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Wednesday, March 4, 2015 11:10 p.m.

Garino, Jorgensen propel GW in comeback road win

Junior Patricio Garino scored a game-high 15 points on silky 6-8 shooting Wednesday as the Colonials topped the Patriots on the road. Garino added nine rebounds, three assists, two blocks and committed just two turnovers in the game. Desiree Halpern | Contributing Photo Editor

Junior Patricio Garino scored a game-high 15 points on silky 6-8 shooting Wednesday as the Colonials topped the Patriots on the road. Garino added nine rebounds, three assists and two blocks and committed just two turnovers in the game. Desiree Halpern | Contributing Photo Editor

In front of a quiet senior night crowd at the Patriot Center on Wednesday night, the Colonials were able to secure their first road win since January in not-so-hostile territory.

A strong defensive team effort helped GW (19-11, 9-8 A-10) snap a five-game road skid in Fairfax as the team took down George Mason (9-20, 4-13 A-10) 67-51 to finish a lackluster road schedule at 4-9.

“I really thought the key was that we played defense like we played the first 20 games this season,” head coach Mike Lonergan said. “That was a much-needed win for us.”

Behind 15 points and nine rebounds from junior guard Patricio Garino, the Colonials turned a three-point halftime deficit into a 16-point victory. Junior forward Kevin Larsen and freshman Paul Jorgensen bolstered the offensive effort with 11 points each.

Garino, who hadn’t scored in double figures in GW’s last three games, looked like himself again. Lonergan said GW is “a much better team” when he and junior guard Kethan Savage are producing consistently.

“The main thing I wanted to accomplish today was to get a win and get Patricio going,” Lonergan said. “He’s been playing defense all year but he’s struggled offensively a little bit, and we need his points, especially this team when we struggle to score.”

The Colonials came out strong and worked the ball inside early for a quick 4-0 lead. They would lead by as much as five and outscore their crosstown rival 18-8 in the paint in the first half, while George Mason opened the game shooting just 3-10 from the field.

Garino and Larsen guided the team with eight points each in the half, but the Patriots eventually found their stroke. George Mason picked up its shooting game midway through the half, shooting 55.6 percent from three in the first.

The Patriots’ starting guards combined for 21 points, including five three-pointers, as GW began to struggle to hold onto the ball. The road team would commit a disheartening nine first-half turnovers, with three coming from Savage.

But the Colonials seemed more composed out of the break, only turning the ball over four times in the second half while finishing the night with 12 assists. Tighter defense, which switched from man to zone multiple times during the game, also held the Patriots to just 24.1 percent from the field in the second half.

“The last couple games, in the second half, [our opponents] have been scoring over 50 percent, and I think we were stopping [George Mason] defensively in the one-three-one and were getting the rebounds that we needed,” Garino said. “Overall they didn’t go to the rim as much they wanted to.”

GW also got a much-needed boost from its bench, which outscored the Patriots’ reserves 22-7 on the night. Jorgensen led the charge off the pine, going 4-8 from the field and scoring all 11 of his points in the second half.

“I struggled the first half, and I was more upset that I couldn’t help my team, so in the second half when I saw my first shot go down, I thought, ‘This is a moment where I can really help us,’” Jorgensen said. “I just went from there, played confident and listened to the coaches and tried to execute.”

An 85.7 percent clip from the foul line and 38 rebounds to George Mason’s 29 would round out the night for the Colonials, who finished shooting 46.8 percent from the field and 5-13 from three.

The Colonials will play their final game of the regular season Saturday at the Smith Center in a 3 p.m. showdown with Massachusetts.

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Wednesday, March 4, 2015 2:25 a.m.

Preview: Men’s basketball vs. George Mason

What: Men’s basketball (18-11, 8-8 A-10) vs. George Mason (9-19, 4-12 A-10)

When: Wednesday March 4 at 7 p.m.

