Bronx, N.Y. – It looked as though GW was looking a little too far ahead to Brooklyn, instead of taking care of business in the Bronx.
With the Atlantic 10 tournament right around the corner, Saturday’s game against last-place Fordham could have easily been an after thought. But head coach Mike Lonergan told his team otherwise.
“I didn’t want to tell the players that, but yeah I told my assistants, I feel like this is a one-game tournament here,” head coach Mike Lonergan said. “We win this, we’re 23-7, we can go to Barclays and play loose.”
Forced to comeback from a second-half deficit for the second game in a row, GW woke up late to defeat Fordham 70-67, in the final regular season game of the year.
Most importantly, Saturday’s victory cemented GW’s NCAA tournament hopes and put the Colonials in line for a fourth seed in the Atlantic 10 championship, pending a UMass or Saint Joseph’s loss during tomorrow’s action
With five minutes left to play in the game, the Colonials found themselves down five and with the ball – familiar territory for a Colonials team who found itself trailing late in its most recent game against Saint Joseph’s.
“We’ve been through it before, so we were just trying to make plays,” head coach Mike Lonergan said. “The guys actually talked to each other and said just make plays.”
And they did. On the ensuing GW possession, graduate guard Maurice Creek would knock down a three, his sixth of the game and fourth of the half. After a foul by Fordham’s Ryan Rhoomes on the next possession, senior forward Isaiah Armwood would sink two free throws to tie the game at 61-61.
Back-to-back steals on the following two Fordham possessions led to back-to-back fast-break lay ins for sophomore Patricio Garino. In a span of two and a half minutes, the Colonials had gone on a 9-0 run to take a 65-61 lead over the Rams.
“We were fortunate,” Lonergan said. “Some guys that were struggling really woke up late and made some good plays. We got some easy baskets in transition and we finally made some free throws.”
GW, who entered the game with the highest rebound margin in the A-10, was absolutely dominated on the boards Saturday. The Colonials were outrebounded 46-28 by the second-worst rebounding team in the conference. Fordham, who is second in the league in offensive rebounding though, grabbed 18 offensive boards against GW, converting those opportunities into 23 second-chance points.
Fordham junior Ryan Canty led the force on the glass, pulling down 11 rebounds in the first half alone. He would have his night cut short after fouling out of the game with a minute and a half to play, but would finish with 12 points and a game-high 16 rebounds.
“I mean 46-28, that usually doesn’t happen to our team, especially by a team that’s not known for their rebounding,” Lonergan said.“We knew Canty, if we didn’t box him out that he’d man handle us on the boards and that’s exactly what happened.”
Despite outrebounding GW, Fordham couldn’t ice the Colonials because of its struggles from the three-point line. The Rams, who entered the game with the worst three-point percentage in the conference, ended the game shooting 12.5 percent from beyond the arc, on 3-24 shooting.
The final minutes of the game ended in a shootout between two of the conference’s best, Creek and Fordham senior Branden Frazier. Frazier went 6-for-11 in the second half and finished with a game-high 28 points for the Rams. Creek on the other hand would lead GW, finishing 8-for-14 from the field, and 6-for-7 from beyond the arc. Creek would end the game with 24 points and seven rebounds.
“Branden Frazier’s a great player and it showed tonight. He had 28 points and he led his team and I saw that happening and I wanted to make plays for my team” Creek said.
Along with Creek, two other Colonials ended in double figures in scoring. Garino would finish with 18 points after scoring 12 in the second half, and senior Isaiah Armwood would finish with 16 points and five rebounds.
GW will await the results of two conference games being played tomorrow to decide its seeding in next week’s tournament. After doing all they can do as a team, the Colonials will look for a little help in the form of a loss by UMass or Saint Joseph’s.
“I’m not gonna lie, I’ll be shooting against my friend Derrick Kellogg. He’s in great position, he’s gonna make NCAA’s, but we’d like to get that four seed,” Lonergan said.