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Kevin Larsen

Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016 3:42 p.m.

Photos: Colonials beat VCU on the Road

Seniors Kevin Larsen and Patricio Garino hug in celebration of their third in-conference road win of the season. Cameron Lancaster | Senior Staff Photographer

Seniors Kevin Larsen and Patricio Garino hug in celebration of their third in-conference road win of the season. Cameron Lancaster | Senior Staff Photographer

Senior Patricio Garino slams a dunk en route to his team-high 27 points in GW's win over VCU. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

Senior Patricio Garino slams a dunk en route to his team-high 27 points in GW’s win over VCU. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

Redshirt junior Tyler Cavanaugh drives to the hoop in the Colonials' win against VCU. Cameron Lancaster | Senior Staff Photographer

Redshirt junior Tyler Cavanaugh drives to the hoop in the Colonials’ win against VCU. Cameron Lancaster | Senior Staff Photographer

Patricio Garino celebrates a three point basket. Garino went four for seven from beyond the arc. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

Patricio Garino celebrates a three point basket. Garino went four for seven from beyond the arc. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

Graduate student Alex Mitola contributed five points off the bench in GW's win. Cameron Lancaster | Senior Staff Photographer

Graduate student Alex Mitola contributed five points off the bench in GW’s win. Cameron Lancaster | Senior Staff Photographer

Senior guard Joe McDonald exits the court at the Siegel Center after GW's win against VCU. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

Senior guard Joe McDonald exits the court at the Siegel Center after GW’s win against VCU. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

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The Colonials celebrate their 72-69 victory over VCU at the Siegel Center in Richmond, Va. Senior swingman Patricio Garino led GW with 27 points. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

The Colonials celebrate their 72-69 victory over VCU at the Siegel Center in Richmond, Va. Senior swingman Patricio Garino led GW with 27 points. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

On Saturday morning, senior swingman Patricio Garino looked up his team’s record against VCU over the past four years. The Colonials had one win against VCU and had never won in the Siegel Center.

“I was a little embarrassed to be honest,” Garino said. “Only being able to beat them once? That wasn’t the right thing for us to leave here, our legacy.”

By midday, Garino was amidst a 27-point, four rebound performance, the best of his career, that led the Colonials to a 72-69 win in Richmond Saturday afternoon, the first win allowed by VCU in 12 games, including all of Atlantic 10 play.

He was GW’s most reliable presence at the rim, in the right spots for putbacks and shaking his defenders for transition dunks, while still shooting 4-for-7 from beyond the arc.

But the shot that put GW (18-8, 7-3 A-10) up for good came off a – rare – Garino miss. Senior forward Kevin Larsen (nine points, seven rebounds, three assists) snagged a rebound and passed to senior point guard Joe McDonald, who sank a three to put the Colonials up by one with 1:12 to play.

“The defense was just collapsing and I had a chance to get a wide-open shot,” McDonald said.
“Thankfully it went in, I know my three hasn’t been falling a lot lately but I’m never going to complain winning one at VCU.”

McDonald blocked a layup attempt by VCU point guard JeQuan Lewis (16 points, five assists) on the other end, and the Colonials called a timeout. VCU (17-6, 9-1 A-10) began its next possession with 33 seconds left, but with 10 remaining on the clock had not found anything. First-year head coach Will Wade called timeout and drew up a play designed to get his leading scorer, Melvin Johnson, a three-point look from the corner. He got it, but Johnson missed. VCU guard Korey Billbury collected the rebound but sophomore guard Yuta Watanabe (two points, six rebounds, one block) got a hand on his attempted layup, which missed as well.

“I almost had a heart attack,” Garino said. “It was a clean layup but luckily he missed it, Yuta had a good contest and we got the ball but it was definitely scary.”

McDonald (11 points, five rebounds, two assists, two steals) came up with the ball, got fouled, and hit a free throw to put away the game.

“I’m glad they took a three, I don’t know if I could have handled overtime,” head coach Mike Lonergan said.

Garino’s transition scoring, especially, helped the Colonials close the gap in the paint and then some

Senior point guard Joe McDonald drives in for a layup in GW's win against VCU Saturday. McDonald scored 11 points and added five rebounds. Cameron Lancaster | Senior Staff Photographer

Senior point guard Joe McDonald drives in for a layup in GW’s win against VCU Saturday. McDonald scored 11 points and added five rebounds. Cameron Lancaster | Senior Staff Photographer

in the second half, finishing with a 32-26 advantage in inside scoring and a 16-9 mark in second-chance points despite being out rebounded 42-35 and 12-8 on the offensive glass.

