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Junior Joe McDonald shot 5-6 from behind the arc against St. Bonaventure on Wednesday night, totaling 17 points as the Colonials bashed the Bonnies 69-46. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor

Junior Joe McDonald shot 5-6 from behind the arc against St. Bonaventure on Wednesday night, totaling 17 points as the Colonials bashed the Bonnies 69-46. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor

The Colonials on the Smith Center floor Wednesday night did not look like a team that had just lost four straight games.

Despite recent struggles, improvement was visible on both ends of the court as GW (18-10, 8-7 A-10) downed St. Bonaventure (14-12, 7-8 A-10) 69-46 in its penultimate home game of the season.

“It’s just great to remember what it feels like to win again,” senior forward John Kopriva said. “We knew we had what it takes and came out aggressive today, played with some energy, and we also played defense.”

Junior guard Joe McDonald was nearly perfect, posting a career-high five three-pointers to contribute to his team-leading 17 points while adding five of the Colonials’ 29 total rebounds.

“As of late, my three has felt pretty good and we knew they’d go zone at some point, so I just wanted to make sure I was aggressive,” McDonald said. “I didn’t want to keep swinging the ball outside, [I wanted to] be confident and take the shot.”

Kopriva and junior forward Kevin Larsen combined for 27 points, while Larsen added a team-high seven rebounds in the 23-point victory.

Quick ball movement and accurate shooting helped GW dominate the first half offensively with the team going 66.7 percent from the field in the frame. Led by McDonald, who tied a career-high four three-pointers in the first half alone, GW finished nine for 17 from beyond the arc.

“Joe was on fire early, and we knew we’d see some zone because of the way we’re shooting the ball,” head coach Mike Lonergan said. “We made shots. There’s no rhyme or reason to it, but I think when one guy comes out on fire it kind of takes the pressure off of us, and we shared the ball.”

Although the Colonials were cold at the line, making only one of six free-throw attempts in the first half, the Bonnies weren’t able to capitalize on the other end. GW’s defense held the visitors to just 29.2 percent shooting from the field and no makes on six three-point attempts to take a 36-18 lead at halftime.

But open looks for the Colonials did not come without efficient passing. GW had 10 assists on its 14 first-half field goals, and totaled 14 assists on the night.

“[Assists] were key. We didn’t want to just stand around. We wanted to move the ball,” Kopriva said. “It’s fun when you get into a tough situation and kick it out for a three and the guy knocks it down. That gives me more confidence in myself in the shot.”

St. Bonaventure improved its scoring in the second half, going 50 percent from the field to finish the night with a respectable 39.1 percent shooting percentage. But GW matched serve, also going 50 percent in the half, and would turn the ball over only nine times on the night to the Bonnies’ 11.

Twelve points from junior guard Marcus Posley and a game-high nine rebounds from senior center Youssou Ndoye would not be enough for the Bonnies. Their 46 total points were the fewest GW has conceded in Atlantic 10 play this season.

“We had energy. I think Patricio did a really good job on Posley when we were in man. He was 0-6 at halftime, and [on] the one-three-one for the most part we shaded his side and did a good job,” Lonergan said. “We let down in the second half again … but the difference is that we had a big lead. But I’m still a little disappointed we don’t play defense for 40 minutes. That’s why we had a losing streak.”

Behind junior guard Kethan Savage’s six points, GW’s bench was also active in the win, outscoring the Bonnies’ reserves 14-6 on the night. Freshman guard Anthony Swan even joined the action, hitting his first three-pointer as a Colonial in the game’s final minute.

With only three games remaining in the regular season, the Colonials will travel to Davidson on Saturday for a rematch with the Wildcats at 7 p.m.

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What: Men’s basketball (17-10, 7-7 A-10) vs. St. Bonaventure (14-11, 7-7 A-10)
When: Wednesday, Feb. 25 at 7 p.m.
Where: Smith Center

After a 56-48 loss at Richmond over the weekend, the Colonials will return home to take on St. Bonaventure on Wednesday with hopes of ending their longest losing streak of the season at four games.

