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Freshman Yuta Watanabe charges into the paint at the John Paul Jones Center in Charlottesville, Va on Friday. The Colonials were dealt their first loss of the season by the Cavaliers, losing 59-42. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor

Freshman Yuta Watanabe charges into the paint at the John Paul Jones Center in Charlottesville, Va. on Friday. The Cavaliers dealt the Colonials their first loss of the season. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor

It happened over and over again.

On nearly every GW possession, the crowd cheers grew from a rumble to a roar as the shot clock wound down and the Colonials dribbled around Virginia’s packline defense, unable to penetrate, and turned the ball over or had to settle for a contested jumper.

GW gave the No. 9-ranked Cavaliers a scare at halftime, but as the grind-it-out game went on, the Colonials could not find the basket, taking their first loss of the season 59-42 on the road Friday night.

Head coach Mike Lonergan summed it up simply: “No moral victories. We wanted to play much better. It’s a 40-minute game,” he said.

“It definitely seemed like a whole different team in the second half,” junior point guard Joe McDonald said. “We didn’t respond well to that.”

The Cavaliers, who ranked third in the nation in field goal percentage defense entering the game, saw the Colonials shoot nearly 46 percent in the first half. But in the second half, the 26-22 halftime lead faded away as Virginia’s shooting heated up and GW’s cooled off. The game ended with the Cavaliers shooting over 42 percent from the field, while GW shot under 33 percent in the game.

The packline defense was so airtight at times that it was difficult to imagine how the scuffmarks on the painted area ever got there.

“It kind of wears you down. Shots that you would normally look for and get against other teams, they’re not there,” said junior guard Kethan Savage, who lead GW with 13 points. “They take you out of your stuff and that presented some problems for us.”

In the second half, Virginia started to feed off the paint where they outscored the Colonials 42-24. Though GW out-rebounded the Cavaliers 17-16 in the first half, the game ended with Virginia owning the rebounding edge 41-28.

Every missed shot seemed to turn into an offensive rebound, with GW losing in second-chance points 18-8, and Lonergan described senior forward Darion Atkins as “playing volleyball on the backboards.”

Meanwhile, the Colonials shot just 20 percent in the second half.

“Anything in the paint that seemed to fall in the first half wasn’t in the second half. Their hands are active. It’s definitely an eye opener for us,” McDonald said.

If the paint was tough to get to for GW, the free throw line was tougher. The Colonials took just nine shots from the charity stripe, making six of them. Virginia was 10-16.

Kevin Larsen, normally a stat sheet filler for GW, was 1-3 from the field for two points with just three rebounds.

Virginia head coach Tony Bennett echoed advice he said his father once gave him: “You should never let a good big man beat you,” Bennett said. He said his team went after Larsen, trying to trap him and drive at him when he did get catches.

“They doubled him and he’s the best passing big man I’ve ever had. I was actually hoping they’d double him. Usually he picks that apart,” Lonergan said. “Those turnovers and things, I think that affected him on the glass.”

While Larsen struggled, his former teammate at Montrose Christian, Justin Anderson, did it all for the Cavaliers. His eight points were double that of Virginia’s next best scorer at the half, and he was the only player shooting above 50 percent going into halftime 4-7. He was yet again Virginia’s top scorer in the game, ending the game with 18 points.

On one play, Anderson dunked in the ball coming down after it caromed off the basket after a missed three by Nolte to make it 40-34 Virginia and bring a sea of orange and blue to its feet.

Yuta Watanabe continued to impress for GW, hitting a pair of threes on his way to a 10-point, five-rebound night. The freshman showed off his defense on a steal in the first half, managing to use his long arms without fouling.

The two teams had not played each other since 2004, when the Cavaliers beat the Colonials in the first round of the NIT, which was also played in Charlottesville.