Lonergan said that the Colonials were hesitant to box out at times because of VCU’s athleticism, but that he expected to win the rebounding battle. Redshirt Junior forward Tyler Cavanaugh led the Colonials with eight rebounds to go with his 11 points, though he missed much of the first half with foul trouble.

The game stayed within five points for the entire first half, which had five ties and six lead changes. The Colonials shot 42 percent to VCU’s 35 and made five three-pointers, but the Rams dominated the paint 18-8.

The second half started on a promising note for the Colonials, with Larsen getting his first points of the game to tie the score at 31.

But VCU quickly opened up a nine-point lead with an 11-2 run including three consecutive three-pointers and eight straight VCU points from Lewis.

“We scored the first bucket and tied it up and then boom,” Lonergan said. “Three threes in a row, the crowd got into it, I’m like, ‘Oh, boy, here we go again.’ So our guys kind of hung in there. We had to grind it out.”

The Colonials responded with a 7-0 run of their own, with five of the points coming from Garino. Back and forth they went, trading runs. But the Rams never got more than a 7-0 run going after that, mitigating at least a little bit of the damage from the sellout crowd in the Siegel Center.

“It can get out of hand so quickly here,” McDonald said.

The win adds some heft to the Colonials’ NCAA Tournament case, which was looking a bit shaky entering the game. GW is in the middle of one of the toughest stretches of its season, with its next game coming Wednesday against Saint Joseph’s.

For now, though, Lonergan will enjoy the moment.

“It was nice to finally win here,” Lonergan said.

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Friday, Feb. 5, 2016 10:49 p.m.

Preview: Men’s basketball vs. VCU

Senior Patricio Garino scores in transition against Davidson Wednesday night. The Colonials continue one of the toughest stretches in their schedule Saturday afternoon at VCU. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

Senior Patricio Garino scores in transition against Davidson Wednesday night. The Colonials continue one of the toughest stretches in their schedule Saturday afternoon at VCU. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

What: Men’s basketball (17-5, 6-3 A-10) vs. VCU (17-5, 9-0 A-10)

Where: Siegel Center, Richmond, Va., CBSSN (TV)

When: Saturday, Feb. 5 at 12 p.m.

The more things change, the more they…

OK, you get it. It’s that time of year, folks. GW’s heading down to Richmond for a matchup at VCU. The Rams are atop the Atlantic 10 with a perfect conference record. So much for that adjustment year, head coach Will Wade has VCU on a 12-game winning streak going into the contest.

Here’s what to expect from the game:

The case for the Colonials:

It’s always possible VCU is due for a stinker, but that’s definitely not something for Colonials fans to count on.

Teams with size have fared well against VCU, and GW will have a size advantage in the game. The 6-foot-10 Michael Gilmore and 6-foot-9 Ahmed Hamdy-Mohamed will see time, but the majority of VCU’s minutes up front go to Mo Alie-Cox and Justin Tillman, both 6-foot-7. Alie-Cox (9.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game) has been a difficult matchup for GW in the past, but the addition of Tyler Cavanaugh and Yuta Watanabe’s development into a better around-the-rim player (which has been apparent in the last two games, though Watanabe had a tough stretch at the beginning of the conference season) could open up the paint to GW’s advantage.

The Colonials have had the best rebounding margin (with the most offensive rebounds and third-most defensive rebounds) in the league in conference play, while VCU is fifth. The worst-case scenario for GW is VCU getting on a big run in their packed house, and a good performance on the boards should help prevent that and keep things close.

If the game is close, the Colonials will have one thing on their side: free throws. GW has the third-best free throw percentage (75) in conference play while VCU has the worst (67).

The case for the Rams:

VCU is a difficult matchup for GW. The Rams still use essentially the same defensive pressure (9.1 steals per game and a +5.22 turnover margin in conference play, both best in the league) they did under Shaka Smart, but it’s VCU’s offense that may pose the biggest threat. The Rams have averaged an A-10-best 83.8 points per game since conference play began and are outscoring opponents by 15.6 points per game.

Point guard JeQuan Lewis is averaging 11.2 points and 4.8 assists per game after working to become more of a passer during the offseason. He’s critical to the motion and ball-screen work VCU has been difficult to stop with and, as the kind of quick guard GW typically struggles against, will be a huge challenge. He’ll have a speed advantage on Joe McDonald so GW’s bigs will have to lock down the paint to prevent him from driving easily, especially since he’s been near-perfect from the free throw line in conference play.

6-foot-4 senior guard Melvin Johnson is VCU’s top scorer, at 19 points per game, and he’s actually shooting slightly better (44 percent) from beyond the arc than in front of it (43 percent). Head coach Mike Lonergan may handle him with a combination of Patricio Garino and Yuta Watanabe, hoping to limit Johnson’s options with their length. With both Garino and Watanabe on the court, the other would likely take guard Korey Billbury, who’s getting 11.0 points per game to go with 5.1 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.2 steals per game.