GW has not won a game since Feb. 6 and sits in the middle of the Atlantic 10 with the Bonnies and La Salle at an even .500 in conference play. After going a perfect 10-0 in their first 10 games at home, the Colonials dropped their last two games at the Smith Center and will be hungry to regain their home-court edge.

St. Bonaventure comes to Foggy Bottom having lost three of its last four, but posted impressive wins over Davidson and No. 18 VCU earlier this month. The Bonnies will look for their second-straight win after a 70-60 overtime victory at Saint Joseph’s on Saturday.

Although neither team has a resume fit for an at-large NCAA bid, top conference spots are still up for grabs. Both teams will fight hard for an advantageous seed in the A-10 Tournament, as a championship title in Brooklyn would be their only ticket to March Madness.

The case for St. Bonaventure:
Both teams have struggled to score as of late, but the Bonnies hold a slight edge over the Colonials in offensive production. St. Bonaventure is averaging 67.4 points per game to GW’s 66.6, and 12.3 assists per game to GW’s 11.1.

Behind junior guard Marcus Posley’s team-leading 16.4 points per game, fourth-best in the A-10, two more Bonnies are averaging double figures in scoring. Posley also had two consecutive buzzer beaters in the Bonnies’ wins over Davidson and VCU.

Junior guard Dion Wright is posting an average of 13.1 points and 6.9 rebounds per game, followed by senior center Youssou Ndoye, who is one of two A-10 players averaging a double-double on the season with 12.1 points and 10.5 rebounds per game.

Towering at seven feet tall, Ndoye is second in the A-10 in rebounding as well as blocked shots. His team-best 2.7 blocks per game adds to the nation’s 30th-best team average of 5.0 per game.

The case for GW:
Despite a sluggish stretch for a once intimidating GW defense, the team is conceding an average of only 61.5 points per game, fourth-best in the conference. The ability and individual skill are there, but the Colonials must return to playing solid team defense to shut down the Bonnies’ offensive weapons.

The Bonnies will also be without freshman point guard Jaylen Adams, who had surgery Feb. 12 to repair a finger that had been bothering him. Adams was averaging 10 points, 1.1 steals and a team-high 4.5 assists prior to being sidelined and will miss the remainder of the season.

A struggling GW bench showed signs of improvement Saturday, as junior guard Kethan Savage had 18 points off the pine after freshman forward Yuta Watanabe got the start for the second-straight game. Watanabe, who will likely start again Wednesday night, had only two points against Richmond and must improve his production if GW wants the win.

Junior forward Kevin Larsen also looked good inside against the Spiders with 16 points and will have to continue to battle. GW’s other four starters combined for only 12 points in the loss, but expect the Colonials to shoot better at the Smith Center.

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Junior Kethan Savage drives between defenders in a game earlier this season. Savage led the team with 18 points Saturday, but the Colonials couldn't stop the Spiders in a 56-48 loss on the road. Desiree Halpern | Contributing Photo Editor.

Junior Kethan Savage drives between defenders in a game earlier this season. Savage led the team with 18 points Saturday, but the Colonials couldn’t stop the Spiders in a 56-48 loss on the road. Desiree Halpern | Contributing Photo Editor.

RICHMOND, Va. Juniors Kethan Savage and Kevin Larsen combined for 34 points, led by Savage’s 18, at Richmond on Saturday.

Unfortunately for the Colonials, Larsen and Savage’s matchups on defense nearly did the same, as TJ Cline scored 16 and ShawnDre’ Jones scored 14 in GW’s 56-48 loss to the Spiders.

“Kevin and Kethan have to become better defenders for us to win games, they’re two of our best players and their guys are scoring too much,” head coach Mike Lonergan said.