But they had seen each other more recently. The last time GW and Virginia were in the same building was last March, in Raleigh, N.C., when the Cavaliers played their first game on a run to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament while the Colonials tasted defeat in their only game in the Big Dance.

Having once again taken the loss, GW will turn to prepare for a Wednesday night matchup against Longwood at home at 7 p.m.

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Much of the talk surrounding men’s basketball has been about how the team will try to replicate the success of last season, but in the season-opening win over Grambling State on Friday, the team showed that this year, they will do things a bit differently.

Last season, it took a foot injury to Kethan Savage to move Patricio Garino into the starting lineup. On Friday, the Atlantic-10 Preseason First Teamer led GW with a game-high 21 points in just 24 minutes of play, four points shy of his career record.

He dominated above the rim, went 3-3 from the free throw line, and also sunk two three-pointers on the night, a number only matched by sophomore Nick Griffin

“I felt confident the whole game,” Garino said. “I think at the beginning, I should have shot a couple of shots where I was open, but I think my feet were ready and I was in the right positions.”

Savage, too, showed expansion of his game, hitting a pair of smooth jumpers after getting the game started with a two-handed slam on a pass from Garino. Savage and Lonergan both spoke about his improved jump shot before the season, and the explosive shooting guard put it on display Friday night, perhaps making memories of last year’s departed leading scorer Maurice Creek fade away ever so slightly.

Garino and Savage also dominated on the other side of the court, with Garino leading the team with four steals and the two players sharing the team lead in blocks with senior John Kopriva.

Garino has always been a slasher and Kopriva a strong defender, but even when their play was not anything new or surprising, Garino said the home crowd on opening night gave the team energy.

“It feels great for us… just the atmosphere of the students hypes everyone up and gives us a little extra confidence in the game,” Garino said.

The building was set particularly abuzz with one of the least familiar sights of the game when Kevin Larsen splashed in the first three-pointer of his career from just outside the top of the arc, though Larsen made sure to say after the game that fans should not expect him to be launching shots from long range on a regular basis.

“It was the first three I’ve made and it felt great, but I’ve got to find other ways to score points like getting down one-on-one in the post,” Larsen said. “But Joe made a great pass and I was like ‘Oh, well,’ so I shot it and it went in.”

Larsen was otherwise himself: He commanded the paint and tallied a team-leading nine rebounds and was the second-highest scorer in the game with 15 points, all in just 26 minutes of playing time.

Larsen also guided the team to 49 total rebounds to Grambling State’s 24. He said rebounding was an area of concern coming into the season, but was pleased to see almost everyone contributing to the statistic.

The Colonials also focused greatly on free throw shooting this offseason, after losing their best shooter in Creek and finishing with a dismal 65.2 percent from the line last year.

Although the Colonials finished 66.7 percent from the line as a team Friday, the two top scorers showed improvement, with Garino going 3-3 and Larsen 6-6.

Despite facing an opponent far less formidable than most teams the Colonials will encounter this season, the performances of the starters bode well for GW. If this year’s squad can continue to score in different ways, breaking last year’s mold could actually prove to be a good thing.

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Forward Collin Goss and guard Jordan Roland have become the first official signees of the 2015 men’s basketbal recruiting class, head coach Mike Lonergan announced Thursday.

Both players, who had each verbally committed to GW this summer, inked National Letters of Intent this week during the early signing period.

“We are very excited to have Collin and Jordan joining the GW Basketball family,” Lonergan said in a release. “These two student-athletes will be great additions to our program.”

Goss averaged 9.8 points as junior at St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School in Alexandria, Va., where he also earned Second Team All-Interstate Athletic Conference honors and helped his team finish 18-8 overall and 8-2 in IAC last year.

The 6-foot-10 Manassas, Va. native has three older sisters who have all played at the NCAA Division I level, including 2014 GW graduate Rachael Goss, a four-year outside hitter for the Colonials’ volleyball team. Goss will also be the fifth player on the team’s 2015-2016 roster hailing from the D.C. area.