Still, GW will have to prepare for a lot of different matchups, since Will Wade plays a solid ten-deep. That tenth man, guard Jonathan Williams, still averages 11.9 points per game, which translates to a Rams team that will still be relatively fresh at the end of this one.

The bottom line: A win here would do a lot for GW’s NCAA Tournament resume, but it’s not likely. Recent history, at least, says VCU should win here. Still, the Colonials seem to be trending up, and they’re a scary team when playing to full potential. A sustained 40-minute effort with good team defense and rebounding, plus points at the free throw line, seems like the formula for an upset in this one.

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Sophomore forward Yuta Watanabe celebrates a dunk in GW's 79 to 69 win over Davidson. Watanabe registered 13 points going 5-for-7 from the field. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

Sophomore forward Yuta Watanabe celebrates a dunk in GW’s 79 to 69 win over Davidson. Watanabe registered 13 points going 5-for-7 from the field. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

For two basketball teams in D.C. Wednesday night, the challenge at hand was how to handle the best shooting team, and player, in their league.

While the Wizards anguished against Steph Curry and the Warriors down the street, the Colonials got their first win against Davidson as Atlantic 10 rivals in a 79‒69 victory, holding the Wildcats nearly 12 points below their season scoring average.

“Tonight, for the most part, I thought we were pretty focused defensively, talking more and just trying to help each other out and that’s what we should do,” head coach Mike Lonergan said.

The win put GW back on track at home after a double-overtime loss to Richmond last time out in the Smith Center, and began a difficult stretch in the Colonials’ A-10 schedule on a high note. Lonergan said he felt good after the win.

“Much better than I did six days ago,” he said. “[The Richmond loss] was a rough night for me, turning 50 years old, depressing, losing in double-overtime my first [home] loss of the year. It takes me a long time to recover from those games. The losses just kill me so, but it was really about our team defense.”

GW led for most of the second half but didn’t get much separation until around the six-minute mark. Graduate student Alex Mitola, who had thought about a three from the other side of the court but couldn’t get open, dribbled under the basket and turned around for a short jumper from the other side.

Davidson’s leading scorer Jack Gibbs turned it over on their next possession and Tyler Cavanaugh (16 points, six rebounds) hit a catch and shoot three from Patricio Garino (17 points) that put GW up by eight, 68‒60, with 5:54 to play.

The closest Davidson got after that point was when Gibbs drained a three to reach his normal scoring average, 25 points, and cut GW’s lead to 74‒69 with 1:34 left in the game.

But, after a pair of free throws for Cavanaugh, Larsen nabbed a rebound and fed

Senior guard Joe McDonald flies through the air for a basket in the Colonials' win against Davidson. McDonald led GW with 10 rebounds. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

Senior guard Joe McDonald flies through the air for a basket in the Colonials’ win against Davidson. McDonald led GW with 10 rebounds. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

sophomore Yuta Watanabe up the court. The sprinting Watanabe (13 points, six rebounds) slammed it home ‒ his second dunk of the night after a stunning fakeout of forward Peyton Aldridge that put GW up 43-40 early in the second half ‒ and the Colonials led 78‒69, one free throw from Larsen away from the final tally.

Gibbs led all scorers with 25 points, opening up late with a 6-for-12 second-half effort including a few late jumpers that kept the game in question. Yuta Watanabe kept Gibbs quiet in the first half but Davidson’s leading scorer had more success late when Lonergan switched Garino onto him.

“He’s a great player who’s got some tools,” Garino said. “You can’t be guessing with him. If you’re trying to get the 3-pointer out of him, he’s going to drive to the basket, and vice versa. I think the mentality was not letting him go right so often, which was a challenge.”

Garino struggled when Gibbs got space to get around him, but senior forward Kevin Larsen (seven points, six rebounds) was a good helper on Gibbs from inside at times.

Lonergan said he was expecting even more post scoring, but the Colonials were still the dominant team on the interior. It was more with drives than post moves, but GW outscored Davidson 40‒22 in the paint and 18‒11 on second-chance points while winning the rebounding battle 38‒29.

“We thought they were a little inferior on the inside, so we thought we could drive them or get the ball to Kevin or Tyler on the block and let them go to work,” senior point guard Joe McDonald, who had a game-high 10 rebounds, said.

With those good inside shots, GW shot 52 percent for the game to Davidson’s 42 to make up for the Wildcats’ nine 3-pointers. Guard Brian Sullivan had 13 points and Aldridge had 11, but Davidson did not get much help otherwise.