On the offensive end, both players were rolling. With 2:23 to play, Savage cut Richmond’s lead to four with a drive to the basket and a layup. The Colonials (17-10, 7-7 Atlantic 10) had made seven of their last nine shots while Richmond had made just one of its last five.

But as the seconds ticked by for the Colonials to get the ball back, GW was called for four straight fouls entering the final minute, the fourth sending Jones to the line where he hit two free throws to make it 52-46.

Savage got to the line with 30 seconds to play and made two shots, but Trey Davis threw an outlet pass up the court to Jones who scampered to the net unguarded for a layup.

GW couldn’t score on the next possession and, after fouling Terry Allen, head coach Mike Lonergan took the starters out of the game with 6.8 seconds left and a six-point deficit.

The loss was GW’s 10th of the season and fourth in a row, pushing the Colonials to .500 in A-10 play at 7-7.

“Our starters, they lapse on defense. We show them on film, but we have letdowns and those are hard for us to overcome,” Lonergan said. “We have the talent to play defense but I haven’t been able to do a good enough job getting all the guys in that locker room to understand it.”

Richmond wasn’t perfect: the Spiders shot under 39 percent from the field and 27.3 percent from beyond the three-point line, and Patricio Garino held Richmond’s leading scorer Kendall Anthony to nine points on 4-16 shooting.

Still, Richmond hit just enough baskets to come away with the win while getting 28 extra possessions from 14 GW turnovers and 14 offensive rebounds. The Spiders, owners of the worst rebounding margin in the A-10, outdid the Colonials off the offensive glass by five.

“That’s the only way we’re going to beat Richmond is if we dominate them on the glass, because we’re not going to win a three-point shooting contest with them,” Lonergan said.

The Colonials did use their size advantage to block six shots, but Richmond head coach Chris Mooney’s fears about getting killed off the boards didn’t come true. GW won the rebounding battle by just one overall, 32-31.

And while Richmond was getting extra shots, the Colonials struggled to find each other, recording just five assists in the game as the Spiders matchup zone stuffed up the middle. Besides Larsen and Savage, who seemed to have gotten his shot back in his second game coming off the bench, no one scored more than four for GW.

“I thought [Savage] was going to do this last game,” Lonergan said. “That’s the bright spot, that we got Kethan back, but Patricio and Joe really struggled tonight. We’ve got to get all the juniors playing well.”

The Colonials next chance to regroup comes Wednesday at 7 p.m. when St. Bonaventure visits the Smith Center.

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Friday, Feb. 20, 2015 5:08 p.m.

Preview: Men’s basketball vs. Richmond

What: GW (17-9, 7-6 A-10) vs. Richmond (14-12, 7-6 A-10)
Where: Robins Center, Richmond, Va., CBS Sports Network
When: Saturday, Feb. 21 at 4 p.m.

GW travels to Richmond on Saturday for a game in which both teams will be playing to get back on track and avoid falling to .500 in conference.

While the Colonials are on a three-game skid, Richmond has gone 2-3 over its last five games, including a home loss to Rhode Island and an overtime defeat at the hands of George Mason.

It’s unlikely that the Colonials will break the slide with an X’s and O’s approach. Instead, it’s a matter of whether the team will find itself again in time to get out of the current tailspin.

GW, on paper, is still the more talented team, and the Colonials match up well with the Spiders. But a win on the road will take a different level of play than what has come in the last couple weeks.

The case for Richmond:
The Spiders will be hosting a “Red Out” game at the Robins Center, and though the Colonials won the last game between the two squads in Richmond last year, GW has had very little success on the road this season.

Most of the Colonials’ struggles of late have come on the defensive end, and they’ll get no help from the Spiders in denying shots via turnovers. Richmond commits the second-fewest turnovers in the Atlantic 10 at 9.9 per game.

The Spiders, led by Kendall Anthony’s 16.6 points per game from the backcourt, are draining nearly seven three-pointers per game, while the Colonials have struggled to stop the three ball in recent contests.