“Collin is a very skilled post player who has great potential because of his versatility,” Lonergan said.

Roland comes to the Colonials from Syracuse, N.Y, where he averaged 23.9 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.6 steals to lead his Westhill High School team to a perfect 27-0 record last year as a junior. He is also the reigning New York State Class B Player of the Year.

The 6-foot-1 point guard is a three-star recruit, currently the No. 10-rated player in New York State and No. 59 point guard in the nation, according to ESPN.com.

“Jordan can score in numerous ways and can play both guard positions,” Lonergan said. “He is a proven winner and has shown tremendous leadership ability.”

Fellow Syracuse native Tyler Cavanaugh, a transfer from Wake Forest, will join Roland next year when his two-year eligibility for the Colonials begins.

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After the Colonials rolled to their first victory over Grambling State, head coach Mike Lonergan and juniors Patricio Garino and Kevin Larsen answered questions from the press.

Lonergan talked about the play of his freshmen and expectations for the rest of the season.

GW will next play against Rutgers on Sunday.

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Junior guard Kethan Savage rocked the Smith Center with a dunk in the opening seconds of play Saturday, marking the start of an 89-47 trouncing of Bloomsburg (Division II) in GW’s only preseason exhibition match.

Despite committing 21 turnovers, the Colonials shot 66 percent from the field compared to the Huskies’ 24.2 and out rebounded Bloomsburg 51-27 en route to the 42-point victory.

“I thought we got a lot out of the game [and] did some good things. It was definitely sloppy, we had 21 turnovers, but I thought we were ready to play,” head coach Mike Lonergan said. “We played a lot of guys and it definitely added to why it was sloppy, but I’m happy because no one got hurt and we got to get our freshmen a lot of minutes.”

Junior guard Patricio Garino led the Colonials with a team-high 16 points, followed by junior forward Kevin Larsen and freshman guard Darian Bryant who each totaled 13 points on the day.

Larsen led the way with 11 points in the first half, in which the Colonials shot 62.5 percent from the field and outscored Bloomsburg 46-22.

The second frame was nearly identical, with GW outscoring the Huskies 43-25 and shooting 71.4 percent from the field.

Freshman forward Yuta Watanabe makes his first basket in the Smith Center in an exhibition match against Bloomsburg on Saturday afternoon. Watanabe totalled 8 rebounds and 12 points in his debut for the Colonials. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor

Freshman forward Yuta Watanabe makes his first basket in the Smith Center in an exhibition match against Bloomsburg on Saturday. Watanabe totalled eight rebounds and 12 points in his debut for the Colonials. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor

The team’s five freshmen came out strong, contributing a combined total of 37 points, led by Bryant and freshmen Yuta Watanabe, who totaled 12 points and led the team defensively with three blocks.

“I think individually [the freshmen] did some good things. I thought Yuta played very very well… he’s got long arms and he’s a very good defender,” Lonergan said. “He’s really talented. I think as these guys get used to playing with Yuta and he gets used to playing with them, he’s going to be a lot better a few months down the road.”

Senior forward John Kopriva led the first half with six total rebounds, also scoring a total of 11 points, which he will need to continue to do for the Colonials to find success this season. Kopriva also showed off a jumper he and Lonergan said was improved and shot 5-6 from the field.

Kopriva was able to find space when Larsen drew the majority of attention in the post. Freshman Matt Cimino, however, was the team’s leading rebounder, battling his way through the paint for 10 rebounds, including four off the offensive boards.

Free throws, an area of concern for the Colonials last season, did not see much improvement Saturday, as GW only shot 60.7 percent from the line. Lonergan attributed some of the misses to early season jitters, but said that accuracy at the line is still a work in progress for his squad.

“I think some of our freshmen were nervous and missing some free throws there, but I think we’ve improved at least in practice and the drills we’re doing… but today, definitely it’s a disappointing number, especially being at home,” Lonergan said.

