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The Colonials won their first NIT game in program history Tuesday, topping Pitt on the road. The NIT is experimenting with a 30-second shot clock in tournament games this year. Dan Rich | Hatchet Photographer.

The Colonials won their first NIT game in program history Tuesday, topping Pitt on the road. The NIT is experimenting with a 30-second shot clock in tournament games this year. Dan Rich | Hatchet Photographer.

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Josh Solomon.

Just before halftime, legendary Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun talked about the duo of rule changes in place for the National Invitational Tournament. In likely preparation for an NCAA rule change, the NIT is experimenting this year with a 30 second shot clock instead of a 35 second one. The tournament has also put in place a 4-foot restricted area arc in place of the 3-foot one.

“We got to get attacking again. When that’s normal, that’s not good,” the former Huskies coach said about the widespread slow-paced offense in college basketball.

It has been well-documented how scoring output has been way down this year. It is approaching near record lows, averaging below 70 points per game. The pace of the game has slowed up, true by the numbers and by the eye-test.

Enter the NIT for observation.

In the first round of the tournament the 32 teams who did not make the cut for the Big Dance averaged 71 points per game. The winning team averaged 76.25 points and five different teams scored over 80 points. People like three-time National Champion coach Calhoun are excited. The pace of the game has picked up and with good reason.

When the Colonials played their first round game at Pittsburgh Tuesday evening on ESPN players, coaches and fans saw some of the potential effects.

By the box score it barely looked effective or pretty: the final was 60-54 GW. GW scored about seven points below their season average, but Pittsburgh missed theirs by roughly 13. The Colonials shot 33.3 percent in the game and the Panthers shot 48.9 percent. The argument by the numbers is pretty poor that the game was enhanced offensively by the 30 second shot clock.

Pitt said they barely prepared for the change, the players citing that they normally practice with a 30 second shot clock. There were questions of how much of an effect it had on the game.

“I don’t know. It was interesting. I thought about that afterwards. It didn’t seem to have a lot of effect,” Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon said. “I think it’s something we’re going to see. I think it’s something that’s going to be put into play shortly, so get used to it.”

GW, however, enjoyed it, led by junior Kethan Savage who had a team-high 17 points off the bench. Since moved as the sixth man he has been up and down. In the first round of the NIT Savage said he knew Pitt likely didn’t have time to scout him, so he was ready to do his thing.

“I think it helped us. We played a faster pace, moving the ball up and down, move the ball around and not let the ball stay. I think it helps us a lot to get better shots,” Savage said.

He had 14 of 17 points in the first half and attacked all game. It’s his normal means of scoring, but he said the shortened shot clock gave him a little extra incentive to try to score.

But turn to junior Patricio Garino to see the real benefit of the 30 second shot clock for GW. Garino’s modus operandi is defense and though the highlight next to his name Tuesday night was his 1,000th career point, it came courtesy of a Pitt turnover which he turned into easy fast break points.

“We were mentally prepared for 30 seconds and we knew we didn’t need to repeat what we did in A-10 Tournament with the shot clock,” Garino said.

It’s a bit counterintuitive that a shortened shot clock, designed to promote offense, would benefit defense, but that has been the case for the Colonials.

The quickened game seemed to help Garino get in a groove and allowed GW to do what they do best this year: Defend.

In his four years as GW’s head coach, Mike Lonergan’s teams have averaged 67.1 points. Last year, with the dynamic inside-outside threats of Isaiah Armwood and Maurice Creek, the Colonials averaged 73.0 points per game. When Lonergan was at Vermont for six years, his teams averaged 70.2 points.

This year’s average is 67.0 points, though and GW has relied on varying defenses throughout the year, often designed to wear down the shot clock. In their biggest wins, like against Wichita State, their defense starred by doing just that, forcing desperate shots at the end of possessions.

But GW’s defense got a new injection of flow and energy from the faster pace – they used it to force 16 turnovers – even if the shots weren’t falling.

When GW heads to Philadelphia to play Temple Sunday morning they will likely again embrace the shortened shot clock – on the defensive side. It could play out as an advantage throughout the NIT and perhaps into next season.

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This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Josh Solomon.