The case for GW:
The Colonials have done better when they have been able to get an inside game going, which they should be able to do against the Spiders. Richmond ranks last in the A-10 in rebounding margin at -5.5 per game.

After scoring most of his baskets off rebounds in his latest outing, junior Kevin Larsen could dominate inside on Saturday. He recorded 22 points and 11 rebounds in GW’s double-overtime win over Richmond earlier this season.

Larsen could get an even bigger edge with the absence of the team’s top shot blocker in Alonzo Nelson-Ododa.

A bright spot for GW has been the play of freshman Paul Jorgensen, who scored nine points against Davidson and seems to have kept some of the attitude and confidence the team as a whole has lacked. If Jorgensen can keep it up, especially with the scoring issues junior Kethan Savage has had, it could go a long way in helping the Colonials keep pace with Richmond’s outside threats.

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Junior guard Joe McDonald attempts to dribble in the Colonials' 79-66 loss to VCU. McDonald finished with 12 points. Dan Rich | Hatchet Photographer

Junior guard Joe McDonald attempts to dribble in the Colonials’ 79-66 loss to VCU. McDonald finished with 12 points. Dan Rich | Hatchet Photographer

After nearly a year of perfection at home, GW lost a game at the Smith Center.

Twelve VCU three-pointers doomed the Colonials, who fell 79-66 to the No. 20 Rams (19-6, 9-3 Atlantic 10) on Saturday afternoon. It was the second straight loss for GW (17-8, 7-5 A-10), snapping a 12-game win streak at home.

“A lot of it was that we missed open shots, and they made open shots,” head coach Mike Lonergan said. “Our 1-3-1 used to be a huge strength of ours, but you can’t play it when three guys are playing really hard… we just really had no energy and were giving them wide-open threes.”

Despite a strong GW shooting effort led by junior guard Patricio Garino’s game-high 22 points, the Colonials could not handle the high-powered Rams offense. GW’s 16 turnovers and 13 missed three-point attempts also helped VCU pull ahead in a contest that was tied seven times and was close until about nine minutes remained.

VCU junior guard Melvin Johnson had a team-high 17 points and hit 5-8 from three, as five Rams would finish in double figures in scoring.

The frontcourt duo of senior Treveon Graham, who had missed the Rams’ previous two games due to injury, and sophomore Mo Alie-Cox overpowered a frazzled GW defense, combining for 20 points and 12 rebounds on the day. Sophomore guard JeQuan Lewis also added 10 points and a team-high four assists to augment the Colonials’ frustration on defense.

“The problem was that we couldn’t guard them in man because Lewis, and the guard off the bench, was just getting to the rim on us,” Lonergan said. “So we tried to play some 1-3-1 and gave up three threes… and then we stopped scoring.”

In front of a buzzing Smith Center crowd, GW came out strong and jumped to an early lead off a three-pointer from senior forward John Kopriva.

Garino would lead the Colonials in the half with 10 points, as the team went an impressive 59.1 percent from the field.

But nine first-half turnovers by GW to VCU’s five would allow the Rams to run up the scoreboard with their precise three-point shooting. Although the Rams went 44.4 percent from the field in the first, they hit seven of 16 from beyond the arc, led by Johnson’s 14 first-half points.

Down 29-22, the Colonials went a 7-0 run, highlighted by a wide-open corner three from junior guard Joe McDonald, to tie the game and regain some momentum. The teams then traded buckets before junior forward Kevin Larsen rocked the Smith Center when he converted a clutch steal for a dunk to give his team a 36-34 lead late in the half.

GW would end the half tied at 38, as McDonald, who had a team-high eight rebounds and added 12 points on the day, beat the buzzer with a short jumper.

The Colonials would go toe-to-toe with the Rams early in the second half as well. A bucket from Savage made it 48-47 VCU, but GW cooled off while the Rams remained hot. Eight more turnovers in the second half also played a big role in the 13-point loss.