Where: Patriot Center, Fairfax, Va.

After going 3-9 in a season of struggles away from home, the Colonials will play their final road game of the season Wednesday night at George Mason.

Following a 77-66 loss against first-place Davidson Saturday, GW will face the opposite end of the spectrum in the Patriots who are tied with Fordham for second to last place in the Atlantic 10.

This will be the second meeting this season between the two Revolutionary Rivals, as GW took down George Mason 63-53 earlier this January at the Smith Center. The Colonials will cross the Potomac in search of their first road win since Jan. 22.

The Case for George Mason:

Despite dropping three of their last four, the Patriots may enter the contest against their cross-town foe with some confidence after a 28-point victory at Saint Louis Saturday.

With only four A-10 wins thus far, half of which came against last-place Saint Louis, it’s hard to see George Mason pulling off the win. But if they do, it will be behind freshman center Shevon Thompson who averages a team-high 12.9 points and 11.5 rebounds per game and paced the Patriots with 11 points and 11 boards against GW earlier this season.

Thompson is followed by junior guard Patrick Holloway and sophomore guard Marquise Moore who are averaging 11.5 and 9.0 points per game, respectively.

George Mason was able to shoot 61 percent from the field and went 17-18 from the foul line in its trouncing of Saint Louis. If the Patriots can stay hot and keep that momentum rolling in their final home game, they may pose a threat to the Colonials.

The Case for GW:

While the Colonials have performed poorly on the road this year, GW should be able take down George Mason, a team they’ve already beaten this season, with relative ease in Fairfax.

Junior guard Joe McDonald who had a game-high 20 points in the Colonials’ last game at Davidson, also had 12 against the Patriots in January. Junior guards Patricio Garino and Kethan Savage also finished scoring in double figures that game to combine for 24 points.

GW leads George Mason in virtually every statistical category, both offensively and defensively, but a fast start Wednesday night will be key in dispelling nerves on the road.

With a favorable seed in the A-10 Tournament still on the line, the Colonials still have a lot to play for. If GW can build a solid lead, look for head coach Mike Lonergan to give his bench some extended minutes and give the team necessary momentum heading into the final game of the season on Saturday.

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Junior Joe McDonald makes a pass in GW's Feb. 18 loss to Davidson at home. McDonald scored 20 points against the Wildcats on Saturday in the GW loss. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor

Junior Joe McDonald makes a pass in GW’s Feb. 18 loss to Davidson at home. McDonald scored 20 points against the Wildcats on Saturday in the GW loss. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor

In the final minutes of the game, junior Patricio Garino turned the ball over on two straight possessions. The second came when he badly misfired a pass to Kevin Larsen with less than three minutes to play, leading to a pair of free throws for Davidson’s leading scorer Tyler Kalinoski that stretched the Wildcats’ lead back to double figures.

The two points pushed Kalinoski’s point total to 11, making him the fourth Wildcat to reach double figures. Davidson has never lost this season with a quartet scoring more than ten, and continued the trend Saturday against the Colonials, who lost 77-66 on the road.

“I thought our guys had some fight in them today. This is a tough team for us to play in here, and then when they make all those threes and they definitely shoot the ball well at home and then there are 13 turnovers,” said head coach Mike Lonergan. “The turnovers are brutal.”

GW (18-11, 8-8 A-10) struggled with turnovers all night, giving Davidson (21-6, 12-4 A-10) 13 extra chances via lost balls which the Wildcats exploited for 22 points. GW scored just two points off four Davidson turnovers.

Garino’s giveaways halted a ten point GW run which cut the Davidson lead from 16 to six, punctuated by five straight points from junior Joe McDonald.

McDonald hit his fourth three pointer of the night with 4:25 to play to pull within single digits and force a Davidson timeout.