You could almost hear Allen Iverson say it, over and and over again, “Free throws?!”

As usual, they’ve been a topic of conversation about the Colonials, only more so after the team eked out a win against Saint Joseph’s on Saturday.

One game into conference play and GW already almost blew a 20-point lead, courtesy of the one and only: charity stripe chip shots. In the final four minutes, they went to the line 17 times. They made a little over half of them, eventually resulting in a four-point win.

But the numbers show that result to be an outlier: Statistically speaking, GW’s free-throw shooting, even down the stretch, has been the same or better than in years past. All the talk is not backed up by what has actually happened in games.

This year alone, GW has played in five games decided by 10 points or fewer. Last season, it was 19 games. The year prior, 17 games. From the 2012-13 season to the 2013-14 season, the Colonials won twice as many close games, an 111 percent increase. This year is the best yet, with the team winning at an 80 percent clip.

Granted, it wasn’t always juniors Joe McDonald, Kethan Savage, Patricio Garino and Kevin Larsen who were taking the bulk of the team’s critical-moment free throws. Last year, Maurice Creek and Isaiah Armwood shot 42 percent of free throws taken in the final four minutes of games decided by 10 points or fewer. They made 73 percent of those freebies. The four juniors took 57 percent of those free throws, making 68 percent of them. Senior Nemanja Mikic took the only free throws not shot by a combination of those players.

In 2012-13, it was a mixed bag: Darian Smith, Bryan Bynes, Lasan Kromah and Armwood all were the major shooters, including others. Those four shot 57 percent of the critical free throws at a 65 percent clip. Meanwhile the then-freshman four were somewhat absent from the line: Larsen never stepped to the stripe in one of those moments and Savage missed his one attempt. McDonald was 11-18 and Garino was 7-13.

This year, the four juniors have shot all the team’s critical free throws aside from a few by Yuta Watanabe and Paul Jorgensen. The group is shooting 68.8 percent from the free throw line in the final four minutes of games decided by 10 points or fewer, identical to their total season average.

The details that emerge show the players have been no worse in the clutch than they have at the beginnings of games or in blowouts. Rather, players have shot near their overall averages with the game on the line – mostly no different than in years prior.

At the line, Garino’s having his best statistical season yet. He’s shooting 71 percent on the season, compared to 59 percent and 65 percent in the respective seasons. In crunch time, he’s made 5-7, also 71 percent.

Larsen is a bit scattered: He is at a 65 percent clip on the season – consistent with his prior years, 63 and 67 percent. In crunch time, though, he’s only made 5-9, for a 56 percent clip – almost the same as last year’s season total of 6-11, 55 percent.

Savage is shooting a poorer percentage from the line in critical moments, but it’s not significant enough to draw conclusions of choking.

McDonald, however, has come through nearly every time. In the 36 other minutes during close games, he’s shooting 63 percent at the free throw line. Come crunch time, he’s shooting 5-6 for 83 percent. His one miss against Saint Joe’s on Saturday was his first of the season in that kind of situation.

That uptick with the game on the line is significantly different from McDonald’s numbers in the past. In McDonald’s sophomore year, he shot 70 percent from the free throw line for the season. In games decided by 10 points or fewer, he shot 71 percent. In the final four minutes of those games, he shot – again – 71 percent on 30-42 shooting. He’s improved from freshmen year, too, when he shot 65 percent on the season and 61 percent in crunch time.

GW is only shooting 66 percent from the free throw line as a team this year, though that number does put them in the top half of the Atlantic 10. The core four are shooting 69 percent. In the final four minutes of tight games, they’re shooting exactly the same, 69 percent. Yes, McDonald missed one of two of his free throws in the Saint Joe’s conference opener, but at that point, he was probably due for a miss.

The Colonials have won four of five of these tight games this year. So it’s tough to complain after a 2012-13 when they lost 11 of 17 of them. This year is even better so far, which is perhaps the best indicator that they’ve improved in late-game situations, not free throws (free throws?!).

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Head coach Mike Lonergan talks to his bench during the A-10 Tournament. Hatchet File Photo

Head coach Mike Lonergan talks to his bench during the Atlantic 10 Tournament. Hatchet File Photo

Updated: July 15, 2014 at 2:41 p.m.

