With five scorers in double figures, even worry-prone Lonergan couldn’t help but admit that he felt “really good.”
“I thought it was a great game for us,” Lonergan said. “We played pretty well for most of the 40 minutes.”
Redshirt junior forward Tyler Cavanaugh led the way with 20 points and added 7 rebounds. He hit both of his two three-pointers and was 6-8 from the free throw line, with teammates putting him in the right spots all game. The Colonials tallied assists on 21 of 31 buckets, with Cavanaugh notching three of them himself.
The Wake Forest transfer is now averaging 14.8 points per game through five games with the Colonials.
“Kevin [Larsen]’s been getting me easy baskets every game,” Cavanaugh said. “Yuta [Watanabe] shot well today so they stretched it out, and guys were finding me in easy positions where I could score and it’s been a good transition, just got to keep on working on the defensive end.”
Watanabe added 19 points of his own on 5-for-7 shooting, finding his stroke after it had eluded him in previous contests.
Lonergan, careful not to be too pleased with his team’s performance, jokingly circled numbers on the stat sheet after the game and poked them at Watanabe. When asked what he was pointing out, Lonergan quipped that Watanabe was really 6-7 from the free throw line, not 6-6 as the sheet suggested, because a Gardner-Webb lane violation had negated one miss.
He didn’t have much else to nitpick. Watanabe sank 3-of-5 three-point shots, and avoided foul trouble which has limited him in previous contests.
“I was struggling with my shot the last four games but everyone told me to keep shooting,” Watanabe said. “And then today I felt like I took pretty good shots. I feel like I finally moved forward so I feel good.”
On top of Cavanaugh and Watanabe’s production, senior swingman Patricio Garino added 16 points, junior guard Matt Hart added 13 and Larsen added 12 as the Colonials outshot the Runnin’ Bulldogs 54.4 to 39.7 percent from the field.
Joe McDonald was held without a point, but had a game-high 10 rebounds, helping the Colonials outperform Gardner-Webb 43-27 off the glass.
“I’m mad at [McDonald] today, he kept stealing my rebounds,” Cavanaugh joked. “It’s been great, he’s the toughest player I’ve ever played with. And I mean today, I think he played a great game and I saw the stat sheet and I think he had zero points and I’m like, what? So he just affects the game in so many ways and he’s huge for our team. He’s the guy that makes everything go.”
And the Colonials didn’t need any more scoring. They did have another defensive lapse in the second half,allowing Gardner-Webb to match them with 41 points in the second frame. The turnover margin was 10-4 in the Colonials’ favor at the break, but they forced just three in the second half and committed 10 of their own to end -1 in that category.
Part of that was because the bench got involved late in the game. No Colonial played more than Larsen’s 27 minutes, which should have the team rested going into a Friday night matchup with Tennessee in the Barclays Center Classic. Depending on the result, GW will face either No. 24 Cincinnati or Nebraska the next day.
Tipoff on Friday will be at 9 p.m. Tuesday’s game was held at 11 a.m. because the game was DMV Kids day in the Smith Center. Several thousand screaming elementary school students lined the stands, mostly rooting for the Colonials over the Runnin’ Bulldogs (though they were rooting for Spongebob videos on the jumbotron the most). They also got autographs and participated in a clinic with the team after the game.
Lonergan, a Bowie, Md. product himself, reminisced about going to a Notre Dame-Maryland game with his father as a kid and said it meant a lot to him to get local kids in the Smith Center, which is why he went for the early game.
“Today is really rewarding,” Lonergan said. “I have five kids, obviously, but really rewarding day for me as a coach and I was very happy with the turnout and hopefully those kids will come back and maybe I can recruit some of them some day!”