“I give them credit. They’re very good defensively,” Lonergan said. “We had a lot of unnecessary turnovers in the second half, not against their press but really in the frontcourt and they took advantage of that.”

After multiple GW misses, VCU was able to jump to a 58-48 lead with just over eight minutes to play. The Colonials finally responded with a three-point play from Savage and a Garino layup off a steal to cut their deficit in half.

But that was as close as the Colonials would get to a comeback, as the Rams remained steadfast in their offensive pressure while their shots continued to fall, hitting 12 of 30 from three and going 45.6 percent from the field on the day. GW’s defense, which was once the best in the A-10 in points allowed, would concede a season-high 79 points to the Rams a game after setting the high-water mark at 78 at Duquesne.

“I think it’s focus… We were one of the top teams defensively before Hawaii, and we need to get back at it,” Garino said. “Maybe it’s psychological that we’re thinking too much about offense or missing shots… but I think we have to get back to basics and realize that defense is the key.”

The Colonials look to get back on the winning side of things Wednesday, when they host Davidson at 7 p.m.

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Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015 2:07 p.m.

Preview: Men’s basketball vs. VCU

What: Men’s basketball (17-7, 7-4 Atlantic 10) vs. No. 20/22 VCU (18-6, 8-3 A-10)
When: Saturday, Feb. 14 at 2 p.m.
Where: Smith Center

On the heels of a 16-point loss at Duquesne on Wednesday when the Colonials conceded a season-high 78 points to the Dukes, GW returns home for a rematch against VCU on Valentine’s Day.

The Colonials met the Rams last month, dropping the contest 72-48 on the road. VCU’s “havoc” defense was able to hold GW to just 26.9 percent shooting from the field in the dominant victory and will look to maintain the same kind of pressure at the Smith Center on Saturday.

But this time around, VCU – which shares the top spot in the Atlantic 10 with Dayton – will be without senior guard Briante Weber, who suffered a season-ending knee injury Jan. 31. Senior swingman Treveon Graham is also nursing an ankle injury and will see limited playing time against GW, if it all.

The case for VCU:
Coming off two straight losses to middle-of-the-pack A-10 teams, the Rams will be hungry to get back on the winning side.

Despite losing Weber, who led Division I basketball with 3.90 steals per game, VCU’s defense is familiar with the Colonials and still may find a way to stymie the GW passing game.

Offensively, Graham led the team and ranked eighth in the A-10 with 16.2 points per game. But sophomore JeQuan Lewis and junior Melvin Johnson have stepped up, averaging 17.7 and 13.7 points, respectively, in the Rams’ last three games.

Additionally, Weber and Graham combined for only 13 points in last month’s contest. Expect Lewis, Johnson and freshman guard Terry Larrier, who combined for 36 of the Rams’ points against GW last time out, to pose a formidable offensive threat.

The case for GW:
With Weber out, GW should be able to handle the ball a bit more easily and get more open looks, something they struggled with in the teams’ last meeting.

Despite going 31.9 percent from the field against Duquesne, the Colonials are shooting a respectable .439 field goal percentage on the season to VCU’s .426 percent. If GW’s core four can solve the Rams’ defense early and shoot well at home, they will be looking at their 18th victory of the season.

Led by junior forward Kevin Larsen, ranked ninth in the A-10 with 7.4 boards per game, the Colonials also hold a clear rebounding edge. With a conference-best +4.5 rebounding margin compared to VCU’s margin of -2.7, the Colonials will most likely command the boards, but must capitalize on second-chance points if they want the win.

GW’s biggest advantage, however, may be its home court. The Colonials are a perfect 10-0 in front of a Smith Center crowd that hasn’t seen a loss in Foggy Bottom since Feb. 15, 2014. Up against an injured but ranked VCU squad, look for GW to play with heart and go toe to toe with the 20th best team in the nation.