Men’s basketball head coach Mike Lonergan, while head coach at the University of Vermont, made Tyler Cavanaugh his first-ever scholarship offer when Cavanaugh was a sophomore at Jamesville-Dewitt High School in DeWitt, N.Y. more than four years ago.

Cavanaugh wound up at Wake Forest and Lonergan at GW. But after electing to transfer from Wake Forest in mid-June, Lonergan found a rare second opportunity to recruit the 6-foot-9 forward.

Cavanaugh announced Thursday on Twitter that he will join the Colonials next season. In addition to GW, Cavanaugh visited Dayton and Butler before making his choice. He also drew interest from Colorado, Davidson, Providence and Oregon.

He will have to sit out the 2014-15 season per NCAA transfer guidelines, but Lonergan will get the remaining two years of eligibility from Cavanaugh, whose transfer availability transformed into a mini mid-major sweepstakes during the first part of the summer.

The forward, a true stretch four with good three-point range, averaged 8.8 points and 3.8 rebounds per game during his sophomore season at Wake Forest. He started 22 of 33 games after averaging 5.0 points and 2.5 rebounds per game as a freshman. Cavanaugh scored a career-high 20 points against No. 16 Duke on March 5.

His two best rebounding performances last season came against frequent opponents of the Colonials: Cavanaugh had a nine-rebound effort in a win against Richmond and an eight-rebound effort in a win against St. Bonaventure.

But as the Demon Deacons underwent a leadership change from head coach Jeff Bzdelik, who recruited Cavanaugh, to Danny Manning in the spring, combined with the loss of several key players, Cavanaugh decided to transfer.

Cavanaugh told the Syracuse Post Standard that he no longer felt he could accomplish his goals of making an NCAA tournament and winning a conference championship at Atlantic Coast Conference-member Wake Forest, and he wanted to find a school where those ambitions were a realistic possibility.

Lonergan is not the only GW coach who is familiar with Cavanaugh’s high school roots. Assistant coach Carmen Maciariello, who joined the staff in May, is a former coach of Cavanaugh’s Amateur Athletic Union team, Albany City Rocks, though he was the coach before Cavanaugh’s days with the team.

Cavanaugh is the second transfer to join the Colonials during this offseason, along with former Division III guard Matt Hart, who comes from Hamilton.

Since taking the reigns of the men’s basketball team in 2011, Lonergan also successfully recruited transfers Isaiah Armwood in 2011, Maurice Creek in 2013 and Ryan McCoy, who sat out last year.

This post was updated to reflect the following corrections:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that head coach Mike Lonergan had courted Tyler Cavanaugh for four years. He only tried to recruit Cavanaugh four years ago and had a second chance when the now-junior decided to transfer this year. Due to an editing error, The Hatchet incorrectly reported that GW played Wake Forest last year. The Colonials did not play the Demon Deacons, though Wake Forest played frequent GW rivals Richmond and St. Bonaventure. Also due to an editing error, The Hatchet incorrectly reported the number of transfers that Lonergan has recruited. We regret these errors.

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Maurice Creek and Isaiah Armwood exit the Smith Center court after the Colonials defeat St. Joseph's. Hatchet File Photo

Maurice Creek and Isaiah Armwood exit the Smith Center court after the Colonials defeated St. Joseph’s last season. Hatchet File Photo

After leading the men’s basketball team through one of its most successful seasons in nearly a decade, alumni Maurice Creek and Isaiah Armwood wore the same colors one more time this week – but they weren’t buff and blue.

Armwood and Creek, known during the season as the “Zeke and Creek show,” both worked out for the Washington Wizards on Tuesday as part of their bids to make an NBA roster.

Armwood played in the workout’s first session, while Creek played in the second.

“I wish he was on my team. I think we would have had a little advantage,“ Armwood said after the workout. “But we were on separate teams. It was definitely nice to get out there with him.”

Creek and Armwood played with a handful of familiar faces: Halil Kanacevic of Saint Joseph’s, Devin Oliver of Dayton and Chaz Williams of Massachusetts, who all showed up to Tuesday’s workout. Armwood has already worked out for the Miami Heat, Sacramento Kings and most recently the Denver Nuggets.