The Colonials went into halftime up 39‒33 after a balanced scoring effort. GW had led by as many as eight midway through the first period, allowed Davidson to pull back ahead at 22‒25, but retook the lead before the break on the strength of a 6‒0 stretch capped by a three – take that, Steph – for Larsen.

By the time Gibbs’ final attempt, which should have been an easy layup, spun around the rim and slipped off of it as the last few seconds ticked away, the Warriors were up 59‒46 Warriors, and Steph Curry had 29 points on 11-for-12 shooting, 7-of-8 on three-pointers.

In that moment, Lonergan was happy to be winning at home. McDonald was happy to get a win heading into a difficult matchup at VCU Saturday. For both of them, the defense was the biggest positive takeaway.

“It’s great for momentum heading into a big game with VCU, especially for the fact that I thought our defense was a lot better,” senior point guard Joe McDonald said.

Tipoff against the Rams is set for noon Saturday.

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Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016 12:16 p.m.

Preview: Men’s basketball vs. Davidson

What: Men’s basketball (16-5, 5-3 A-10) vs. Davidson (12-7, 4-4 A-10)

Where: The Smith Center, Washington, D.C., MASN, SNY (TV)

When: Wednesday, Feb. 3, 7 p.m.

Since Davidson joined the Atlantic 10 conference, the Wildcats have had GW’s number. The Colonials were winless in two matchups last season and will be looking for a fresh start Wednesday night at home.

Here’s what to expect from the game:

The Case for the Colonials:

This year’s Davidson squad has not been as surprisingly-dominant as last year’s version. The Wildcats are 2-5 away from home and are giving up 79.6 points per game.

Scoring margin is usually a good predictor of team strength, and the Wildcats are barely outscoring opponents – by 1.2 points per game – while the Colonials have created more distance at +7.4 points per game.

GW has the biggest matchup advantage inside. Forwards Kevin Larsen and Tyler Cavanaugh should be able to pound the paint and get second chances, while helping around the perimeter on defense. The Colonials play a lot of man defense and may play even more than usual against the Wildcats, but help will be critical for GW, especially to guard against picks.

Sophomore forward Nathan Ekwu is the team’s best shot blocker and most efficient rebounder but is less skilled than Larsen, prone to fouls and turnovers. Outside of Ekwu, Davidson’s forwards are less traditional post players than Larsen or even Cavanaugh.

The Case for the Wildcats:

Davidson is going to score. The Wildcats average an A-10 best 80.8 points per game and have the league’s top scorer in Jack Gibbs, who’s adding 25.5 points per game. They also hit 9.9 three-pointers per game, on average.

On Gibbs, as well as Davidson in general, the task for the Colonials will be more about picking what shots they can live with and taking away the rest than a complete shut-down. If GW struggles to follow the scouting report, as head coach Mike Lonergan has said they have in the past, Davidson could get the good looks that the team does so much damage with.

The extra pass will also be critical to prevent. With so many scorers, (Peyton Aldridge gets 15.7 points per game, Brian Sullivan gets 13.8 and four others get more than five) the Wildcats can go anywhere with the ball. Davidson leads the league in assist/turnover ratio at 1.5 and averages more than 15 assists per game. Guarding to the very end of possessions will be important for the Colonials.

The Bottom Line:
Davidson has some clear strengths, but if the Colonials execute well they should have more weapons to beat the Wildcats with. If GW’s inside game can make Davidson one-dimensional, the Colonials should be able to withstand a few big buckets and still get the win, but this game should say a lot about defense, especially.

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Redshirt junior Tyler Cavanaugh attempts a shot in GW's win over George Mason. Cavanaugh was one of four Colonials scoring in double figures with 15 points. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

Redshirt junior Tyler Cavanaugh attempts a shot in GW’s win over George Mason. Cavanaugh was one of four Colonials scoring in double figures with 15 points. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

After giving up a 10-point second-half lead, the Colonials escaped with a 76–70 victory at George Mason Sunday afternoon.

The Patriots, just 1‒6 in Atlantic 10 play entering the contest, battled all game long in front of a raucous EagleBank Arena crowd, hitting 25 field goals to GW’s 20 and winning the on the boards 47–42.

But GW, with a veteran lineup up against a Mason squad that starts three freshmen, had its experience on display late.

Senior forward Kevin Larsen sank two crucial free throws and put back a missed layup on the next offensive possession to regain a 65‒61 lead in the game’s final minutes that his team would not surrender.

