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Coach Lonergan conceded his first loss this month after GW's three game winning steak came to an end after a 54-61 loss at Penn State on Sunday. Dan Rich | Hatchet Photographer

Head coach Mike Lonergan’s three-game win steak came to an end Sunday with a 64-51 loss to Penn State. Dan Rich | Hatchet Photographer

Updated: Dec. 15, 2014 at 9:20 p.m.

Patricio Garino drove at the basket, stretching out his right arm toward the rim. Jostled as he went up, the ball couldn’t get over the iron. Penn State got up in transition for a fast-break layup.

After going back and forth early, the Colonials fell flat in the second half, losing to Penn State 64-51 on the road Sunday and falling to 6-3 on the season.

“They played harder than us. They definitely deserved to win that game,” head coach Mike Lonergan said. “We really played poorly today, and it was mostly just energy and effort.”

After two cupcake defenses in DePaul and Charlotte, Penn State (10-1) clogged the paint enough to stop the Colonials inside, freed up by GW’s nonexistent presence beyond the arc.

GW still outscored Penn State 34-26 in the paint, but the Colonials made none of their eight attempts at threes. The Lions sunk seven of 24 attempts against a GW defense that was holding opponents to 28 percent shooting from three heading into the game.

After GW led by as much as seven early in the first half, the Nittany Lions closed out the first with a 34-28 lead, with five of their threes coming before halftime.

“We tried to switch everything in the first half. I thought that worked pretty well, but they were driving past our four men,” Lonergan said. “It just seemed like at the right time they were wide open from three.”

Drives to the basket were blocked six times in the first half, including a series of volleys under the basket as the Colonials tried to pull closer before halftime. Penn State blocked 11 shots in the game, which Lonergan called “the toughest stat” for GW.

Both teams had just 11 turnovers, but neither shot well. Penn State was able to defend GW’s rebounding well enough to generate 62 shots compared to 53 for GW. The Colonials shot just 34 percent in the game to Penn State’s 38.7. On three days rest, Lonergan said the team was worn down.

“We ended up playing defense too long,” Lonergan said. “Guys just got tired.”

GW got within a possession of Penn State twice early in the second half but couldn’t find a rhythm. The game plodded along, the Lions getting fouls called and GW failing to capitalize. The Colonials were 15-23 from the line to Penn State’s perfect 9-9.

“You can’t put up 51 points and miss so many opportunities from the free-throw line and stay in the game,” Lonergan said.

Any attempt at a run was crushed by Penn State’s top scorer D.J. Newbill, who led all scorers with 20 points.

Junior Patricio Garino recorded his sixth straight game with double figures, scoring 15 points against Penn State on Sunday. Dan Rich | Hatchet Photographer

Junior Patricio Garino recorded his sixth straight game with double figures on Sunday, scoring 15 points against Penn State. Dan Rich | Hatchet Photographer

And while Newbill was joined by Brandon Taylor with 17 points and Shep Garner with 10, the Colonials couldn’t find much scoring outside of Garino and Kevin Larsen, who each scored 15 points. Larsen had his first double-double of the season, also adding 13 total rebounds.

Points were thinly spread beyond that pair. Kethan Savage had his second straight quiet game, going 1-7 from the field after a 1-9 night against DePaul, though he did make 5-6 free throws. John Kopriva had five points and Joe McDonald only three.

“We’ve got five guys that can score on the floor,” Larsen said. “We’ve just got to play more of a team game and we’ll be fine.”

With three starters going quiet, GW received no help via bench production, seeing their reserves outscored 13-6 and getting just four points from Yuta Watanabe and two from Darian Bryant.

The team can try to forget the loss with a change of scenery, taking off next for the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii. The Colonials will play their first game against Ohio on Dec. 22 in Honolulu.

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
In a photo caption, The Hatchet incorrectly reported that GW lost to Penn State 54-61. The Colonials lost 64-51. We regret this error.

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Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014 4:27 p.m.

Colonials, Larsen find rhythm as Hawaii calls

Junior Patricio Garino has been shredding defenses through GW's last three games where he's shot nearly 70 percent from the field. Garino has found extra space due to the improved play of classmate Kevin Larsen. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor.

Junior Patricio Garino has shredded defenses during GW’s last three games, where he’s shot nearly 70 percent from the field. Garino has found extra space because of the improved play of classmate Kevin Larsen. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor

Heading into the Colonials’ Thursday night matchup against DePaul, the Atlantic 10 conference was 0-5 against teams from the Big East. GW was 0-1.

That loss, 58-54 to Seton Hall, was the knock on the young season. The second half of the game against the University of Virginia had paralyzed the team, but a road win against the Cavaliers was not expected. Falling to the Pirates was, in head coach Mike Lonergan’s words, “disappointing.”