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Freshman Paul Jorgensen steps back to shoot a three pointer in GW's first game against Duquesne this season. The Dukes won the rematch 78-62 in Pittsburgh on Wednesday when the Colonials gave up the most points in a game this season. Andrew Goodman | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Freshman Paul Jorgensen steps back to shoot a three-pointer in GW’s first game against Duquesne this season. The Dukes won the rematch 78-62 in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, when the Colonials gave up the most points in a game this season. Andrew Goodman | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Updated: Feb. 11, 2015 at 10:33 p.m

PITTSBURGH – The paltry crowd at the A.J. Palumbo Center and two lonely cardboard cutouts – one of Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen and the other of a camel – didn’t seem intimidating.

But GW trudged off the court toward the unfamiliar locker room after a 78-62 loss at Duquesne. The Colonials, who are now 3-7 on the road, had met their kryptonite once again in another difficult road game.

Despite 16 points each for juniors Kevin Larsen and Kethan Savage, the Colonials (17-7, 7-4 A-10) still shot just 31.9 percent. It was the Colonials’ first loss of the season in which they had scored more than 55 points, but Duquesne’s 78 points were the most scored against GW this season.

“It’s kind of the story of us on the road when we’re trying to score,” head coach Mike Lonergan said. “I think our guys are too focused on scoring, and then when we’re not scoring, we don’t really play good defense.”

There were few good moments: GW started 1-8 and ended on a turnover, but midway through the second half, the Colonials started to make a run. Savage hit three baskets for GW in a row, the last one a three, to pull within seven points.

But Duquesne (8-14, 3-8 A-10) followed with a 7-0 run, punctuated by the first three in the game for a Duquesne player besides juniors Micah Mason or Derrick Colter, when sophomore L.G. Gill scored from the corner.

“Every time we cut the lead to seven we couldn’t get a defensive stop, so that was frustrating,” Lonergan said.

Mason and Colter combined for eight three-pointers and 42 points, with Mason earning a career high with 24. The Colonials came into the game with the A-10’s third-best defense, but couldn’t stop the aggressiveness of Duquesne’s guards and allowed the Dukes to shoot 50.9 percent for the game.

“Their guards just destroyed us,” Lonergan said. “The same two guys that we basically shut down in our gym but when you’re not scoring where we really had trouble getting guys to understand you’ve got to guard.”

GW couldn’t keep pace, struggling to penetrate the Dukes’ 2-3 zone. The Colonials shot 20.5 percent in the first half, when even the easy chances just didn’t go through the hoop. GW had 17 offensive rebounds in the first half, but just eight second-chance points.

Duquesne began the season playing man coverage on defense, but switched to a 2-3 zone because opponents were scoring easily against head coach Jim Ferry’s personnel. The Colonials saw the zone earlier this season at the Smith Center and won handily – 74-59 with a dozen threes – but on the road with a few more weeks of practice on the books for the Dukes, they couldn’t crack it.

That’s not to say the Duquesne defense has gotten much better: The Dukes gave up 95 points to Davidson the game before they played GW. But whoever said history repeats itself should take a second look at the season series between GW and Duquesne. The Dukes were 5-15 from beyond the arc in their first matchup with GW in the Smith Center.

“I really don’t know,” Ferry said after he was asked why his team was so much better at home, where Duquesne is 7-6. He mentioned that it was a league-wide phenomenon that teams have played differently on the road. GW is a prime example.

GW is now 1-3 over the last four games and is facing a rematch with No. 20 VCU in the Smith Center on Saturday at 2 p.m.

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that the Colonials record is 17-1. It is 17-7. We regret this error.

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Joe McDonald relishes the moment after his game-winning putback against Dayton on Friday. He could be even happier about it in March. Dan Rich | Hatchet Photographer

Joe McDonald relishes the moment after his game-winning putback against Dayton on Friday. He could be even happier about it in March. Dan Rich | Hatchet Photographer

The plan was for Kethan Savage to drive to the rim for the game-winner. Kevin Larsen was set up to come in and set a screen, but Savage waved him off, holding the ball as the Smith Center held its collective breath.

