This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Brennan Murray.
If a 9-0 home record heading into Wednesday night’s game carried little weight, the Colonials subsequent 69-47 trouncing of the Explorers proved this squad is a force in the Smith Center’s friendly confines.
GW (17-3, 5-1 A-10) is now a shining 10-0 at home – the one blemish on their otherwise flawless conference record coming from the same La Salle team they just handed a convincing 22-point loss.
The Colonials played to their huge height advantage this time around, out-rebounding the Explorers 42-30, led by a 16 point, 14 rebound night from senior forward Isaiah Armwood.
“Today our bigs really outplayed their bigs,” head coach Mike Lonergan said.
For some Colonials, particularly Larsen, the rematch was a chance to revenge the four-point road loss from three weeks ago. In that game, Larsen went 3-13 from the field, putting up just nine point and trudging through foul trouble all game long. Wednesday, though, he did it all – running the floor, handling the ball and solidifying his presence inside for 15 points and eight rebounds.
“It was definitely kind of revenge for me, I’ve been kind of mad since that game,” Larsen said. “I’ve been more focused, worked harder, so it was definitely kind of sweet for me to play well today and get the win.”
The call to step up soon became the real motivation, though, when sophomore point guard Joe McDonald disappeared into the locker room late in the first half. McDonald, who scored 14 points last time against LaSalle, took a handful of hard hits before leaving the court with an apparent re-injured hip. Lonergan said after the game that they would likely know more about the point guard’s tomorrow.
“I really don’t know,” Lonergan said. “When he went out in the first half, our trainer Chris Hennelly just told me he was done, so I’ve been kind of worried about that for a while, so I don’t know what that means. Hopefully we’ll find out more tomorrow and pray he’s gonna be okay.”
McDonald would not return to the game, but his team certainly responded.
When the final buzzer sounded, Larsen, Armwood, Maurice Creek and Patricio Garino all found themselves in double-figures, combining for 56 points. As a team, GW would shoot 52 percent from the field. The concern moving forward without McDonald is certainly high, but at least for tonight’s second half, that concern was gone.
Armwood led the surge for GW from the first minute to the last. His double-double appeared on the stat sheet, but his consistent toughness on both ends was even more visible. Using length and energy on offense, he slid between La Salle defenders and established himself along the baseline. As the tenth minute passed, he had already drawn four fouls.
On the defensive end, Lonergan’s 1-3-1 defense kept La Salle stymied. Due in part to sophomore guard Patricio Garino’s pressure at the top of the key, the Explorers began turning the ball over in bunches as time ran down in the first period. An impressive 19-0 run over seven minutes of play highlighted the stellar GW effort and put the game out of reach.
“Our 1-3-1 I thought was really what was winning the game for us,” Lonergan said.
La Salle would shoot an abysmal 27.3 percent on the night, scoring its lowest point total of the season, as GW stuck with the kryptonic 1-3-1 defense for the entire second half. Senior guard Tyrek Duren kept the team respectable with 22 points, but leading scorers Jerrell Wright, Tyrone Garland and Steve Zack combined for a total of 13 points, with Zack going scoreless against the GW frontcourt.
“That was our primary goal,” Armwood said. “Especially Garland and Tyrek Duren, those guys are known for getting in the lane and creating. That’s how their offense is run, so coming into the game we just wanted to make that a goal of ours, to keep them out of the lane.”
For at least one night, the Colonials fixed their free-throw shooting woes, hitting 20 of 28 free throws on the night, and converting eight of nine to close out the first half. As if the freebies falling were not enough to keep the Smith Center crowd electric, Creek’s three-pointer with 54 seconds to go before the break caused an eruption of cheers that carried over into the second half.
The Colonials travel to Ohio on Sunday in search of their sixth straight victory against A-10 foe Dayton. The Flyers are 1-5 in conference play.