The Colonials pulled their season record against the Big East to .500 with the A-10’s first win over a member of the other basketball-centric conference, defeating DePaul 81-68. Is Lonergan happier with the team’s performance relative to the game at Seton Hall? “Oh, yeah,” he said, exhaling. He seemed satisfied.

Sitting to his right was junior Kevin Larsen, who scored 18 points against the Blue Demons. After a tough start, Larsen has improved his game since Seton Hall, and the Colonials have won three straight.

“Just me being more focused and more aggressive and not taking plays off, which is one of my biggest weaknesses. Just me playing hard every possession,” Larsen said.

The day after the Seton Hall game, Larsen hit the gym with an assistant coach at 8 a.m. Since then, he’s averaged 14 points per game.

That number is second to just one player in the same time frame: Patricio Garino. Garino scored 23 against UMBC, 21 against Charlotte and 19 against DePaul. The slashing playmaker is shooting nearly 70 percent in his last three games.

Drive after drive, Garino sliced his way to the rim for an easy layup. His right-handed moves dazzled the crowd, but they were surgical. Garino only missed once in open play: The basket was an afterthought by the time he’d snaked past the last DePaul defender.

So is his hot stretch the reason GW has been winning games? Not according to Garino.

“I think Kevin is the key to our success,” he said.

Larsen has been stronger inside, posting up to create driving lanes for classmates Garino and Kethan Savage.

“Sometimes he’s very skilled. Sometimes [Kevin] posts up on the block and ends up on the short corner, but he’s so much more effective inside, where he can score and do a lot of things,” Lonergan said. “I think it’s one of the reasons Patricio is shooting an unbelievable percentage in the last three games.”

GW’s last couple opponents – DePaul and Charlotte – have had the defensive fortitude of a stick of butter. The Blue Demons are tied for the No. 253 scoring defense in Division I and the 49ers are ranked No. 322 out of 345. Both allow 70 points or more per game.

On offense, though, both are much better. Charlotte is tied for the No. 71 scoring offense and DePaul is ranked No. 32. GW needed consistency to outpace both.

Junior Joe McDonald is one of four Colonials averaging double-figure scoring after GW's win over DePaul. The Colonials got the A-10's first win of the season over a Big East opponent Thursday night at the Smith Center. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor.

Junior Joe McDonald is one of four Colonials averaging double-figure scoring after GW’s win over DePaul. The Colonials got the A-10′s first win of the season over a Big East opponent Thursday night at the Smith Center. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor.

With its consistency, the team is in a good position as it heads into a tough game at Penn State and then to Hawaii for the Diamond Head Classic. The core four has accomplished Lonergan’s preseason goal of having four double-digit scorers, from Garino’s 15.1 points per game to Joe McDonald’s even 10.

“I just felt that our juniors, they all can score,” Lonergan said. “And we’re best, like Charlotte, when they’re all in double figures.”

There’s one big caveat in the team’s 13 missed free throws against DePaul. GW went 14-27. The Colonials can’t expect to lead every game by 20 at halftime and have cushion to use if an opponent starts pressing and fouling wildly like DePaul did.

Those numbers are uncomfortably similar to the 14-24 mark GW hit against Memphis in the NCAA Tournament last year. Shooting freebies like that will put a damper on the Colonials’ chances to pull out tough wins against even better opponents. GW could face Wichita State in Hawaii.

But trouble from the line or not, now is a good time for the Colonials to know themselves. GW won’t be back to the Smith Center – where the team has won 19 of the last 20 games – until Dec. 30. Conference play starts four days later.

“I think we’re more focused now. We’ve picked it out, our defense. We’ve been focusing,” Garino said. “We’re passing the ball much more.”

It’s worth remembering that the Wooden Legacy tournament was where last year’s team beat Creighton to build its NCAA case, and GW still doesn’t have a true, signature win. Larsen’s improvement could be helping the Colonials hit their stride at just the right time.

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Junior Kevin Larsen came alive in the Colonials 81-68 domination over the Blue Devils, recording 18 points and 8 rebounds. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor

Junior Kevin Larsen came alive in the Colonials’ 81-68 domination over the Blue Demons, recording 18 points and eight rebounds. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor

Updated: Dec. 12, 2014 at 12:06 p.m.

Men’s basketball dominated DePaul inside, scoring more than half of their points in the paint, to defeat the Blue Demons 81-68 Thursday at the Smith Center.

Junior forward Patricio Garino guided the Colonials (6-2) with a team-high 19 points, followed closely by junior Kevin Larsen, who led the team with eight rebounds and scored 18 points to share the second top-scoring spot with junior point guard Joe McDonald.