He finally began his drive with three seconds left in the game. With 1.8 seconds left he released the ball. A split-second later, Dayton’s Dyshawn Pierre swatted it away. It would have meant a three-game losing streak and the end of GW’s perfect home record if Joe McDonald hadn’t come flying in for the offensive rebound and game-winning tip-in.

With .1 seconds left on the game clock the ball crashed through the iron and into the netting on the basketball hoop. The strings flung out to the left and the ball dropped through to the floor.

The Smith Center erupted with the court-storming thrill of the moment, but McDonald’s game winner could have real, long-term implications for the Colonials, who were in about as close to a must-win situation as they could have been on Friday against the Flyers.

“We’re happy to get the win. We really needed one after two road losses and this is a high RPI team so I’m just glad we got it done,” McDonald said.

He’s right about Dayton, 35th in RPI (Ratings Percentage Index, a ranking system weighed heavily by the NCAA tournament selection committee) heading into the game Friday. The Colonials had just two RPI top-100 wins before besting the Flyers: Wichita State (18th) and Richmond (75th). Colorado was 95th before Friday but has since fallen to 106th.

GW sat at 53 before the game but moved up to a tie for 47th after the win. They also kicked a two-game losing streak after getting blown out at VCU and giving up a late lead at Rhode Island.

The Colonials are in the middle of a tough stretch of the Atlantic 10 schedule, which started out soft. After playing four games in nine days, GW had Dayton, two games against Davidson, a trip to Richmond and a rematch with VCU on the horizon.

“It’s unbalanced scheduling which I don’t love in leagues but in a way having a tough schedule helps us,” head coach Mike Lonergan said. “It seems like if you’re in the Big East and you win every other one you’re fine but the A-10 should get that same respect. Teams are knocking each other off all over the country so this is a very good win for us.”

The A-10 has been a slug-fest – the top two teams sport two losses each and seven squads are legitimate threats – but if the Dayton win gives the Colonials some momentum, it could go a long way for a squad that was looking like it was living on the wrong side of the NCAA Tournament bubble.

And it couldn’t have happened without the latest chapter in McDonald’s series of heroics. He hit the biggest shot in GW’s double-overtime win against Richmond earlier this season and put the team on his back in the Diamond Head Classic. He also hit a game-winner as a freshman against Rhode Island.

“That’s what Joe does,” Larsen said. “He makes big plays.”

Sometimes one big play makes everything else that happens in a game not matter anymore. Sometimes one big play has consequences that resonate even further than that (Malcom Butler, anyone?). GW could look back at the end of the season and remember McDonald’s putback as one of those plays.

“Hopefully, sometimes you get a win like this and it’ll kind of jump start your season again,” Lonergan said. “We’ve got a lot to play for.”

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Saturday, Feb. 7, 2015 1:58 p.m.

Photos: Colonial Army storms the court

Junior guard Joe McDonald celebrates with teammate Kethan Savage, right, and students who stormed the court.

 

Despite barriers around the stands, fans stormed the court in celebration of GW’s overtime win against Dayton.

 

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McDonald tipped in the game-winning layup with three-hundredths of a second left on the clock to put GW over the top 65-64 in overtime.

 

Dan Rich | Hatchet Photographer

Junior guard Kevin Larsen congratulates McDonald, who made the game-winning basket.

 

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McDonald calls to the crowd after the game. Over 4,500 people attended Friday night’s match against Dayton.

 

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Co-president of the Colonial Army, Ian Mellul, left, goes in for a high-five with McDonald. The Colonial Army had a strong showing, donning white shirts for a white out.

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With the game knotted at 56 and regulation time winding down at the Smith Center on Friday night, junior guard Kethan Savage drove hard to the rim but could not find a game-winner.