Junior guard Patricio Garino goes up to net in an exhibition match against Bloomburg on Saturday afternoon. Garino scored 16 points as the Colonials topped the Huskies 89-47. Dan Rich | Hatchet Photographer

Junior guard Patricio Garino goes up to net in an exhibition match against Bloomburg on Saturday. Garino scored 16 points as the Colonials topped the Huskies 89-47. Dan Rich | Hatchet Photographer

Overall, players said the rout left them feeling positive going into the regular season after waiting to get back on the court together in competition.

“It feels good honestly to play the whole team at the same time in one game,” Garino said. “I can’t wait honestly. I think we have a great team and now all the freshman have a little feeling about the game, and now I think they’re going to be a little less nervous.”

Still, not everyone got in on the fun: Junior Ryan McCoy and sophomore Nick Griffin did not dress for the game due to minor injuries, though Lonergan said both would be evaluated and could practice this week. He said they could possibly play in the season opener against Grambling State, but that it would depend on their availability for practice and if they could get enough time to tune up before getting into a game.

With or without them, the Colonials will try to carry over their dominance and work out some of the kinks and turnovers before getting back on the court when it counts. They will play their first regular season game against Grambling State next Friday at 7 p.m. in the Smith Center.

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Couldn’t watch the basketball teams’ media day? Both men’s head coach Mike Lonergan and women’s head coach Jonathan Tsipis spoke to the press about their upcoming seasons.

Tsipis spoke about building his program back up to the historical strength of GW women’s basketball and the strength of his freshmen class. Tsipis’ team was picked to finish second by other Atlantic 10 coaches.

Lonergan talked about how his team will perform with higher expectations – they were also picked to finish second in the A-10 – and how the return of projected top-100 scorer Kethan Savage will impact the team.

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Kethan Savage goes up for a dunk against VCU in a game last season. Hatchet File Photo.

Kethan Savage goes up for a dunk against VCU in a game last season. Hatchet File Photo.

This post was written by contributing sports editor Mark Eisenhauer. 

1. John Kopriva looks more offensive-minded

Senior forward John Kopriva was a big offensive presence during Saturday’s scrimmage, often taking open mid-range jump shots and settling for the occasional 3-point shot. Kopriva was also good for an occasional slam, including one “dunk” that could have been labeled the play of the game. The 6-foot-8 senior will need to contribute in his final season, and from the looks of it, he is ready to take on a bigger offensive role after averaging just 1.8 points per game last season.

2. Kethan Savage has not missed a step

Junior Kethan Savage looks better than ever. A fractured left foot sidelined him for most of the second half of last season, but Sports Illustrated has already projected he will be one of the nation’s top scorers this year. And the foot surgery doesn’t appear to have undercut the explosiveness and agility Savage showcased last season. The 6-foot-3 shooting guard seems to have worked on improving his jump shot, and he confidently knocked down multiple jumpers Saturday.

3. Darian Bryant managed on the perimeter

Head coach Mike Lonergan has repeatedly called freshman Darian Bryant the most game-ready newcomer of his class. Lonergan played the Bowie, Md. native primarily on the perimeter during the scrimmage, allowing him to use space when driving to the basket. Bryant, who was the most aggressive freshman of the group Saturday, could be a solid option from the bench for Lonergan to rest junior Patricio Garino.

4. Swan could be the surprise of the freshman class

The hype keeps building for this year’s freshmen class, with high expectations for players like Yuta Watanabe and Matt Cimino. But freshman Anthony Swan’s stars shined brightest on Saturday as he hit a number of 3-pointers that got the small crowd in attendance buzzing. The freshman also showcased his ability to drive to the rim, rebound and sink multiple mid-range jumpers.