Against a sharp-shooting DePaul (6-2) team that had the 21st best field goal shooting percentage in the country coming into the contest (.495), GW was able to hold the edge and shoot 57.1 percent on the night to the Blue Demons’ 49.1 percent mark.

“There was really no letdown. We missed some easy buckets, but we never really let any of their guys get going,” head coach Mike Lonergan said. “It’s two games in a row now that we’ve played teams with some talent inside and they didn’t really hurt us too much.”

While DePaul struggled to get the ball in the net, GW thrived down low. The Colonials would finish the night outscoring the Blue Demons 54-24 in the paint and out-rebounding them 38-28.

“[Outscoring DePaul in the paint] was a big plus, but I thought we would be struggling a little more to score inside because both of their big guys are really good players,” Larsen said. “But that motivated us to try to go at them and show that we are better players.”

Three Colonials would end the first half scoring in double figures, helping GW secure a commanding 20-point lead at halftime. Larsen led with 11 first-half points, while Garino and McDonald each scored 10.

“Kevin [Larsen] is so much more effective inside where he can score and do a lot of things,” Lonergan said. “That’s opened up a lot of driving lanes for Patricio [Garino] … and allows guys to get to the rim, and I think that’s why Patricio is shooting an unbelievable percentage in the last three games.”

GW shot an impressive 60 percent from the field in the first half to DePaul’s 34.6 percent and demolished their Big East opponent 28-6 in the paint. Junior guard Kethan Savage scored two points but had a team-high five rebounds, as his team would out-rebound the Blue Demons 21-12 in the first frame.

An 11-4 run by DePaul early in the second half kept the Blue Demons in the game, but DePaul’s 15th of 24 total personal fouls sent GW to the line, slowing down the game.

Sophomore guard Nick Griffin knocked down one of his two threes on the night moments later to liven a quieting crowd and give the Colonials a 52-33 lead. Griffin and freshmen Yuta Watanabe led the bench with six points each, while Watanabe also contributed five rebounds and two assists in the 13-point GW victory.

Junior Joe McDonald didn't stray from the basket as he scored 18 points over in GW's 81-68 win over DePaul. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor

Junior Joe McDonald didn’t stray from the basket as he scored 18 points in GW’s 81-68 win over DePaul. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor

Garino had shot 62 percent in GW’s previous four games and went eight for nine from the field against DePaul, also totaling five of the Colonials’ 10 steals.

“I think pressuring the ball on defense allows me to run the transition,” Garino said. “And I think I’m going to the rim and making layups. I have to pick up my free-throw shooting, but I feel comfortable and again, pressuring the ball opens everything for me.”

Despite the Blue Demons’ improved 63 percent shooting in the second half and GW’s 14-27 mark at the free throw line, the Colonials would hold on for the fourth consecutive win at home this season. GW is now 19-1 in their last 20 games at the Smith Center.

The Colonials will look to extend their three-game winning streak Sunday as they head to University Park, Pa. to take on Penn State at 12 p.m.

This post was updated to reflect the following corrections:
In a photo caption, The Hatchet incorrectly identified DePaul as the Blue Devils. They are the Blue Demons. The Hatchet also incorrectly reported that the rebounding margin was 31-21. It was 38-28. We regret these errors.

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Junior Joe McDonald recorded 11 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists in GW's 78-70 win over the 49ers at the Verizon Center on Sunday. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor

Junior Joe McDonald recorded 11 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in GW’s 78-70 win over the 49ers at the Verizon Center on Sunday. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor

There’s no “I” in team.

Head coach Mike Lonergan rattled off the familiar cliché when describing his team’s success at the BB&T Classic, where they secured a 78-70 victory over Charlotte for their fifth win of the young season.

“I always tell our guys, ‘Hey, there’s no ‘I’ in team,’ and it really is true,” Lonergan said. “And we’ve got to play for each other because we have a chance to be a very good team, but we’ve got to take advantage of each of our strengths and hide our weaknesses, and we can’t do that individually.”

The fourth-year head coach said the Colonials “tried to do too much on [their] own” in their 58-54 loss to a still undefeated Seton Hall on Nov. 29. Up against former Atlantic 10 rival Charlotte on Sunday, GW proved just how important playing as a team can be.

In the eight-point victory, an evenly filled stat sheet and unselfish play helped GW overcome many of the struggles the team has faced so far this season.

GW had just seven assists in the loss to Seton Hall, while junior forward Kevin Larsen, the team’s go-to big man, scored just three points. But smarter passing got everyone involved Sunday, as the Colonials totaled 17 assists and the starting GW frontcourt combined for 17 points.

But the scoring didn’t stop there. Junior point guard Joe McDonald flirted with a triple-double, tallying eight rebounds, eight assists and 11 points on the day, and for the first time this season, all four starting juniors would score in double figures.