“[George Mason] made a run and I thought we responded,” redshirt junior forward Tyler Cavanaugh, who posted 15 points and 8 rebounds Sunday, said. “We’ve got good senior leadership and we made the plays down the stretch.”

Senior swingman Patricio Garino led four GW starters who posted double-digit scoring numbers with 19 points, while Larsen added a team-best 11 rebounds en route to his eighth double-double this season.

Once again, GW’s free throw shooting proved pivotal. The team scored nearly 40 percent of its points at the line, going 30-for-36 from the stripe on the day.

“Everyone is making free throws, that’s the confidence of the team,” Garino said. “We know that if we go hard to the rim and get fouled we’re going to get two points.”

GW (16‒5, 5-3 A-10) came out strong, with Cavanaugh knocking down a triple on his team’s first possession. He and Garino would lead the Colonials with nine points each in the frame.

The Colonials jumped to an early 17–11 lead behind good shooting, but their efficiency quickly began to stagnate. The visitors went a subpar 25.7 percent from the field, but George Mason (7–14, 1-7 A-10) wasn’t much better, posting a 26.5 percent clip in the half.

Freshman guard Jordan Roland provided a spark off the bench, netting five points, the only production off the pine in the first half.

Senior forward Particio Garino slams a dunk in the Colonials' win against George Mason. Garino was on the floor for 39 minutes of play, leading GW. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

Senior forward Particio Garino slams a dunk in the Colonials’ win against George Mason. Garino was on the floor for 39 minutes of play, leading GW. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

But the Patriots battled back with a strong rebounding effort, grabbing 31 boards to GW’s 22 in the first period, and got 10 points on 12 trips to the free throw line.

Freshman guard Otis Livingston II led the charge with two threes and 10 points. Both squads went 3-for-10 from beyond the arc in the frame, but George Mason would prevail on the scoreboard, taking a 31–29 lead into halftime.

Back-to-back three-pointers from graduate student guard Alex Mitola, who led the bench on the day with eight points was part of a 10–0 GW run to open the second half.

“I think we attacked much better in the second half,” Cavanaugh said. “Alex [Mitola] stepped up big and made a couple threes and we don’t win the game without him.”

But like they did all day, George Mason bounced right back.

The Patriots shot 48.5 percent from the field and hit four critical threes in the second frame which allowed them to capture a 61–59 late-game edge.

But the Colonials refused to be rattled. Senior guard Joe McDonald, who finished with five points and three rebounds, drew a foul and hit two at the line to tie the game at 61.

Twenty-two second-half free throws would win the day as GW held on for a bounce back win to move to 16–5.

“Thank God we’re experienced because Mason did a great job and we didn’t play well offensively,” head coach Mike Lonergan said. “But when we’re struggling, we get to the free throw line, that’s what we do and we made them pay.”

The Colonials return home Wednesday to host Davidson at 7 p.m.

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Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016 5:43 p.m.

Preview: Men’s basketball at George Mason

Redshirt junior Tyler Cavanaugh attempts a layup in the Colonials' double-overtime loss to Richmond. With 16 points, Cavanaugh was one of five GW starters to score in double-figures. Jordan McDonald | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Redshirt junior Tyler Cavanaugh attempts a layup in the Colonials’ double-overtime loss to Richmond. With 16 points, Cavanaugh was one of five GW starters to score in double-figures. Jordan McDonald | Hatchet Staff Photographer

What: Men’s basketball (15-5, 4-3 A-10) at George Mason (7-13, 1-6 A-10)
When: Sunday, Jan. 31 at noon
Where: EagleBank Arena, Fairfax, Va., NBCSN (TV)

Falling to Richmond in a thrilling double-overtime contest Thursday night, the Colonials took their first loss at the Smith Center in almost a year.

But with a quick trip across the Potomac River Sunday afternoon, men’s basketball looks to get back on track after a turbulent start to conference play, which has left them tied for fourth place in the Atlantic 10.

George Mason, however, sits at the bottom of the league with just one A-10 win, and six losses, under its belt thus far. The Patriots, under the direction of new head coach Dave Paulsen, have lost two straight and are in desperate need of a spark to turn their season around.

GW holds a 14-2 edge in the all-time series between its crosstown rival and won 67-51 in its last trip to Fairfax in 2015. Sunday’s game will be the first of two meetings between the programs this year, before the Patriots visit the nation’s capital on March 1.

The case for the Colonials:

Despite allowing a season-high 98 points in its loss to the Spiders, GW’s defense will face a much less formidable offense in the Patriots. Whereas Richmond had one of the most high-powered offenses in the conference, George Mason averages the second-least amount of points in the A-10 at 65.3 per game.