5. Nick Griffin did not participate in Saturday’s action

The Class of 2017 went unrepresented at the scrimmage, with guard Nick Griffin, the team’s sole sophomore, sticking to the sidelines. Griffin, who will likely be called on to fill the statistical void in point production left by alumnus Maurice Creek, is suspected to have sat out the scrimmage because of a minor injury.

Griffin averaged 4.8 minutes per game last season and hit 14 threes in 29 attempts.

Junior Ryan McCoy was also not suited up for Saturday’s scrimmage.

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What was conceived last year slammed into the Smith Center with a bang Friday night.

It was men’s basketball junior Patricio Garino’s winning bucket in the Colonials Invasion dunk competition, the finale of the event that introduced the men’s and women’s basketball teams to GW fans and built excitement for the upcoming season.

Garino got the idea for his dunk – which he caught off a lob from teammate Kevin Larsen up in the Smith Center balcony – last year, but he was sidelined from the competition with an injury. Now, Garino said the team is not focusing on the past.

“Last year means nothing. This year, we’re going for more,” Garino said to fans before executing his dunk, which earned a perfect score.

After two successful seasons for the men and women last year, the stands packed with students and parents surged with anticipation, and higher expectations, for what’s next.

Both men’s head coach Mike Lonergan and women’s head coach Jonathan Tsipis called on the crowd to come out to games and give GW a strong home-court advantage at the Smith Center. Tsipis told the crowd to make it not just the toughest place to play in the A-10, but in the nation.

“The crowds were really good, especially at the end of the season, and we’re hoping it carries over,” Lonergan said. “Tonight’s kind of a good start. I know it got me fired up because it really means the season’s quickly approaching.”

The evening was an opportunity for the fans to meet some of the characters of the new season: the 12 new additions to men’s and women’s basketball.

Freshmen Darian Bryant and Yuta Watanabe were featured in the dunk contest, and all new roster members made their debuts in front of the crowds after introductions from their families and friends were projected on the Smith Center’s jumbotron.

Still, fans should hope that Bryant and Watanabe got their growing pains out at Colonials Invasion and before the season begins. There were more misses than makes in their portions of the dunk contest, and though Bryant’s alleyoop after twizzling his body around under the basket earned creativity points from the judges, he and Watanabe could not escape some playful ribbing from their coach.

“Yuta was working on them earlier but he kept missing,” Lonergan said. “I’m glad that Pato saved the day because the dunk contest was a little shaky early.”

The event also featured artistic performances throughout the night. Student athletes from men’s and women’s soccer, men’s water polo and swimming and diving made appearances as announcers for groups like Bhangra, the Voice Gospel Choir and Capital Funk. Gymnastics started off the evening, flipping and twisting along a springboard on the arena floor.

But after the dancers had left the stage, after the lights came back on and the hazy puffs of the fog machine had settled, both basketball teams stayed on the court as the crowd trailed out, letting it sink in that their show has yet to begin.

“We got a lot of good publicity. It gave us some momentum and got our program back on the map,” Lonergan said. “But what that means is we’ve got to be ready. We’ve got to give everybody their best shot, we can’t surprise anybody anymore.”

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This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Mark Eisenhauer.

Lawmakers and lobbyists traded the halls of Congress for the Smith Center hardwood Monday for the 16th Annual Congressional Charity Basketball Game.

The team of congressmen took down the lobbyists for the third consecutive year, winning Monday’s game 46-40. GW men’s basketball head coach Mike Longergan coached the lobbyists, while Catholic University men’s basketball head coach Steve Howes skippered the congressmen.

Notable congressional team members included House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.

“Any time you can foul a lobbyist, you do it,” Flake joked, then added, “It’s always nice to get on the court with your colleagues and these lobbyists who we deal with in other settings.”

With 14 points, Congress’ top scorer was Rep. Curt Clawson, R-Fla., who captained the 1983-84 Big Ten Champions Purdue men’s basketball team and challenged President Barack Obama to a three-point contest earlier this year.