McDonald now leads the team with 6.9 rebounds per game, a rare statistic for a point guard, but he says rebounding is just another shared team responsibility.

“You know we’re missing Zeek, and you don’t want to put all of that pressure on Kevin [Larsen] and John [Kopriva],” McDonald said. “It’s not just me. Kethan [Savage] rebounds, Patricio [Garino] does, so it’s more a team effort.”

While McDonald has served as a rebounding guard all season, players moved outside of traditional roles in another way on Sunday. Instead of relying solely on their three-point specialists like Watanabe and sophomore Nick Griffin, who scored the only two threes in the Seton Hall loss, the Colonials saw improved three-point shooting Sunday, going a season high .500 from beyond the arc.

GW was able to get open looks for McDonald, Kopriva, Jorgensen and junior Kethan Savage who combined for five three-pointers on the day.

“We’ve been shooting very poorly from the three-point line this year. It’s no secret … but almost every three we took [today] was wide open. For us, five for 10 is excellent,” Lonergan said.

The Colonials also managed a season-high .750 shooting percentage from the line against the 49ers, led by McDonald who went 6-7, as five Colonials combined for 15 crucial points from the charity stripe.

The change may not be by accident or just a random switch. Lonergan said he was hoping the team would be 6-1 at this point instead of 5-2, calling the loss at Seton Hall a disappointment. He mentioned the presence of NBA scouts at practices as a distraction and said he may have been “too into” the team’s preseason pick as second in the A-10, which he discussed with the team.

“I just told the guys really after Virginia and Seton Hall that I don’t want to hear about the NBA and all that stuff. That stuff will come if you win games and play as a team,” Lonergan said. “Winning takes care of everything … These guys have got a lot of goals but the team goals come first.”

The work continues for the Colonials as they return to the Smith Center to take on DePaul on Thursday at 7 p.m.

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The Colonials were looking for a solid win, a statement about the strength and dependability of the junior “core four.” They got one.

Despite taking 18 fewer shots, GW (5-2) scored at will against former Atlantic 10 rival Charlotte (4-4), pulling away in the second half to beat the 49ers in the BB&T Classic at the Verizon Center on Sunday.

Led by Patricio Garino’s 21 points, each member of the junior core hit double figures to win 78-70, with much of the team’s best work on offense coming above the rim.

“I thought we controlled the tempo and ended up getting them in foul trouble, and I thought our guys played a really smart second half,” head coach Mike Lonergan said. “It kind of felt like our team again, getting to the rim with Kethan [Savage] and Pato [Garino] getting to the basket and opening some things up.”

Junior Joe McDonald controlled the game as GW topped Charlotte 78-70 at the Verizon Center. In 32 minutes of play, McDonald recorded 11 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor

Junior Joe McDonald controlled the game as GW topped Charlotte 78-70 at the Verizon Center. In 32 minutes of play, McDonald recorded 11 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor

When GW took shots, the majority of them fell. The Colonials shot nearly 55 percent from the field and shot 50 percent from beyond the three-point line, compared to Charlotte, which shot less than 40 percent from the field and just over 42 percent from beyond the arc.

But they didn’t always shoot. GW had nine fewer shot attempts than Charlotte in each half, allowing the 49ers to stay close despite strong shooting. Charlotte owned the offensive boards 19-8 and out-rebounded GW 37-34 in the game overall.

“One thing we’ve got to be better at is finishing the play. They got so many offensive rebounds, especially Willie Clayton, but other than that, we stuck to the game plan,” junior point guard Joe McDonald said.

Junior forward Kevin Larsen, a source of much concern earlier in the season, had another nice game after turning in a 14-point performance the last time out against UMBC. He scored 10 points and had six rebounds, including a precious three offensive rebounds, matched only off the offensive glass by Savage, who had a 15-point night.

Junior Patricio Garino had 21 points in the Colonials 78-70 win over the 49ers. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor

Junior Patricio Garino had 21 points in the Colonials’ 78-70 win over the 49ers. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor

Larsen also benefited from the foul trouble of Charlotte’s leading scorer, Mike Thorne Jr., who was held to just 21 minutes of play after picking up four fouls early in the second half when it was still close.

The Colonials went to the lockers up 31-28 after getting nearly all of their offense in the first half from Garino. The junior swingman scored 12 of his points in the first half on perfect 6-6 shooting on the way to his second straight game scoring 20 points or more.

“I think we’re pushing the ball a little more. I feel very confident in transition and I feel like we’re pushing the ball ahead,” Garino said. “We’re not being so selfish in the two-on-one, three-on-one game, and that’s what I feel comfortable with.”