The Colonials’ offense also was not quiet during Thursday’s defeat. Led by seniors Kevin Larsen and Patricio Garino who had a team-high 17 points each, all five starters scored in double-figures against Richmond.

Redshirt junior forward Tyler Cavanaugh, the only GW starter the Patriots have not seen before, leads the Colonials with a team-best average of 17.0 points per game, while Larsen adds a team-high 8.2 boards per game.

The visitors are a significantly better shooting team than George Mason, which starts three freshmen guards. A more experienced, proficient GW roster seems poised to overpower its opponent from outside and in the paint and snag a crucial fifth A-10 victory.

The case for the Patriots:

While George Mason remains in somewhat of a rebuilding phase, bringing on Paulsen and six freshmen this past offseason, they have recorded a few notable wins already this season.

The Patriots won a 71-68 overtime decision over Oklahoma State on Nov. 20, while the 10-10 Cowboys went on to upset No. 3 Kansas earlier this month. On Jan. 17, the squad also took down Saint Louis 92-79 on the road, whereas GW lost to the Billikens in Chaifetz Arena just two weeks prior.

The team is led by junior guard Marquise Moore, who averages a team-high 12.6 points and 3.4 assists per game. Freshman guard Otis Livingston II and senior forward Marko Gujanicic also provide versatility on offense, despite a team field goal percentage of 41.3 percent, second-worst in the A-10.

One area of play the Patriots have dominated this year is rebounding. Six-foot-eleven-inch senior center Shevon Thompson far and away leads the league with an average of 10.2 rebounds per game, to guide an A-10-best team rebounding margin of 7.3 to GW’s second-best 6.2.

The bottom line:

George Mason will be able to keep it closer than expected if it can continue to own the glass and exploit a GW defense that may have lost some confidence after almost allowing Richmond to reach triple digits.

But this is the Colonials game to win. For a team that finished non-conference play at 11-2, but now finds itself at only 15-5, a strong response to yet another disheartening loss will be key to regaining its dwindling momentum down the stretch.

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Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016 11:10 p.m.

Preview: Men’s basketball vs. Richmond

Senior foward Patricio Garino fights for a layup in GW's win over Rhode Island. Garino contributed 10 points in 33 minutes. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

Senior foward Patricio Garino fights for a layup in GW’s win over Rhode Island. Garino contributed 10 points in 33 minutes. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

What: Men’s basketball (15-4, 4-2 A-10) vs. Richmond (10-8, 2-4 A-10)

When: Thursday, Jan. 28 at 9 p.m.

Where: The Smith Center, Washington, D.C., ESPNU (TV)

Hopefully everyone is well-rested after being snowed in for a few days, because it’s time to stay up late on Thursday for a 9 p.m. matchup between the Colonials and Spiders.

Richmond has struggled in A-10 play after a strong start to the season, including a win over then-No. 14 California in non-conference play, while the Colonials could use a big victory to cement their place as a contender.

The case for the Colonials:

Richmond has some firepower, but the Colonials have been better overall. GW owns the third-best scoring margin in the Atlantic 10 Conference at +8.3 points per game. Richmond is eighth at +4.9.

Richmond’s offense is the third-best in the league, scoring 79.2 points per game, but GW’s defense is allowing 66.8 points per game on average. When held to that threshold or below, Richmond is 0‒3.

This game also may be one in which GW’s bench has the edge. The Spiders essentially play eight-deep and that may look more like seven in this game. Especially against a bigger GW team, Richmond’s defense may struggle even more than usual while trying to avoid fouling.

The Colonials will also have a distinct advantage off the glass. GW is averaging 38.3 rebounds per game while Richmond is pulling down only 32.8. That’s not solely because of good shooting: The Spiders nab only 25.5 percent of available offensive rebounds while the Colonials get 33.8 percent of those available to them. Second chance points could be very lopsided in this game.

The case for the Spiders:

Richmond comes into the game off back-to-back losses, including one in overtime to local rival VCU and the latest to Davidson in which the Spiders were 0-for-15 from beyond the three-point line. That’s plenty of bulletin-board material for Richmond to get up for a potential road upset.

Guard ShawnDre’ Jones has been a perennial issue for the Colonials, and has taken on a bigger role in Richmond’s offense this year. Jones is scoring 15.9 points in 34 minutes per game aided by 43 percent shooting from beyond the three-point line.

Jones is one of a trio of high-scoring players for the Spiders. Forward Terry Allen averages 20.2 points per game, third-best in the A-10, and frontcourt mate T.J. Cline is not far behind at 16.2. Allen is also the team’s leading rebounder at 8.3 boards per game.

Richmond, overall, makes 7.9 threes per game and the Spiders shoot 49 percent from the field.