After the breather, the do-it-all point guard cut the lead to six after slapping the ball out of Jack Gibbs’ hands and taking it to the hoop himself. His layup gave him 20 points on the night, his final number, and McKillop asked for more time. McDonald added eight rebounds, with a 4-0 assist-to-turnover ratio.

“You have to be aggressive, they play a real packline defense so you’ve got to be confident in your shots,” McDonald said. “We had a lot of open looks, really our offense wasn’t what we were worried about.”

McDonald had a strong game the first time GW played Davidson this season back on Feb. 18, but there were more painful moments of déja vu for the Colonials as well.

The first time the two teams met, Lonergan talked about the need to play all 40 minutes of the game. The Colonials gave up eight straight points out of halftime in that meeting, and again struggled with lapses in defense. Before GW went on its final run, the Wildcats had pulled ahead by canning five straight threes.

GW scored 11 triples of its own, four each by McDonald and sophomore Nick Griffin, but the Wildcats splashed in 14 on 28 attempts.

“Last game we switched everything, this game we switched nothing,” Lonergan said. “It’s hard because they have four guys on the court, sometimes five, who can shoot. You really have to be focused on defense sometimes on five guys on the court so it’s a tough matchup.”

None of those three-pointers, however, would come from Jordan Barham who had a second strong game inside against GW. After going 7-8 for 15 points in the Smith Center earlier this season, he scored 17 points on 7-11 shooting at home, consistently torching past players who towered over his 6-foot-4 frame.

“Barham two games in a row just destroyed us,” Lonergan said. “It’s not for lack of effort, he’s just stronger than our 6-foot-8 guys but it’s frustrating because he’s taken over both games in the second half and he’s the guy that doesn’t shoot, it’s all just taking it down our throat and scoring.”

The turnovers, and allowing the Wildcats to increase their shooting percentage from 34.6 in the first half to 48.3 in the second, were too much to overcome even with 18 assists and a strong inside game for the Colonials. Behind a 16 point, nine rebound performance for Kevin Larsen, GW outscored Davidson 30-18 in the paint and outrebounded the Wildcats by ten.

Still, the one thing moves to the inside couldn’t do for the Colonials was get them to the free throw line, where they made just one of two shots. Davidson, meanwhile, was 17-21 from the charity stripe.

“I thought we could have gotten some calls in there, our 6-foot-10 guy is battling and we only shot two free throws the entire game, it’s frustrating,” Lonergan said. “Two to 21 and they’re a jump shooting team?”

The Colonials will try to rebound when they play their penultimate game of the season Wednesday at George Mason at 7 p.m.

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Friday, Feb. 27, 2015 10:34 p.m.

Preview: Men’s basketball at Davidson

What: GW (18-10, 8-7 A-10) vs. Davidson (20-6, 11-4 A-10)
When: Saturday, Feb. 28 at 7 p.m.
Where: Belk Arena, Davidson, N.C.

The Colonials make their first trip down to Wildcat country to take on Davidson as an Atlantic 10 rival Saturday, under different circumstances than they might have imaged at the beginning of the season.

Picked 12th in the A-10 preseason coaches poll in their first season after leaving the Southern Conference, the Wildcats and head coach Bob McKillop have played their way to a tie for first with VCU, Rhode Island and Dayton.

GW, on the other hand, sits in seventh place in the conference after being picked second in the preseason. One early prediction, however, just came true: After snapping a four-game losing streak against St. Bonaventure on Wednesday, the Colonials have all of the “core four” juniors scoring in double-figures. With just three games left in the regular season, they’ll head down south looking to prove they are who everyone thought they were.

The case for the Wildcats:
Davidson was able to beat the Colonials in the Smith Center, so it seems logical that the friendly confines of Belk Arena would only mean an easier victory.

That’s only augmented by the struggles GW has had on the road, where the Colonials are 3-8.

The Wildcats are on a six-game winning streak, and McKillop said after the team’s win at GW that exceeding expectations has given the players a trust in each other and in him that will be hard to break, especially with Jack Gibbs (15.5 ppg) getting back to full strength to complement Tyler Kalinoski’s 16.4.