With the Colonials down by two at 12-10, Garino followed up on two straight blocks from freshman forward Yuta Watanabe, the first of which would have been a surefire dunk off the fast break for Charlotte, with a steal and a one-handed slam of his own to tie the game.

Another steal, this time by sophomore guard Nick Griffin, gave Garino an easy layup. He scored GW’s next three baskets, including another dunk fed by a McDonald steal. McDonald filled the stat sheet with 11 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, again hinting at a triple-double.

With the starters taking over for GW, both teams used their benches lightly. Charlotte’s bench outscored GW’s 17-14, but the Colonials got a nice boost from freshman Paul Jorgensen, especially in the first half.

Visibly upset after being called for a travel, Jorgensen responded with five straight points, laying one in and then elevating for a rebound on the other end before putting GW up 29-26 with a triple. Jorgensen finished the game with eight points, showing some development going into a tough stretch of games to close out non-conference play.

“I thought it was really important when you look at our schedule,” Lonergan said. “This was definitely a game we had to get not being on our home court but in our home city.”

Besides a win over a Rutgers squad that had the college basketball world’s head spinning, the victory was GW’s first against a team not ranked in the Division I cellar of the NCAA.

That should give the team some confidence as it heads into the final games of non-conference play, starting with DePaul (6-1) on Thursday in the Smith Center.

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Friday, Nov. 28, 2014 11:54 p.m.

Preview: Men’s basketball at Seton Hall

What: Men’s basketball (3-1) vs. Seton Hall (4-0)
Where: Prudential Center, Newark, N.J.
When: Saturday, Nov. 29 at 4 p.m.

Two evenly matched teams – projections have this a one-possession game – will go strength-on-strength Saturday: GW’s stingy defense against a Seton Hall offense that has scored 80 points in back-to-back games.

The Pirates sail home from the Virgin Islands with the Paradise Jam title in hand, looking to prove their success was not merely because of a bracket lampooning at the tournament, which matched them up with Nevada, Gardner Webb and Illinois State. Meanwhile, the Colonials will try to play more smoothly together than they did against Longwood on Wednesday.

The Pirates are slightly favored at home, but the game will likely come down to which squad is able to recover quickly from its last game and bring energy to the Prudential Center.

The case for Seton Hall:
After playing just three days before, fatigue may work against the Colonials. Head coach Mike Lonergan lamented having to give his starters serious minutes in the Longwood game, which was more competitive than anticipated. Patricio Garino, Kevin Larsen and Joe McDonald each played over 30 minutes.

Junior Sterling Gibbs has been on fire for the Pirates, putting up a 40-spot in the Paradise Jam finale. The guard is averaging 22 points per game – and any player shooting .542, .632 from beyond the arc and .889 from the charity stripe is going to be tough to stop.

Highly touted freshman prospect Isaiah Whitehead seems to be getting his sea legs, scoring 18 points with six assists against Illinois State, and the guard combo of Whitehead and Gibbs will be a tough matchup for the GW backcourt.

The case for GW:
The inside game has been shaky at times during this young season for GW, but it should have the advantage on Saturday.

Freshman Angel Delgado is averaging over 10 points per game, but was shut down in the Pirates’ most recent contest where the freshman forward scored just one point. The combination of Kevin Larsen, John Kopriva and Yuta Watanabe’s versatility will be tough for Delgado along with Brandon Mobley and Rashed Anthony to guard.

Through four games, the Pirates have been averaging a better shooting percentage, .467, on three-pointers than on two-point field goals, where they are shooting .438. That sharp-shooting success could run smack into the Colonials’ stellar three-point defense, which is allowing opponents just three triples per game on .214 shooting.

Seton Hall has a talented crop of freshmen, including Whitehead and Delgado, but GW’s maturity advantage should also come in handy both as a team that starts more upperclassmen and has already faced tough competition this season. One thing the Colonials have yet to do is clamp down with a big run when it actually matters, and Saturday could change that if Seton Hall’s rookies get flustered with the new level of competition.

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Updated: Nov. 27, 2014 at 1:19 p.m.

On the night before Thanksgiving, the Colonials (3-1) filled up on second-half points and saw five players carve their way to double figures, topping Longwood (2-4) after scoring 55 points in the second half.

But the game was not without its frustrations for head coach Mike Lonergan, as the Lancers hung around in the first half.

“I told my guys this is one film I’m not going to watch, and that’s hard for me,” Lonergan said.“I think we can be so good, but we just have to put our emphasis back on rebounding and on defense and not on scoring or individual things, and we’ve got to become a team again. Tonight was the first night, even our bench, I heard them saying ‘pass the ball.’”

Senior forward John Kopriva drives to the basket in an exhibition game earlier this season. Kopriva had a career night Wednesday as the Colonials topped Longwood 91-66. | Hatchet File Photo.

