The Rams were in the middle of an 11-0 run that would catapult them to an 18-point lead over the Colonials, who were only trailing by four a few minutes earlier.
Despite a strong GW start, No. 14 VCU (17-3, 7-0 Atlantic 10) would shoot 48.6 percent from the field in the second half to go on to secure a dominant 72-48 win over the Colonials (16-5, 6-2) Tuesday night in Richmond.
“I thought we played awful,” head coach Mike Lonergan said. “But give VCU a lot of credit. Their defense had a lot to do with it, but we didn’t share the ball, we took bad shots, we missed good shots, and a lot of our turnovers weren’t even the defense as much as just being undisciplined.”
Despite a game-high 18 points from junior guard Kethan Savage, the Colonials would finish the night shooting just 26.9 percent from the field after going an anemic 19.2 percent in the second half, their worst mark in a half this season.
GW would also end the game with 16 turnovers to VCU’s eight, but the real effect of head coach Shaka Smart’s “havoc” defense was in destroying the Colonials’ passing game. GW tried to run long outlet looks and get up in transition, but managed just three assists on the night.
Junior guards Joe McDonald, Patricio Garino and Savage would combine for 28 points and 17 rebounds, with junior forward Kevin Larsen adding a game-high nine boards. But GW would not get much else offensively, and the Colonials’ defense that ranked 30th in the nation in points allowed entering Tuesday’s contest couldn’t keep them in the game.
“I just thought we weren’t committed to playing team defense,” Lonergan said. “When some of our guys aren’t scoring, it really affects our defense in a negative way. We’ve got to figure out a way to change that.”
Three Rams players – including freshman guard Terry Larrier with a team-leading 15 points – would score in double figures as VCU would go 41.9 percent from the field on the night. Although GW came into the contest with the best rebounding margin in the A-10, four VCU players would collect seven rebounds or more, en route to a 47-36 rebounding edge on the glass.
“[Being out-rebounded had to do with] effort and us not boxing out,” Lonergan said. “They just manhandled us on the glass, and we stood around a lot. I didn’t expect us to get out-rebounded by 11.”
On the Rams’ first drive, Garino was able to get a steal and take it all the way down for the game’s first bucket. The Colonials seemed to be rolling in the first few minutes, moving the ball efficiently to find open looks, and jumped to an early 7-2 lead on the road.
But VCU stuck to its game plan and began to frustrate GW offensively. They Colonials would finish the half shooting 34.6 percent from the field and 16.7 percent from three. They would be out-rebounded 20-16 in the first half despite junior forward Kevin Larsen’s team-high six boards.
The Rams would also close out the half shooting 34.6 percent from the field behind Larrier, who led the half with 11 points, but added three from deep while forcing eight GW turnovers to head into the break up 29-21.
“We put in some rules, no behind the back dribbles, no spin moves … but you know the game comes and we played right into their hands,” Lonergan said. “When they get a breakaway dunk or lay up, it gives the crowd a lot of energy. It’s intimidating, but I just thought we lacked energy. They took it from us, but we never really got back in it.”
The Colonials never had a chance to get into a rhythm in the second half, during which they made just five field goals. While nearly every player for GW was struggling to score – even Savage’s point total was bolstered by a 9-9 mark at the free-throw line – VCU’s reserves were rolling, outscoring GW’s bench 38-7.
Following a win over Duquesne in which they hit a season-high 12 three-pointers, the Colonials would go just one for 17 from three-point range on the night while VCU would hit five of 22.
The Colonials will look to turn things around Saturday when they take on Rhode Island on the road at 4 p.m.