But even if the Colonials can hold Gibbs and Kalinoski in check, they’ll still have to contend with numerous threats. Davidson’s two leading scorers in the win against GW were Jordan Barham, who torched the Colonials’ defense with 15 points on 7-8 shooting, and Brian Sullivan, who added 12 points.

The case for GW:
Though the Wildcats came out with the win, the Colonials were able to hold Davidson to just 65 points. Rhode Island, who suffered the same fate on their home court as GW, pushed that number down to 60. Davidson is averaging 79.7 points per game, but the scoring onslaught isn’t impossible to stop for a good defense.

Junior Joe McDonald will be coming into the game fresh off a 17-point performance against St. Bonaventure. He hinted at a triple-double with 11 points, 11 rebounds and six assists in the earlier matchup with the Wildcats, and has often put the team on his back in critical situations, so look for McDonald to have another big game.

GW has dropped in the A-10 rankings, but the free-for-all at the top of the conference leaves plenty of room for the team to make gains. Players talked about how good it was to get back to winning after the St. Bonaventure game, and if the Colonials could manage to spin that into a win at Davidson, they’d come away with something looking a lot like momentum.

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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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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 Joe McDonald recorded a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds as the Colonials fell to the Wildcats 65-63. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor

Junior Joe McDonald recorded a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds as the Colonials fell to the Wildcats 65-63. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor

Junior guard Kethan Savage did not start Wednesday night against Davidson for the first time this season, but down by two with 16.6 seconds remaining, the ball found him once again in a crunch-time situation.

His replacement in the starting five, freshman Yuta Watanabe, was supposed to shoot the three but passed up the opportunity.

Forced to step back and take a long three that didn’t go, Savage and the Colonials were inches from a win, but fell 65-63 to the Wildcats for their third straight loss.

“We wanted [Yuta] to shoot the three and for whatever reason I guess he didn’t want to shoot it,” head coach Mike Lonergan said. “But I’m not blaming Kethan for the last shot because I thought he executed the play exactly how we wanted and threw it back to Yuta. But he’s a freshman and I think he’s still a little hesitant.”

Four Colonials scoring in double digits, led by junior guard Patricio Garino and junior forward Kevin Larsen who had a dozen points each, was not enough.  Junior guard Joe McDonald also recorded a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds, and had a team-high six of GW’s 14 total assists in the loss.

The Wildcats struggled in the first half, but went 54.5 percent from the field in the second to go 40.9 percent to GW’s 36.7 on the night. Sophomore guard Jordan Barham led his team with 15 points, all coming in the second half, as guards Brian Sullivan, Tyler Kalinoski, and Jack Gibbs combined for 34 points.

“The biggest thing right now is that we are struggling to play 40 minutes on the defensive end of the court,” Lonergan said. “We were pretty good in the first half but to give up an eight point lead like that so early in the second half, that’s definitely disappointing and I think that’s just our lack of defense.”

Davidson’s three-point prowess was on display early, as the Wildcats sunk their first four field goals from beyond the arc to jump to 12-5 lead. Sullivan led Davidson with seven points in the half while senior guard Tyler Kalinoski added a half-high seven rebounds.

But the Wildcats began to lose their touch as the Colonials found theirs. Down 16-11, GW embarked on a 13-0 run topped off by a three-pointer from senior forward John Kopriva, who co-led his team in the half with eight points.

Larsen also had eight in the first, adding three rebounds and two assists to help GW secure a 31-23 at the

Junior Kevin Larsen co-led the team in scoring with 12 points against Davidson. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor

Junior Kevin Larsen led the team in scoring with 12 points against Davidson. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor

half. Davidson’s scoring drought left them with a 28.1 percent clip from the field in the half to GW’s 42.9 percent.