Senior forward John Kopriva drives to the basket in an exhibition game earlier this season. Kopriva had a career night Wednesday as the Colonials topped Longwood 91-66. Hatchet File Photo.

But while the pieces weren’t always clicking together, the 91-66 win did come with a special accolade for senior forward John Kopriva, sometimes the forgotten man in GW’s starting five, who had a career night with 19 points and six rebounds.

He passed his career total with a Kevin Larsen-assisted layup that made it 67-55 and got him a shot at an extra point, which he made. Kopriva was 6-9 from the line and was greeted by a standing, clapping group of teammates as he went to the pine with less than three minutes to play.

“I was feeling it for a little bit. Kev [Larsen] hit me right away to start it off and got a couple quick buckets and that always helps. You start getting into a rhythm. I’ve just gotta be able to do it again. It can’t be a one-time thing,” Kopriva said. “It felt good to put the ball in the basket.”

He put it in six times on eight attempts from the field, even adding a three in the first half, which he followed with a trip to the line after grabbing his own offensive rebound.

Kopriva’s frontcourt mate, Larsen, also had a strong night after a quiet first half. Though the Colonials’ first play gave Larsen the ball inside on a pass from junior point guard Joe McDonald, the junior forward scored just four points before halftime.

But Larsen came out of the lockers with more aggression, getting to the line and having, as Lonergan said, “his way inside,” to finish the game with 16 points, three rebounds and four assists.

He smashed a two-handed dunk and followed up with a rare three-pointer – he had his first in the team’s season opener – jogging down the sideline flashing the three point symbol after draining the triple.

Larsen and the rest of the Colonials, however, could not contain Longwood center Lotanna Nwogbo. Nwogbo did the vast majority of the scoring for the Lancers, scoring a game-high 25 points. He didn’t miss from the field until late in the second half, ending the night on 10-11 scoring.

“It was his strength. It’s no secret we’re not really that big inside. He was able to post John up really close to the basket,” Lonergan said. “We were going to double him every time and we couldn’t get the double there quick enough. And he got his confidence early, he got to the rim.”

But Nwogbo was one of just two Longwood players to finish in double figures. Even players who did not reach double figures in scoring filled the stat sheet for GW, with McDonald adding 10 rebounds and seven assists to his eight points, grabbing some long rebounds but also often beating larger players off the glass inside. He helped GW out-rebound Longwood 40-29 in the game, with Lonergan putting him on triple-double watch for the season.

“I mean if he made his free throws,” Lonergan quipped. “I tell you what, he’ll get one [triple double]. Rebounds you would think the hardest thing and he’s been there a bunch of times.”

“Joe’s just manhandling people at 6-foot-1 so it’s fun to watch him,” he said.

McDonald’s backup, sophomore Nick Griffin, brought the heat from downtown, scoring 11 points in the game bolstered by 2-3 shooting from beyond the arc and a 5-6 mark from the free throw line. GW ended the game shooting nearly 52 percent from the field.

The Colonials also showed signs of improvement at the free throw line, shooting nearly 70 percent from the stripe, where they added 27 points to Longwood’s 11 on the Lancers’ 19 attempts.

Despite the win, Lonergan said he was not able to rest his starters as much as he had hoped while the game was still competitive. GW has a quick turnaround as team heads on the road to play Seton Hall on Saturday at 4 p.m.

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that Larsen’s first three pointer came in the team’s exhibition game this season. It was during the season opener. We regret this error.

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Freshman Yuta Watanabe charges into the paint at the John Paul Jones Center in Charlottesville, Va on Friday. The Colonials were dealt their first loss of the season by the Cavaliers, losing 59-42. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor

Freshman Yuta Watanabe charges into the paint at the John Paul Jones Center in Charlottesville, Va. on Friday. The Cavaliers dealt the Colonials their first loss of the season. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor

It happened over and over again.

On nearly every GW possession, the crowd cheers grew from a rumble to a roar as the shot clock wound down and the Colonials dribbled around Virginia’s packline defense, unable to penetrate, and turned the ball over or had to settle for a contested jumper.

GW gave the No. 9-ranked Cavaliers a scare at halftime, but as the grind-it-out game went on, the Colonials could not find the basket, taking their first loss of the season 59-42 on the road Friday night.

Head coach Mike Lonergan summed it up simply: “No moral victories. We wanted to play much better. It’s a 40-minute game,” he said.

“It definitely seemed like a whole different team in the second half,” junior point guard Joe McDonald said. “We didn’t respond well to that.”

