds, but Martin will be a bigger challenge to contain and combat.

Rhode Island, also, will be coming in with fresh legs off a double-bye while the Colonials won’t even have a full 24 hours of rest.

Extra energy for the A-10′s fifth-best scorer E.C. Matthews isn’t what GW is looking for, but even if they shut him and Martin, who has the league’s best field goal percentage at 64 percent, down it was all-rookie selection Jared Terrell who had six steals, 17 points and four rebounds in 29 minutes when these two teams met last. Rhode Island is 12-0 when Terrell scores more than 10 points.

The Rams won that game 59-55 and forced 21 turnovers. The Colonials were stingy with the ball Thursday, committing just seven turnovers, but Rhode Island’s defense is on another level from Duquesne.

The Case for the Colonials:

Junior point guard Joe McDonald said that vengeance played an important role in the second-round win over Duquesne. That will be the case again on Friday after the Colonials blew a five-point lead late in their regular season matchup with the Rams.

That loss, though, actually doesn’t seem too bad for GW’s chances Friday. The Colonials missed four straight free throws down the stretch in that game and Rhode Island, normally a poor free throw shooting team, went 20-22 from the line in the best free throw shooting day in team history. It may be Friday the 13th, but it doesn’t get unluckier than it did in back on that day in January.

The 1-3-1 was deadly for the Rams, who missed all but one of 14 three point shots, and the Colonials will look to disrupt them like that again.

If they can do that, recent history says they should be able to out-pace Rhode Island for the upset. GW has been on a scoring tear lately, averaging 80 points over their last two contests and making 10 or more threes in four of their last five games.

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Freshman guard Miguel Cartagena looks to go around a VCU defender earlier this month. Cameron Lancaster | Assistant Photo Editor

Freshman guard Miguel Cartagena looks to go around a VCU defender earlier this month. Cameron Lancaster | Assistant Photo Editor

Ben Krimmel, a senior majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist.

On a basketball court, freshman Miguel Cartagena doesn’t look very imposing. He’s listed as 6-foot, but that might be stretching it. He often looks a bit unsure of himself when taking the ball up the court, or at least, he looks like a freshman.

But Cartagena could be the man that can help GW fans from losing their minds without sophomore Kethan Savage.

Cartagena can’t replace Savage and shouldn’t attempt to play like him. Rather, starting tonight against La Salle, the freshman should emulate the style of play of the once-struggling junior John Kopriva.

During Saturday’s win at George Mason, Cartagena would advance the ball up the court and immediately peer over his shoulder to get instructions from his head coach. The offense was methodical, slow and a few times a better defender could have knocked the ball away from him when he was distracted and looking for guidance.

Now, in Cartagena’s defense, he was virtually on his own, as Nemanja Mikic, John Kopriva, Paris Maragkos and Nick Griffin provided little off the ball movement. During this reserve only time on the floor, Cartagena shot 1-5 with two turnovers and two personal fouls.

In 17 minutes, Kopriva forward had six boards, two points, and added two steals. Kopriva isn’t going to dazzle with sensational scoring numbers, rather his game Saturday was to fill space on defense and rebound. (Based on my last round of GW predictions, expect Kopriva to pour in at least 15 Wednesday night.)

Cartagena just needs to play smart and play a clean game. No one is expecting him to make any all-rookie teams. But if he can control the ball and keep a steady tempo, the rest of the squad can take it away.

Whenever he gets the chance, the freshman should feed the ball to sophomore forward Kevin Larsen. Larsen has responded to criticism following a poor shooting night (3-10 from the field) against La Salle last time with a run of four excellent performances.

The Colonials will look for their fifth straight victory tonight. If GW hopes to survive a lethargic first half, they’ll need another dominating second half when they shoot 66.7 percent from the field and 50 percent from behind the arc.

But if the Savage-less Colonials are unable to overcome any offensive sluggishness and fall (again) to La Salle, concern shouldn’t compound with Savage’s gradual march to the locker-room. With a third of the season remaining, GW still have some budding playmakers it can count on.

This post was updated Jan. 29, 2014 at 5:05 p.m. to reflect the following:
Correction appended
The Hatchet misspelled Paris Maragkos’ last name.

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Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014 6:30 p.m.

Ben Krimmel: When it snows, it pours

Sophomore Kethan Savage drives past a Rhode Island defender. Hatchet File Photo by Cameron Lancaster | Assistant Photo Editor

Sophomore Kethan Savage drives past a Rhode Island defender. Hatchet File Photo by Cameron Lancaster | Assistant Photo Editor

The writer, a senior majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist.

GW’s first real snow day in years was supposed to be joyful. Instead, as the snowfall accumulated Tuesday morning, news broke and good feelings about GW men’s basketball faded.

Foggy Bottom jubilation subsided when the team announced that guard Kethan Savage’s breakout sophomore season would be put on a six-to-eight-week hiatus due to a broken left foot.

While the Colonial Army will miss his thunderous slam-dunks, his teammates will miss his ball handling, scoring and great rebounding even more.