The bottom line: Allen and Cline against Kevin Larsen and Tyler Cavanaugh should be an interesting battle of the bigs, and it’s always interesting to see how GW handles a driver like Jones. Overall, though, GW is a stronger team at home. The biggest thing that could swing this one – in either direction – is shooting. Richmond relies so heavily on its ability to score that another off night could mean a blowout. Conversely, GW is likely to get good looks, but if the team can’t capitalize on them, the Colonials could struggle to keep up with the Spiders.

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Senior guard Joe McDonald goes up for a layup in the Colonials' 62-58 win over Rhode Island. McDonald had seven points and five rebounds in his first game back from injury. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

Senior guard Joe McDonald goes up for a layup in the Colonials’ 62-58 win over Rhode Island. McDonald had seven points and five rebounds in his first game back from injury. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

There’s no place like home for the Colonials. Even during a blizzard, down 18 points.

After trailing Rhode Island Friday afternoon by that margin, GW pulled off a 62–58 comeback victory to go with the return of senior guard Joe McDonald and to maintain a perfect, 11-0 record at home this season.

“We came out soft to start, and [Rhode Island] came out really aggressive and we just had to respond,” McDonald said. “Once we did that and we settled down, I think it turned into the dogfight everyone expected it to be.”

Despite shooting 37.5 percent from the field and just 1-for-7 from three-point range, GW (15-4, 4-2 A-10) scored 25 points at the free-throw line in the four-point win in which six Colonials contributed seven points or more.

Securing his fifth double-double on the year, redshirt junior forward Tyler Cavanaugh led with a team-high 13 points and 10 rebounds. Senior swingman Patricio Garino added 10 points, and senior forward Kevin Larsen posted nine points and eight boards in front of a sizeable, noisy audience that gathered despite the weather.

“I’m so thankful our students and the Colonial Army came today,” head coach Mike Lonergan said. “Even though it wasn’t a huge crowd I thought it was very loud. Our guys hung in there, finally went inside and didn’t settle for jumpers and got them in foul trouble. [Rhode Island] is  tough and they battle and their hard to guard. It was a grind-it-out, tough battle.”

As the first flurries of the storm began to fall outside the Smith Center, GW came out ice cold.

More than midway through the first half, the Colonials were 6-for-18 from the field, looking out of sync and uninspired on the attacking end.

Meanwhile the Rams (11-8, 3-3 A-10) through smart, quick passing and a number of missed assignments on defense for GW, were red-hot out of the gate. The visitors knocked down 12 of their first 16 attempts from the field, four of which came from beyond the three-point line.

Suddenly, Rhode Island had opened up a staggering 30–12 lead. Sophomore guard Jarvis Garrett led the Rams with 10 points in the first half, while junior forward Kuran Iverson added eight points and three rebounds.

GW needed a spark, and in his return from an eye injury that sidelined him for two games, McDonald provided it. Down 18, a spectacular drive and finish at the rim by the veteran, who also drew a foul, enlivened the crowd and his team.

Seniors Patricio Garino and Kevin Larsen celebrate a basket in GW's win over URI. Garino and Larsen combined for 19 points in the win. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

Seniors Patricio Garino and Kevin Larsen celebrate a basket in GW’s win over URI. Garino and Larsen combined for 19 points in the win. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

From there the Colonials embarked on a 15–2 run, helped along by a 13-of-15 clip at the free-throw line, that put them right back in it.

“It was huge [to have Joe back],” Cavanaugh said. “Especially against this team. Joe brings our toughness, he’s the heart and soul of our team so with him out we did what we had to do, but having him back is crucial for this run through conference. The way he controls the tempo and battles inside, outside and defensively is key.”

Cavanaugh led GW with nine points and six boards, followed by McDonald with seven points and the team’s lone assist of the first half. Rhode Island eventually stopped the bleeding, maintaining a 34–29 edge into halftime.

The Rams knocked down four more three-pointers in the second half and racked up 10 assists to GW’s four on the day, but the Colonials answered on both ends of the court, which Lonergan says was a product of an improved energy level.

“I thought we got some help defense that we haven’t gotten a lot this year,” Lonergan said. “Tyler and other guys came over and blocked shots and we played defense like a team. We’re not the most athletic team but when we play as unit on defense we’re really good.”

GW improved to 43.5 percent from the field in the second frame to Rhode Island’s 32. Larsen, finally looking comfortable and aggressive under the rim, scored all of his points in the second half, while Garino added eight, including a quick jumper that would give GW a 57–55 lead with 1:23 to play.

GW’s bench, led by sophomore guard Paul Jorgensen who put up seven points, also added 15.