Davidson, however, responded in the second with an efficient inside game led by Barham. The Wildcats would go on a 10-0 run of their own out of the break, quickly regaining a 33-31 lead. GW’s first points of the half came off a short jumper from McDonald with about 15 min to play, and stopped the bleeding.

“[Davidson] is very disciplined and they can shoot,” Lonergan said. “You mix in [Barham] with four kids who can shoot and its tough to guard them for 35 seconds. That’s why if you give them 15 offensive rebounds that’s 15 more times you have to play defense.”

A back and forth contest the rest of the way, GW found itself down 65-63 with 21 seconds to go when Davidson called a timeout. The Wildcats inbounded to Gibbs in the backcourt, but ended up committing a backcourt violation, giving the Colonials the chance they could not capitalize on.

Despite matching the fourth-highest scoring offense in the country in three-point shooting with eight from beyond the arc, and outrebounding Davidson 41-38, Lonergan thought GW could also have been better offensively.

“I thought we shot way too many threes to be honest with you,” Lonergan said. “You don’t have to shoot when you’re open. And when you shoot them once in a while you’ve got to make them, and we’re not making them.”

Looking forward though, defense seems like it will remain the Colonials’ top priority.

“We know we have to win it with defense and we didn’t do it. That’s been a problem the last few games. We know what the problem is, we just have to fix it,” McDonald said.

The Colonials travel to Richmond for a rematch with the Spiders Saturday at 4 p.m.

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Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015 12:11 a.m.

Preview: Men’s basketball vs. Davidson

What: Men’s basketball (17-8, 7-5 A-10) vs. Davidson (17-6, 8-4 A-10)
When: Feb. 18, 2015 at 7 p.m.
Where: Smith Center

Following their first loss at home in nearly a year in a 79-66 loss to VCU on Saturday, the Colonials will try to turn things around Wednesday night when they host Atlantic 10 newcomer Davidson.

The high-scoring Wildcats sit one spot ahead of GW at fifth place in the conference. The teams will meet Wednesday for the first of two games in 10 days. GW has lost four of its last five and will look to snap a two-game skid, while Davidson will roll in riding a three-game win streak.

With head coach Mike Lonergan considering line-up changes to get GW out of its recent slump and the top spots in the A-10 still up for grabs, both the Colonials and the Wildcats will be hungry for a win.

The case for Davidson:
Despite low scoring league-wide this year, Davidson has the fourth-highest-scoring offense in nation. Leading the A-10 with an average of 81.3 points per game to GW’s 67.4, the Wildcats will present the Colonials’ defense with an even tougher test than VCU.

Senior guard Tyler Kalinoski leads the Wildcats averaging 16.5 points per game and a 43.4 percent clip from three. Junior guards Brian Sullivan and Jordan Barham follow Kalinoski, and the three combined for 83 points in Davidson’s last two wins.

Davidson is also averaging an A-10 best 40.2 percent three-point shooting percentage and 17.3 assists per game, sixth-most in the country. Defensively, GW may have an edge, but the Wildcats are currently out-rebounding the Colonials on the defensive boards 25.5 to 24.5.

The case for GW:
While the Colonials’ defense conceded a whopping 157 points in the last two losses, the team is still allowing an average of 61.1 points per game, fourth-best in the A-10 and 65th in the country.

Davidson will also most likely be without sophomore Jack Gibbs, who suffered a slight meniscus tear during a loss to Richmond last month. Gibbs was averaging 15.8 points per game and a team-high 4.9 assists before he was injured.

GW is averaging 36.9 offensive rebounds to Davidson’s 36.3, but will also need smart ball movement and efficient shooting to hold serve with the Wildcats’ 47.5 percent field goal shooting percentage.

After a demoralizing stretch for GW, it will be interesting to see how Lonergan shakes things up with the starting five and if it works. If not, the Colonials will have one more chance when they travel to Davidson for a rematch on Feb. 28.

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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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