The Cavaliers, who ranked third in the nation in field goal percentage defense entering the game, saw the Colonials shoot nearly 46 percent in the first half. But in the second half, the 26-22 halftime lead faded away as Virginia’s shooting heated up and GW’s cooled off. The game ended with the Cavaliers shooting over 42 percent from the field, while GW shot under 33 percent in the game.

The packline defense was so airtight at times that it was difficult to imagine how the scuffmarks on the painted area ever got there.

“It kind of wears you down. Shots that you would normally look for and get against other teams, they’re not there,” said junior guard Kethan Savage, who lead GW with 13 points. “They take you out of your stuff and that presented some problems for us.”

In the second half, Virginia started to feed off the paint where they outscored the Colonials 42-24. Though GW out-rebounded the Cavaliers 17-16 in the first half, the game ended with Virginia owning the rebounding edge 41-28.

Every missed shot seemed to turn into an offensive rebound, with GW losing in second-chance points 18-8, and Lonergan described senior forward Darion Atkins as “playing volleyball on the backboards.”

Meanwhile, the Colonials shot just 20 percent in the second half.

“Anything in the paint that seemed to fall in the first half wasn’t in the second half. Their hands are active. It’s definitely an eye opener for us,” McDonald said.

If the paint was tough to get to for GW, the free throw line was tougher. The Colonials took just nine shots from the charity stripe, making six of them. Virginia was 10-16.

Kevin Larsen, normally a stat sheet filler for GW, was 1-3 from the field for two points with just three rebounds.

Virginia head coach Tony Bennett echoed advice he said his father once gave him: “You should never let a good big man beat you,” Bennett said. He said his team went after Larsen, trying to trap him and drive at him when he did get catches.

“They doubled him and he’s the best passing big man I’ve ever had. I was actually hoping they’d double him. Usually he picks that apart,” Lonergan said. “Those turnovers and things, I think that affected him on the glass.”

While Larsen struggled, his former teammate at Montrose Christian, Justin Anderson, did it all for the Cavaliers. His eight points were double that of Virginia’s next best scorer at the half, and he was the only player shooting above 50 percent going into halftime 4-7. He was yet again Virginia’s top scorer in the game, ending the game with 18 points.

On one play, Anderson dunked in the ball coming down after it caromed off the basket after a missed three by Nolte to make it 40-34 Virginia and bring a sea of orange and blue to its feet.

Yuta Watanabe continued to impress for GW, hitting a pair of threes on his way to a 10-point, five-rebound night. The freshman showed off his defense on a steal in the first half, managing to use his long arms without fouling.

The two teams had not played each other since 2004, when the Cavaliers beat the Colonials in the first round of the NIT, which was also played in Charlottesville.

But they had seen each other more recently. The last time GW and Virginia were in the same building was last March, in Raleigh, N.C., when the Cavaliers played their first game on a run to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament while the Colonials tasted defeat in their only game in the Big Dance.

Having once again taken the loss, GW will turn to prepare for a Wednesday night matchup against Longwood at home at 7 p.m.

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Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014 12:41 p.m.

Preview: Men’s basketball vs. No. 9 Virginia

Junior Joe McDonald drives to the net in GW's win over Rutgers on Sunday. The Colonials will take on No. 9 Virginia on Friday and would generate serious top-25 buzz if they took down the Cavaliers. File Photo by Dan Rich | Hatchet Photographer

Junior Joe McDonald drives to the net in GW’s win over Rutgers on Sunday. The Colonials will take on No. 9 Virginia on Friday and would generate serious top-25 buzz if they took down the Cavaliers. File Photo by Dan Rich | Hatchet Photographer

What: Men’s basketball vs. No. 9 Virginia

Where: John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottesville, Va., ESPN3/WatchESPN

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Just two games into the regular season, the Colonials will get perhaps their toughest test of the entire year, facing No. 9 Virginia on the road in the opening game of a home-and-home agreement announced last April.

The Cavaliers have started the regular season 3-0, coming off a season in which they won both the ACC regular season and championship en route to a Sweet 16 appearance. The Colonials have likewise yet to suffer their first loss of the season, entering the game with a 2-0 record.

For both teams, the game will be the first true challenge, though Virginia is still the clear favorite. A win for GW would likely generate serious top-25 buzz for the team and, either way, questions will be answered about both squads Friday.

The Colonial Army is taking advantage of the area rivalry and is bussing GW fans to the game. Several players will also see familiar faces on the court: Junior swingman Justin Anderson played with Kevin Larsen at Montrose Christian School, and senior forward Darion Atkins was a teammate of Joe McDonald’s at the Landon School.

The case for Virginia:
Virginia is off to its best start in six years under head coach Tony Bennett and have posted an average margin of victory of 25.3 points in three games.