“We just had to keep plugging away. I mean they punched us in the mouth first, but that shows the maturity of our team to bounce back,” Cavanaugh said. “We just made the right decisions down the stretch.”

The Colonials return to action Thursday at 9 p.m. when they host Richmond.

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Friday, Jan. 15, 2016 10:21 p.m.

Colonials drop nail-biter at Dayton

No. 1 Alex Mitola and No. 30 Matt Hart celebrate a three-point shot in the Colonials' win over Duquesne last Saturday. GW dropped a game that featured 19 lead changes Friday at Dayton. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

No. 1 Alex Mitola and No. 30 Matt Hart celebrate a three-point shot in the Colonials’ win over Duquesne last Saturday. GW dropped a game that featured 19 lead changes Friday at Dayton. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

With less than a minute on the clock, the crowd at UD Arena on Friday night had just finished a gleeful rendition of “We Will Rock You” when Charles Cooke, drove to the rim and went up with his right hand. Patricio Garino fouled him and Cooke made the bucket and the extra point to extend Dayton’s lead to 73-67 with 42.1 seconds left to play.

Head coach Mike Lonergan would call it the “play of the game” after it ended in a 77-70 GW loss to the Flyers, though there were at least a dozen that could fit that description.

On the next possession, Paul Jorgensen, starting in place of Joe McDonald, hit a three for his first bucket of the night to make it a one-possession game with 30 seconds left. But the Colonials (14-4, 3-2 A-10) couldn’t successfully trap on the next possession, and the Flyers (14-3, 4-1 A-10) got the ball to Dyshawn Pierre, a 90 percent free throw shooter entering the game, before GW could foul.

Pierre hit both his free throws at the line, the dagger for the Colonials’ hopes at an upset road win. It was a difficult ending after Pierre (26 points) and the free throw line frustrated GW all night.

“I’m disappointed, but not with the effort,” Lonergan said. “With how we played down the stretch. And the free throws. And the turnovers.”

The Colonials went 5-for-15 from the free throw line and committed 15 turnovers in the same game as they hit 11-of-22 three-pointers and tallied a season-high 23 assists.

Dayton played in an aggressive man-to-man defense that flustered the Colonials at times, but Tyler Cavanaugh helped the Colonials break out of it to come back from an eight point deficit in the first half. He hit consecutive threes as part of an 11-0 run that would have had GW up at the half, were it not for a last-second three by Pierre.

Cavanaugh led GW with 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting and four three-pointers. Kevin Larsen was close behind at 16 points and 10 rebounds, though he got lost in rotation on defense in GW’s 1-3-1.

“In the beginning they were really focused on me and him,” Larsen said. “Tyler kept us in the game when he hit three threes in a row.”

Dayton controlled the paint to start, but it evened out in the second half after the Colonials proved themselves with the deep ball. At one point, Larsen was assertive, though often fronted by Dayton’s smaller forwards to deny him the ball.

Larsen said he felt more comfortable going up against 6-foot-11 Steve McElvene where he could get more touches, but McElvene did some damage of his own. He joined Pierre and Cooke (15 points) in double figures with 12 points of his own and led Dayton with six rebounds.

Still, it was Pierre who did the most damage. He was there to foil the Colonials at every point, it seemed, with his five three-pointers and perfect 7-for-7 mark from the free throw line, including buckets after a GW technical.

The teams traded punches all game. GW got up 51-47 after an 8-0 run that included threes from Cavanaugh and Anthony Swan. Dayton got up 63-61 on a 6-0 run after Kyle Davis scored in transition after swiping the ball from Jorgensen, and Larsen couldn’t get either of two free throws to fall to stop it.

The Flyers got 22 points off GW’s turnovers, which allowed them to take more shots in the game despite GW outrebounding Dayton 40-29.

“Those little plays that I’m disappointed in because we’re so experienced – we’ve got to be focused mentally to not let that happen,” Lonergan said.

Beyond that, GW struggled to get points from players other than Cavanaugh, Larsen and Garino, who had 15. Jorgensen was 1-for-8 from the field, Yuta Watanabe and Alex Mitola each 2-for-6. Mitola was a good distributor with seven assists, as was Jorgensen with six.

By the end of the game, the lead had changed 19 times. Tensions flared at mid-court late in the game. Players were exhausted, tongues flopping out running up and down the court.

The moment wasn’t lost on Larsen, even after the loss.

“This is what we play basketball for,” he said. “It’s a great atmosphere.”

The Colonials have a week off to let their minds and bodies recover. Next up is Rhode Island, this time back in the Smith Center, on Friday at 7 p.m. McDonald is still being evaluated, but Lonergan said he was “hopeful” that he would be ready to play.

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