 “[The Wizards] like to run a lot, that’s what I like to do,” Armwood said. “I could be like that three or four guy that rebounds the ball and be a lockdown defender. I think I could fit in real well. “

The 6-foot-9 forward averaged 12.7 points and 8.7 rebounds per game last season, making him one of the most impactful big men in the GW program’s history. Armwood earned Second Team All-Conference and Atlantic 10 All-Defensive team honors at the end of the season.

Meanwhile Creek, selling himself as a solid shooter and defender, received a couple pointers this week from members of his team as well as last season’s NBA Most Valuable Player.

“I talked to my trainers, I talked to a couple of guys and Kevin Durant,” Creek said. “They were just like, ‘You shoot the ball very well. Be mental and mindful of that. Just do what you do, don’t be shy, be confident, go in there and just take everything in.’”

Creek left his mark last season from beyond the arc, where he made the second-most 3-point shots in program history. He averaged a team-high 14.1 points per game and earned Third Team All-Conference honors.

With the NBA draft just a day away, Creek and Armwood had opposite plans for draft day. While Creek intends to watch the draft and “take it in,” Armwood said he “might not even watch it.” Both players are not predicted to hear their names called Thursday.

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Graduate student guard Maurice Creek played his final game after receiving 10 stitches in the first half. Cameron Lancaster | Assistant Photo Editor

Graduate student guard Maurice Creek played his final game after receiving 10 stitches in the first half. Cameron Lancaster | Assistant Photo Editor

GW fell just one shot short of completing an improbable second-half comeback Friday, falling to the No. 8-seeded Memphis Tigers, 71-66.

Graduate student Maurice Creek got a final look at tying the game, but as many of his shots did at the PNC Arena, it did not fall.

In his final game as a Colonial, senior Isaiah Armwood led his team with 21 points on 9-12 shooting. Along with sophomore Kevin Larsen, who had 16 points, the frontcourt would carry GW all game long.

Memphis responded with an offensive showcase of its own, having no problem with GW’s 1-3-1 defense. The Tigers recorded 19 assists on their way to 49 percent shooting. Senior guard Michael Dixon Jr. led his team with 19 points, while fellow senior guard Joe Jackson would add 15 points and six assists.

Creek missed a large chunk of the first half as he received 10 stitches above his right eye, but would come back as a non-factor for GW. The guard finished with nine points on 2-13 shooting, 2-8 from three.

Down five at the half, the Colonials would amount a strong second-half comeback but would leave 10 points at the line, going 14-24 from the charity stripe.

Check back soon for the full story.

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Friday, March 21, 2014 3:50 p.m.

The Hatchet’s March Madness drinking game

If you get through the drinking game, make sure, make sure to stay on your feet. Hatchet File Photo by Cameron Lancaster | Assistant Photo Editor

If you get through the drinking game, make sure, make sure to stay on your feet. Hatchet File Photo by Cameron Lancaster | Assistant Photo Editor

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

NCAA Tournament basketball is magical, especially when your team hasn’t been in the big dance in seven years.

But basketball nirvana is also nerve-wracking. When GW tips off against Memphis, you’ll be an anxious mess. Best take off the edge with plenty of alcohol.

Everybody wins with The Hatchet’s drinking game — a little game to help you get through GW’s first 40 minutes of March Madness.

Take a drink:

If the announcers make any political reference.

When your mom texts you asking if you are watching the game.

Every time Nemanja Mikic dribbles the ball.

Whenever announcers mention GW’s win over Creighton.

Every time a GW player pump-fakes.

Get a second drink:

If Charles Barkley says something outlandish.

Take a shot:

Any time President Barack Obama or the White House is mentioned.

Every time Mike Lonergan is shown doing a silly hand motion.

Whenever Isaiah Armwood dunks.

For every Patricio Garino steal.

Every time the announcers wax poetic about Maurice Creek’s comeback.

Finish your drink:

If anybody mentions their bracket being busted.

Stand in the shower and shotgun a Natural Ice:

Any time the announcers say Georgetown instead of GW.

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Sunday, March 16, 2014 6:39 p.m.