The weak spot for Virginia so far has been in guarding players from long range. In each of the team’s three wins, one opposing player got hot from downtown. But against GW, which head coach Mike Lonergan has said is not a strong three-point-shooting team, Virginia may catch a long-range break – unless Nick Griffin gets a streak going at exactly the right time.

Depth is also in the home team’s favor. Despite a packed schedule at the start of the season, the Cavaliers should be well rested as no player in the team’s deep lineup saw more than 25 minutes of playing time on Tuesday in a win against South Carolina State.

Virginia has the ability to choose between junior center Mike Tobey and Atkins to start alongside Anderson, redshirt junior forward Anthony Gill, redshirt junior guard Malcom Brogdon and sophomore point guard London Perrantes, depending on matchups.

The Colonials, meanwhile, will have to shorten their bench to keep pace with a top opponent. Yuta Watanabe and Nick Griffin look like reliable options to soak up some minutes early, and Darian Bryant looks not too far off, but the GW bench may run just eight deep Friday.

The case for GW:
While the Colonials will have had nearly a week of rest since playing Rutgers last Sunday, the Cavs will have had just three days and will be suiting up for the fourth time in eight days.

After shedding 15 pounds during the offseason, a trimmer Anderson has been a leading scorer in each of the Cavaliers’ first three games. The junior swingman will test Patricio Garino, but GW should feel confident in Garino’s stellar defense matching up against Anderson who, like Garino, is a threat above the rim.

McDonald and Perrantes also match up well at the one. Perrantes is skilled but has not been the scorer McDonald has been, averaging 5.5 points per game last season and averaging five points and 1.5 rebounds in two games this year. McDonald is averaging 11.5 points per game thus far.

GW’s ability to rebound and augment rebounding numbers from the guard slots could also help prevent Virginia’s physical game inside from getting the Cavaliers on a roll. The Colonials are averaging 47 rebounds per game through two games, while Virginia is averaging 41.7.

The Colonials enter the game with zero room for error, but if the shots fall against Virginia’s strong defense, keeping up with the Cavs would be something to remember come March.

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Much of the talk surrounding men’s basketball has been about how the team will try to replicate the success of last season, but in the season-opening win over Grambling State on Friday, the team showed that this year, they will do things a bit differently.

Last season, it took a foot injury to Kethan Savage to move Patricio Garino into the starting lineup. On Friday, the Atlantic-10 Preseason First Teamer led GW with a game-high 21 points in just 24 minutes of play, four points shy of his career record.

He dominated above the rim, went 3-3 from the free throw line, and also sunk two three-pointers on the night, a number only matched by sophomore Nick Griffin

“I felt confident the whole game,” Garino said. “I think at the beginning, I should have shot a couple of shots where I was open, but I think my feet were ready and I was in the right positions.”

Savage, too, showed expansion of his game, hitting a pair of smooth jumpers after getting the game started with a two-handed slam on a pass from Garino. Savage and Lonergan both spoke about his improved jump shot before the season, and the explosive shooting guard put it on display Friday night, perhaps making memories of last year’s departed leading scorer Maurice Creek fade away ever so slightly.

Garino and Savage also dominated on the other side of the court, with Garino leading the team with four steals and the two players sharing the team lead in blocks with senior John Kopriva.

Garino has always been a slasher and Kopriva a strong defender, but even when their play was not anything new or surprising, Garino said the home crowd on opening night gave the team energy.

“It feels great for us… just the atmosphere of the students hypes everyone up and gives us a little extra confidence in the game,” Garino said.

The building was set particularly abuzz with one of the least familiar sights of the game when Kevin Larsen splashed in the first three-pointer of his career from just outside the top of the arc, though Larsen made sure to say after the game that fans should not expect him to be launching shots from long range on a regular basis.

“It was the first three I’ve made and it felt great, but I’ve got to find other ways to score points like getting down one-on-one in the post,” Larsen said. “But Joe made a great pass and I was like ‘Oh, well,’ so I shot it and it went in.”

Larsen was otherwise himself: He commanded the paint and tallied a team-leading nine rebounds and was the second-highest scorer in the game with 15 points, all in just 26 minutes of playing time.

Larsen also guided the team to 49 total rebounds to Grambling State’s 24. He said rebounding was an area of concern coming into the season, but was pleased to see almost everyone contributing to the statistic.

The Colonials also focused greatly on free throw shooting this offseason, after losing their best shooter in Creek and finishing with a dismal 65.2 percent from the line last year.

Although the Colonials finished 66.7 percent from the line as a team Friday, the two top scorers showed improvement, with Garino going 3-3 and Larsen 6-6.

Despite facing an opponent far less formidable than most teams the Colonials will encounter this season, the performances of the starters bode well for GW. If this year’s squad can continue to score in different ways, breaking last year’s mold could actually prove to be a good thing.

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