Head coach Mike Lonergan was getting more out of Savage than any other player on the floor. The sophomore guard was second on the team in scoring (13.4 per game), third in rebounding (4.6), and second in assists (2.7), while playing the least minutes out of any GW starter (26.9).

The burden of replacing savage in the starting lineup falls on fellow sophomore Patricio Garino. This is no cause for concern for Lonergan, as Garino is more than a capable starter and was primed to grab a spot in the starting lineup before the Savage injury.

The concern comes in the form of two relative unknowns who will likely see extended minutes themselves: freshman guards Miguel Cartagena and Nick Griffin.

Successful integration into the Colonials’ tight rotation will be a challenge, as the two freshman offer only portions of the skill Savage brought to the team.

Cartagena will need to run Lonergan’s offense like a steady point guard if he’s going to find success. While Joe McDonald is the starting point guard and Garino is another capable ball handler, they don’t have the quickness of Cartagena or Savage.

The question that has yet to be answered is whether Cartagena’s quickness can translate into assists and made baskets, something Savage did rather easily. Cartagena hasn’t recorded either an assist or a made field goal in any of his last four outings.

While Griffin could provide scoring as a capable jump shooter off the dribble, I wouldn’t be surprised if Lonergan challenges his starting big men Isaiah Armwood and Kevin Larsen to chip in with more baskets as well.

Armwood is averaging 10.9 points per game, but is shooting 38 percent from the floor in his last five games. While his three double-doubles during that span have been immense, GW will need a more efficient game from their senior leader.

It will be Griffin’s job to provide a handful of buckets a game while not disrupting the flow of fellow shooters Maurice Creek and Nemanja Mikic.

The success of the Colonials doesn’t rest with those replacing Savage, as the team coped well earlier this season when it was without Garino. The Colonials were undefeated during the seven games the 6-foot-6 guard missed due to a hand injury because they constantly found new sources of offense.

The success of the Colonials is to continue to piece together scoring from different players during the remainder of the A-10 regular season.

The injury news is crushing for the Fairfax, Va. native, as the Colonials travel to Savage’s old stomping grounds to face new rival George Mason on Saturday.

But GW fans shouldn’t temper their enthusiasm or relinquish any hopes. This hurts, but it’s not unmanageable.

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Monday, Dec. 2, 2013 11:31 a.m.

Ben Krimmel: Soak up the big win, GW fans

For long-suffering GW basketball fans: Let yesterday’s win sink in.

For freshman or those new to GW sports: The victory against No. 20 Creighton was the first time the Colonials beat a ranked team since Dec. 5, 2005 when they defeated No. 21 Maryland. Current students were still in elementary and middle school.

This is reason for excitement GW fans sorely needed.

Already, we’ve seen signs of enthusiasm picking up. The post-game Twitter explosion showed the first positive indicator of the Colonial Army’s latest recruitment drive and alumni chirping smack talk for the first time in years.

Friends from other schools will try to poo-poo this victory. They’ll say Creighton is not a basketball powerhouse (though they are in the Big East), but that doesn’t discount the significance of GW’s win.

The victory came against the best player they’ll face this season and the best senior in college basketball, Doug McDermott. The six-foot eight-inch forward came into Sunday’s game averaging nearly 30 points per game, making NBA teams swoon.

But that star power did not intimidate senior Isaiah Armwood. For 34 minutes, Armwood ate McDermott’s lunch.

McDermott started off on the wrong foot from the first possession of the game, when he was called for a traveling violation. In Creighton’s final possession, he watched from the bench. He finished with 7 points on 2-12 shooting and two turnovers ­– his fifth lowest offensive output of his four-year career. All this against GW, a team that hasn’t won a game against a ranked school in almost a decade.

Last night, GW won the game that teams of years passed lost — exorcising the demons from last season’s three-point home loss to No. 14 Butler in the process.

On Sunday, a resilient bunch of Colonials did not crumble when Creighton took their first lead of the game with 6:24 remaining in the second half. Instead, they showed heart that has not existed in years past, outscoring Creighton 18-9 the duration of the game.

This was first display of a true winner’s grit in a big game since head coach Mike Lonergan was named head coach three years ago. He grabbed the resume builder that every mid-major basketball coach dreams about.

GW now basks in the much-earned warm embrace of the national spotlight. But most important is the hope of long-suffering and new fans alike – the spotlight that never lets go. See you Wednesday night at the Smith Center.

The writer, a senior majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist.

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Ben Krimmel, a senior majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist.

Fans could draw few hard conclusions from the Colonials’ game against Delaware State Tuesday night. GW waltzed through the game, finishing with a 44-point win. The game was essentially over before halftime.

During the mundane second half, I prayed for something – anything – to happen. Luckily, the basketball gods came through.

Tuesday night, I witnessed the most memorable play of the season thus far. And no, it wasn’t the slam by Isaiah Armwood or an alley-oop from Maurice Creek.

It starred freshman forward Skyler White. In the first possession after entering the game, White got the ball on the left wing, surveyed the floor and made a good entry pass to Paris Maragkos for a layup.