Lonergan adds center to 2014 recruiting class

The men’s basketball team may have found its missing piece for next season, as big man Matt Cimino gave his verbal commitment to GW Sunday, according to reports from Evan Daniels of Scout.com.

Cimino, a 6-foot-10 center from Worcester (Mass.) Academy, will join head coach Mike Lonergan’s 2014 recruiting class that currently includes forwards Yuta Watanabe and Darain Bryant and guard Paul Jorgensen.

Center Matt Cimino, left, plays in a game for Worcester Academy. The big man gave his verbal commitment to GW Sunday. | Courtesy of Flickr

Center Matt Cimino, left, plays in a game for Worcester Academy. The big man gave his verbal commitment to GW Sunday. | Courtesy of Flickr

Cimino made a visit to GW for the Colonials 66-58 victory over District-rival George Mason on March 2, citing that day as a key factor in his decision.

“When I went on my visit and I just met so many people,” Cimino said in an interview with Daniels. “I felt like I was wanted and needed there compared to every other school. I was needed there most there.”

Finding a big man was the biggest hole the Colonials had to fill, with senior forward Isaiah Armwood set to graduate this year. It’s very possible that Cimino could see immediate action next season, complimenting sophomore Kevin Larsen in the frontcourt.

The center is already known for having a unique combination of size and touch around the basket, as well as great hands and the ability to hit a mid-range jumper.

In addition to the prospect of making an immediate impact, Cimino was most attracted to Foggy Bottom by the connections made with the coaching staff.

“First and foremost it’s probably my relationship with the coaches,” Cimino said in an interview. “They’ve been with me for a while and through ups and downs. My relationship with coach Longeran and coach [Hajj] Turner is very good.”

One of the top 25 centers of the 2014 class, Cimino is a three-star recruit according to ESPN and Rivals.com.

Cimino reportedly had other offers form big name schools such as Virginia, Indiana, Boston College, Kansas State, Georgia and Georgia Tech. According to the Scout.com report, Cimino had narrowed his list down to GW, Georgia and Georgia Tech – all of whom offered him a scholarship. With the signing, Lonergan is now left with one available scholarship for 2014.

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Saturday, March 15, 2014 11:56 p.m.

Photos: GW vs. VCU in A-10 semis

Brooklyn, N.Y. – GW’s Atlantic 10 title hopes evaporated on Saturday. The Colonials could not maintain their strong first-half performance, losing to No. 23 VCU.

Here’s what photo editor Samuel Klein captured from the baseline:

Sophomore Joe McDonald goes up for a layup Saturday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Sophomore Joe McDonald goes up for a layup Saturday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Sophomore Joe McDonald tries to captain GW's offense against VCU's "havoc" defense. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Sophomore Kethan Savage made a brief return to the court Saturday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Forward Isaiah Armwood got GW off to a solid start Saturday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Forward Isaiah Armwood got GW off to a solid start Saturday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Senior Isaiah Armwood slams home a dunk Saturday for two of his team-high 15 points. | Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Senior Isaiah Armwood slams home a dunk Saturday for two of his team-high 15 points. | Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Sophomores Kevin Larsen and Patricio Garino walk offthe court after GW's loss to VCU Saturday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Sophomores Kevin Larsen and Patricio Garino walk offthe court after GW’s loss to VCU Saturday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Sophomore Kethan Savage, who has been out for most of the season with a foot injury, saw a brief appearance on the court Saturday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Sophomore Joe McDonald ties his show after being looked at by trainers at the end of Saturday’s game. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Patricio Garino and Kevin Larsen try to stop a VCU player on Saturday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Patricio Garino and Isaiah Armwood try to stop a VCU player on Saturday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Head coach Mike Lonergan, who has garnered praise this year for turning around GW, instructs players on the sidelines Saturday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Head coach Mike Lonergan, who has garnered praise this year for turning around GW, instructs players on the sidelines Saturday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Forward Kevin Larsen stretches on the sideline before Saturday's game. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Forward Kevin Larsen stretches on the sideline before Saturday’s game. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Sophomore forward Kevin Larsen loses the ball against two VCU defenders Satruday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Sophomore forward Kevin Larsen loses the ball against two VCU defenders Satruday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Senior Nemanja Mikic fires a three in the first half. Mikic carried GW with his hot shooting again on Saturday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Senior Nemanja Mikic fires a three in the first half. Mikic carried GW with his hot shooting again on Saturday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Sophomore Joe McDonald struggles to get around a VCU defender. The Rams are famous for their "havoc" defense that suffocates offenses. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Sophomore Joe McDonald struggles to get around a VCU defender. The Rams are famous for their “havoc” defense that suffocates offenses. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