Down by one with six seconds to play in overtime, he’d try and miss again. That time, though, he was saved by junior guard Joe McDonald, who flew in for a game-winning tip-in to propel GW to a pivotal 65-64 victory over Dayton and ignite court-storming pandemonium from the Colonial faithful.

“With six, seven seconds left I knew there was a chance for an offensive rebound, so I just wanted to put myself in the right position,” McDonald said. “We really needed this win, and I’m glad we got it at home.”

In addition to his late-game heroics, McDonald would post a team-high 19 points, while junior guard Patricio Garino and junior forward Kevin Larsen added 13 and 11 points, respectively. GW (17-6, 7-3 Atlantic 10) would go 44.7 percent from the field on the night, hitting five of 16 from deep, to secure its 12th straight win at home, 10th this season.

The evenly matched teams fought back and forth all night: Neither was able to secure a double-digit lead the entire game. While the Colonials outshot the Flyers (17-5, 7-3 A-10) from the field and won the battle on the boards 32-29, GW went just 16-25 from the line and committed 14 turnovers to keep Dayton’s high-powered offense in the game.

Junior guard Joe McDonald celebrates his game-winning heroics with his teammates. McDonald scored a game-high 19 points as the Colonials edged Dayton 65-64 in overtime Friday. Dan Rich | Hatchet Photographer

Junior guard Joe McDonald celebrates his game-winning heroics with his teammates. McDonald scored a game-high 19 points as the Colonials edged Dayton 65-64 in overtime Friday. Dan Rich | Hatchet Photographer

“It wasn’t quite how we drew it up, but we deserved a break and it was nice to finally get it,” head coach Mike Lonergan said. “Kethan got me a little nervous because he held the ball for some reason… but he finally went to the basket, and luckily there was enough time for the tip-in.”

Joe McDonald went an efficient 8-13 from the field and 3-7 from three-point range. Dan Rich | Hatchet Photographer

Joe McDonald went an efficient 8-13 from the field and 3-7 from three-point range. Dan Rich | Hatchet Photographer

The Colonials came out strong and jumped to an early 9-2 lead, but Dayton quickly improved its shooting game, embarking on a 14-0 run behind senior guard Jordan Sibert, who would lead the Flyers on the night with 17 points.

The streak would leave the Colonials, who committed eight turnovers in the first half, with a 16-9 deficit midway through the frame. GW, however, maintained its composure defensively while Dayton’s shooting began to cool off.

An 8-0 run of their own would propel the Colonials to a 21-19 lead, and two key steals by McDonald late in the half would give GW a 24-21 lead at halftime, while Dayton would finish the half with nine turnovers. Garino would lead the Colonials with seven points in the first, while junior forward Kevin Larsen added a team-high four rebounds.

The teams continued to trade runs in the second half with bursts of offense. But although GW would go 50 percent from the field and hit four of eight from deep in the second frame, the Flyers’ would force the contest to overtime.

GW opened extra time with a 6-0 run, but the Flyers weren’t giving up that easily. Dayton battled all the way back and would hit a gut-punching three after a defensive breakdown left freshman guard Kyle Davis open in the corner. That put Dayton up 64-63 with 15 seconds remaining in the game before the Colonials headed down court for their game-winning drive.

“We had a breakdown… One of our guys felt that he wanted to go double inside because he thought they were going to score, and so he left his man wide open for what could have been the game-winning three,” Lonergan said. “But we talked about it in the locker room and hopefully we’ll learn from it.

Savage would add nine points and six rebounds on the night, while senior forward John Kopriva also contributed six boards and finished with six points.

“[Each starter] did something positive,” Lonergan said. “They all contributed in different ways. As these juniors go is how our team is going to go, and sometimes you get a win like this and hopefully it will jumpstart our season again.”

While both benches were quiet most of the game, freshmen Paul Jorgensen and Yuta Watanabe would combine for an important seven points on the night.

The Colonials return to action Wednesday at 7 p.m. when they take on Duquesne in Pittsburgh.

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