A normal play at first. But then, something magical happened.

After White’s pass, Delaware State inbounded the ball and all of the players ran down the court. All of the players, that is, except for White: Instead, the six foot eight inches tall freshman dropped to one knee and began to tie his shoe.

Head coach Mike Lonergan, with his palms to the sky, urged White to join his teammates. And it wasn’t until Armwood stood up from the bench that White got going. Lonergan shrugged, and the players on the bench tried their hardest to contain their laughter.

But the players, like myself, were unsuccessful.

Luckily for White, Delaware State missed a shot and GW got the rebound.

It might have been an embarrassing moment for the young player, but it was one that made me – and other fans in the Smith Center earlier this week – into diehard Skyler White fans. The Colonial Army let out one of the loudest cheers of the night when he walked to the scorer’s table. Many of them chanted his name.

After all, it is hard not to like White, the walk-on freshman from Washington who sits way down at the end of the GW bench. In pre-game warm-ups, he congenially jokes with other players while draining open three-pointers.

Later in the game after collecting his first two points of his GW career, White didn’t even crack a smile as he ran down the court, getting back with plenty of time to play defense.

With a few days until GW’s next game, I can’t wait for White to get more playing time. Until then, I’m left selfishly hoping for more of his humorous charm.

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013 6:56 p.m.

Men’s basketball announces trio of new transfers

There will officially be six newcomers to the 2013-14 men’s basketball team this season, as head coach Mike Lonergan announced the transfers of Maurice Creek, Dominique Bull and Ryan McCoy on Wednesday.

Men’s basketball head coach Mike Lonergan announced the transfer of the three new Colonials on Wednesday. The new additions will begin training with the team this July. Hatchet Photo File

The three transfers complete the list of Lonergan’s offseason additions that also include incoming recruits Miguel Cartagena, Skyler White and Nick Griffin.

Cartagena, White, Griffin and Creek will be the only four eligible to play during the 2013-2014 campaign, adding a healthy dose of  depth to the Colonials’ backcourt.

A former Indiana University guard and recent graduate, Creek comes to GW with one season of eligibility left. His transfer to GW was reported June 9 after Creek posted pictures of himself on Twitter declaring himself a Colonial.

Coming out of high school, Creek was touted as one of the nation’s Top 50 shooting guards and Top 100 prospects. He averaged 16.4 points over the first 12 games of his freshman season, but a series of injuries then hampered Creek’s career at Indiana, beginning with a fractured knee cap after those 12 games in 2010 and then a ruptured achilles in 2011, ultimately leaving him as a backup by 2012.

By the end of his four years, Creek averaged 7.2 points per game on 43 percent shooting and 36 percent beyond the arc over a total of 54 games as a Hoosier. He has now enrolled in the Graduate School of Education and Human Development.

Bull becomes a Colonial after playing out his freshmen season at the University of Missouri. Despite only playing in eight games for the Tigers, Bull will be forced to sit out the 2013-14 campaign due to NCAA transfer regulations. Graduating from the Tilton School in 2012, Bull averaged 12 points, five rebounds and four assists per game as a senior. He will have three years of eligibility remaining after sitting out the upcoming season.

McCoy will also be ineligible to play during the 2013-14 season after competing for two years at Manhattan University. McCoy averaged just 1.3 points and 1.0 rebounds in nine minutes per game over his 63 appearances for the Jaspers, scoring a season-high eight points against GW in last season’s BB&T Classic.

 

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Men’s basketball will play in 10 conference games in 2013-2014 against teams that reached the NCAA postseason last year, including a home-and-home pairing with powerhouse VCU.

Then-senior forward Isaiah Armwood goes up for an aggressive layup against a formidable VCU defense. Hatchet File Photo

The 16-game Atlantic 10 schedule announced Wednesday, toughens GW’s road to the conference tournament, as the team squared off in only six games against postseason teams last year.  The team will also play a home-and-home against local rival George Mason.

Other home games include Fordham, Duquesne, Rhode Island, Saint Josephs, and UMass – the team that eliminated the Colonials from postseason play last season. GW will also hit the road to compete against Saint Bonaventure, Dayton, Richmond,and last years A-10 champion Saint Louis. Dates and times will be announced at a later date

VCU, La Salle and Saint Louis each earned NCAA Tournament bids last year, while four others participated in the NIT and College Basketball Invitational.

The Colonials posted a 6-6 regular season record last year against teams they will play in 2013-14.

No matter how the Colonials fare, however, they will head to Brooklyn, N.Y. to compete in the A-10 Championships in the Barclays Center. Athletic director Patrick Nero said in an interview last week that the conference will send each team to the tournament, the first time that’s happened since  2005.

The entire schedule won’t surface until later this year, but details have already emerged about the Colonials’ non-conference opponents, as the team will travel to Kansas State, and take on Georgia, Rutgers and Maryland. The Colonials will also head to Orange County, Calif. for November’s Wooden Legacy tournament that includes a bracket filled with Miami (Fla.), Creighton and Marquette.

 

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