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Sophomore forward Kevin Larsen loses the ball against two VCU defenders Satruday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Sophomore forward Kevin Larsen loses the ball against two VCU defenders Satruday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

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

For the first 20 minutes Saturday, the Colonials weathered the storm.

But hampered by a fast-paced tempo and punishing inside play, GW crashed out of the Atlantic 10 Tournament at the hands of VCU.

There is no good time to play a very solid team like VCU, but there is a bad time to play them. And with a quick turnaround from last night’s punishing game against Massachusetts, Saturday afternoon was the wrong time for GW.

After a solid first half, GW entered the halftime interval down a bucket and converting 48.1 percent of its shots from the floor. The only blemish of the opening period was the sight of Kethan Savage limping back to the locker room, as the sophomore’s return to action entailed only one uneventful minute. (Savage never looked comfortable on the floor, and upon returning to the bench after his fleeting flash of action, looked rather relieved to get off his ailing foot.)

During halftime, head coach Mike Lonergan encouraged his team to keep getting the ball to his big men and continue the hot starts of senior Isaiah Armwood and sophomore Kevin Larsen, who combined for 18 points on 8-for-11 from the field.

But VCU was able to neutralize the inside play of the Colonials with their ox of a man: Mo Alie-Cox. Alie-Cox’s strength was immediately apparent as Larsen struggled to gain position on every possession and GW’s 6-foot-10 sophomore could only hope for a stalemate verse the ox.

After the half, Larsen and Armwood would score just five points (2-6 from the floor) as the 6-foot-6, 250 pound Alie-Cox asserted his dominance, grabbing six points and six rebounds during that span.

VCU head coach Shaka Smart was pleased with his 20-year-old’s defense: “He changed a lot of plays around the basket,” Smart said. “He’s credited for two blocks, but he changed so many more, and I thought he did a terrific job on the glass, as well.”

How terrific on the glass? Well GW managed just 11 second-half rebounds compared to 20 corralled by VCU. As the Colonials shooting percentage dipped to 33.3 percent in the second half, second-chance points disappeared with the GW hopes of playing on Sunday.

After the game, Armwood sat at the podium visibly disappointed and took the blame for the poor performance.

“The second half we didn’t do the job on the boards,” he said. “They are known for rebounding and we knew that coming into the game, we just didn’t put a body on them.”

Even with the daunting Alie-Cox and senior forward Juvonte Reddic — who grabbed 10 rebounds — fatigue is what got the Colonials in the end. Fatigued from playing two games in one 18-hour span after a long regular season played with a very short bench. GW may be glad not to have to play again for a few days.

And while there was postgame sulking from Armwood and his head coach, Sunday will be a historic day for the program, as GW will earn their first NCAA Tournament bid in seven years.

Lonergan said it best after the game: “We’ll be miserable for a few hours,” he said. “But I’ll wake up tomorrow and it will be a great day in my life.”

An invite to the dance is the best cure for the Colonials current woes.

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GW had nothing left in the tank.

After trailing the No. 23 team in the country by just two at halftime, shots stopped falling for the Colonials as VCU stayed hot on its way to a 74-55 victory.

GW will now have to wait until 6 p.m. Sunday to find out its fate in the NCAA Tournament. In ESPN’s Joe Lunardi’s most recent bracket, the Colonials were picked as a No. 7 seed, taking on No. 8 Pittsburgh in Buffalo, N.Y.

“Disappointed with the loss. I thought it was a pretty good game for about two-thirds of the game,” head coach Mike Lonergan said. “I think Nemanja [Mikic] hit a shot with 7:43 left and then after that we just struggled to score.”