Men's basketball head coach Mike Lonergan, who served as the guest head coach for the lobbyist team, talks to his team during a timeout. Jordan Leon | Senior Staff Photographer

Men’s basketball head coach Mike Lonergan, who served as the guest head coach for the lobbyist team, talks to his team during a timeout. Jordan Leon | Senior Staff Photographer

Seventy-eight-year-old Jim Martin, chairman of the 60 Plus Association, sunk one of the more exciting three pointers for the lobbyists, while Danny Leonard of The Leonard Group scored a team-high eight points.

The game had a cordial intensity and close score throughout, but the congressional team was able to maintain a lead for almost all 40 minutes, winning by six points.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to do something good,” said Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan. “We have a great time, and it most importantly helps kids in a tough situation.”

Paul Miller, chairman of the Hoops For Youth Foundation, said the charity was created 16 years ago “in a bi-partisan way to help raise money and awareness for at-risk kids living in our community.”

Lonergan was mostly light-hearted on the bench with his team, but with the score close near the end of the game, he showed some competitive fire, calling time outs and gesturing enthusiastically in the huddle. This was Lonergan’s third year coaching the lobbyists and his third loss as the team’s coach.

“I like to win, and the congressmen usually win, so I was hoping they would give me them this year,” Lonergan joked. “The congressmen are in better shape than our team – I think they have too much free time on their hands.”

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Patricio Garino, Kevin Larsen and Joe McDonald celebrate in GW's win in the A-10 quarterfinals | Hatchet File Photo

Patricio Garino, Kevin Larsen and Joe McDonald celebrate during GW’s win in the A-10 quarterfinals last season. | Hatchet File Photo

D.C. will host the Atlantic 10 men’s basketball championship for the first time in 2018 at the Verizon Center, the league announced Thursday.

GW Athletic Director Patrick Nero said picking the Verizon Center, a venue just minutes away from campus, is yet another nod to the University’s budding men’s basketball program.

“As we went through this process, that was always in the back of the mind of a little bit of a home-court advantage, but also the progress that we’ve made in our men’s basketball program,” Nero said. “So now for the opportunity to have this tournament in our backyard, we see it as great recognition of this community and how we support college basketball and a reward for our fans.”

The A-10 also announced Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh will host the 2017 basketball championship.

The picks come after nine competitive bids for the two tournament destinations were submmitted, A-10 commissioner Bernadette McGlade said.

“On behalf of the A-10, I and all of our members really look forward to working with and competing in each of these really great venues and outstanding cities for 2017 and ’18,” McGlade said in a teleconference.

The Pittsburgh- and D.C.-based tournaments will be a shift away from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., which has hosted the A-10 tournament since 2013. In late March, the A-10, the Atlantic Coast Conference and Barclays Center agreed to allow the ACC to play its conference tournament at the venue to cap off the 2017 and 2018 seasons.

The A-10 Championship will return to Barclays Center in 2019, 2020 and 2021.

Also part of the agreement is a scheduling partnership between the ACC and A-10 to play inter-conference doubleheaders at Barclays Center in 2015, 2016 and 2017. The A-10 secured a position for team participation in Barclays Center’s annual Brooklyn Hoops holiday tournament.

If GW makes it to the A-10 championship in 2018, it won’t be the Colonials’ first game on the Verizon Center court. GW plays an annual regular-season game at the venue for the BB&T Classic, and this year will square off against Charlotte on Dec. 7.

For men’s basketball head coach Mike Lonergan, a native of Bowie, Md., Thursday’s announcement hits close to home, and he hopes the one-year move to the Verizon Center will aid his local recruiting efforts.

“Having grown up locally, I have great memories of watching basketball games at the many venues around the city and in the area,” said Lonergan, who is heading into his fourth season as the Colonials’ head coach. “To have this opportunity to compete for a championship at Verizon Center in front of our loyal fan base, family and friends will be very special for me.”

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