The Colonials played the first six minutes without turning the ball over a single time. VCU’s pressure would not change, but the Colonials lost their ability to hold on to the ball. In the final 14 minutes of the half GW turned the ball over 11 times, mostly coming by way of errant and telegraphed passes. The Colonials ended the game with 15 turnovers off nine Ram steals.

GW handled the pressure of VCU’s press early on the game, though, best illustrated by the Colonials first possession of the game. Three crisp passes, first from sophomore Joe McDonald to graduate student Maurice Creek and then to a running Kevin Larsen led to a two-handed slam for senior Isaiah Armwood.

Armwood proved the spark for the Colonials early on, but as it did for the rest of GW, fatigue took its toll as the game progressed. In the first four minutes of the game, the senior scored seven points and grabbed three rebounds, appearing very comfortable in the paint and attacking VCU’s frontcourt on every possession.

“Early in the game we made all the right plays,” Armwood said. “It was the turning point in the game where it wasn’t necessarily them making us turn the ball over, we had some uncharacteristic turnovers that let them take the lead going into halftime and it continued in the second half.”

Senior Nemanja Mikic complemented Armwood’s first-half scoring. For the second straight game, Mikic became GW’s three-point threat, going 3-for-4 from beyond the arc in the first half to finish with 12 points in 16 minutes of play.

Struggling in the first half was Larsen, who had the added responsibility of being ball handler in the absence of Kethan Savage. Larsen turned the ball over five times in the half, but came alive in the second, scoring four straight points for GW to finish with 10.

VCU was led by junior forward Treveon Graham, who despite early foul trouble, still led the Rams with eight points at the half. Graham’s damage would be done in the second half, however, as he scored seven points in the first five minutes – just the beginning of a scoring tear that led to 22 points and four assists.

The Rams as a whole picked up their offense in the second half, seeming to heat up as the Colonials legs grew tired. After shooting 39.4 percent in the first half, VCU shot 56.5 percent in the second half, opening the half 5-for-6 from the field. Junior Briante Weber ran a fluid offense for the Rams, dishing out a game-high eight assists, while scoring 16 points.

The Colonials fought hard to stick with the Rams, but were ultimately unable to match the production and energy of VCU’s scorers. The Colonials limited their second half turnovers to four, but would only shoot 7-for-21 from the field, struggling to find open looks and convert attempts.

VCU’s success would also be found in their ability to out-rebound GW in the second half. After ending the first half tied at 17, VCU ultimately outrebounded the Colonials 37-28, leading to 12 second-chance points.

Senior Isaiah Armwood slams home a dunk Saturday for two of his team-high 15 points. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Senior Isaiah Armwood slams home a dunk Saturday for two of his team-high 15 points. | Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

“If you can outrebound GW by nine, that’s a heck of a feat,” head coach Shaka Smart said.

GW would also miss the production of McDonald and sophomore Patricio Garino, who combined for just nine points Saturday. Garino went scoreless in the first half and after a small offensive run in the second, would go silent for the Colonials finishing with six points on 2-of-9 shooting.

McDonald also struggled to shoot the ball, making just one field goal in the game. McDonald’s role Saturday was as primary ball handler, in which he did a more than exceptional job, but his beat-up body would take one too many hits as he left the game with 5:28 left to play after tweaking his ankle. McDonald returned for a short stint a couple minutes later, but would exit the game for good, fouling out of the game with 3:03 left to play.

“It might have been his ankle, which I felt good about since it wasn’t his hip,” Lonergan said. “I knew it would be tough, but he’s a warrior, he plays so hard and I didn’t have a lot of choices as you can see. Give VCU credit, they wore him out and wore all our team out, but hopefully he’ll be back by NCAA’s.”

Sophomore Kethan Savage made his first appearance since Jan. 18 after fracturing his foot against St. Bonaventure, but unfortunately, it was short lived as he played only one minute.

“He cut and he felt some soreness. I think he told the trainers to have me take him right out, so it was tough,” Lonergan said. “I feel bad, I’m hoping he’s alright and maybe a few more days.”

Sophomores Kevin Larsen and Patricio Garino walk offthe court after GW's loss to VCU Saturday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Sophomores Kevin Larsen and Patricio Garino walk offthe court after GW’s loss to VCU Saturday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

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