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Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014 6:03 p.m.

Preview: Men’s basketball at Penn State

What: Men’s basketball (6-2) at Penn State (9-1)
Where: Bryce Jordan Center, University Park, Pa.
When: Sunday, Dec. 14 at noon

The Colonials will begin their longest road stretch of the regular season when they visit Happy Valley to take on the Nittany Lions on Sunday.

GW has found some rhythm lately and will search for its fourth consecutive win against the No. 42 team in RPI. GW is ranked No. 44.

That consistency has come largely through finding lanes and dominating inside, exactly what the Nittany Lions will try to take away from the Colonials, who will look to stay the course against a defensive team that’s stronger than the ones they’ve played recently.

The case for the Nittany Lions:
Penn State is 9-1 largely on the prolific scoring of D.J. Newbill, who is scoring 22.1 points per game to rank seventh in the nation. He’s played nearly every minute of each game so far, averaging over 38 minutes per game.

Penn State doesn’t force a lot of turnovers or block many shots, but the team forces opponents into bad shooting spots. Opponents are averaging 38 percent shooting against the Nittany Lions.

Penn State’s matchups are also attempting more than 20 threes per game and making about a third of them. The Nittany Lions will likely try to push the Colonials into spots where they have no choice but to shoot the three ball, which is falling just over 32 percent of the time.

They’ll have the home crowd, and in the sports hysteria of Happy Valley, that could pack an extra punch on Sunday. Penn State is averaging 7,321 visitors to games at the Bryce Jordan Center through five home games this season, though that’s only about half capacity.

The case for GW:
The Colonials have a transitive edge over the Nittany Lions through their one shared opponent, Charlotte. GW beat the 49ers 78-70 in the BB&T Classic, while Penn State fell in double overtime to them on Nov. 20 in the team’s only loss of the season.

Newbill will also be coming off his worst game of the season, the only game in which he hasn’t at least tied for a team lead in scoring, in a 64-62 win over Duquesne. He could bounce back, but if he’s slumping, Penn State will quickly become one-dimensional.

If the Colonials can keep finding ways inside, with Kevin Larsen continuing to box out opponents and Patricio Garino keeping his scoring streak going, the Nittany Lions’ seven-game win streak could come to an end Sunday.

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Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014 4:27 p.m.

Colonials, Larsen find rhythm as Hawaii calls

Junior Patricio Garino has been shredding defenses through GW's last three games where he's shot nearly 70 percent from the field. Garino has found extra space due to the improved play of classmate Kevin Larsen. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor.

Junior Patricio Garino has shredded defenses during GW’s last three games, where he’s shot nearly 70 percent from the field. Garino has found extra space because of the improved play of classmate Kevin Larsen. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor

Heading into the Colonials’ Thursday night matchup against DePaul, the Atlantic 10 conference was 0-5 against teams from the Big East. GW was 0-1.

That loss, 58-54 to Seton Hall, was the knock on the young season. The second half of the game against the University of Virginia had paralyzed the team, but a road win against the Cavaliers was not expected. Falling to the Pirates was, in head coach Mike Lonergan’s words, “disappointing.”

The Colonials pulled their season record against the Big East to .500 with the A-10’s first win over a member of the other basketball-centric conference, defeating DePaul 81-68. Is Lonergan happier with the team’s performance relative to the game at Seton Hall? “Oh, yeah,” he said, exhaling. He seemed satisfied.

Sitting to his right was junior Kevin Larsen, who scored 18 points against the Blue Demons. After a tough start, Larsen has improved his game since Seton Hall, and the Colonials have won three straight.

“Just me being more focused and more aggressive and not taking plays off, which is one of my biggest weaknesses. Just me playing hard every possession,” Larsen said.

The day after the Seton Hall game, Larsen hit the gym with an assistant coach at 8 a.m. Since then, he’s averaged 14 points per game.

That number is second to just one player in the same time frame: Patricio Garino. Garino scored 23 against UMBC, 21 against Charlotte and 19 against DePaul. The slashing playmaker is shooting nearly 70 percent in his last three games.

Drive after drive, Garino sliced his way to the rim for an easy layup. His right-handed moves dazzled the crowd, but they were surgical. Garino only missed once in open play: The basket was an afterthought by the time he’d snaked past the last DePaul defender.

So is his hot stretch the reason GW has been winning games? Not according to Garino.

“I think Kevin is the key to our success,” he said.

Larsen has been stronger inside, posting up to create driving lanes for classmates Garino and Kethan Savage.

“Sometimes he’s very skilled. Sometimes [Kevin] posts up on the block and ends up on the short corner, but he’s so much more effective inside, where he can score and do a lot of things,” Lonergan said. “I think it’s one of the reasons Patricio is shooting an unbelievable percentage in the last three games.”

GW’s last couple opponents – DePaul and Charlotte – have had the defensive fortitude of a stick of butter. The Blue Demons are tied for the No. 253 scoring defense in Division I and the 49ers are ranked No. 322 out of 345. Both allow 70 points or more per game.

On offense, though, both are much better. Charlotte is tied for the No. 71 scoring offense and DePaul is ranked No. 32. GW needed consistency to outpace both.

Junior Joe McDonald is one of four Colonials averaging double-figure scoring after GW's win over DePaul. The Colonials got the A-10's first win of the season over a Big East opponent Thursday night at the Smith Center. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor.

Junior Joe McDonald is one of four Colonials averaging double-figure scoring after GW’s win over DePaul. The Colonials got the A-10′s first win of the season over a Big East opponent Thursday night at the Smith Center. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor.

With its consistency, the team is in a good position as it heads into a tough game at Penn State and then to Hawaii for the Diamond Head Classic. The core four has accomplished Lonergan’s preseason goal of having four double-digit scorers, from Garino’s 15.1 points per game to Joe McDonald’s even 10.

“I just felt that our juniors, they all can score,” Lonergan said. “And we’re best, like Charlotte, when they’re all in double figures.”

There’s one big caveat in the team’s 13 missed free throws against DePaul. GW went 14-27. The Colonials can’t expect to lead every game by 20 at halftime and have cushion to use if an opponent starts pressing and fouling wildly like DePaul did.

Those numbers are uncomfortably similar to the 14-24 mark GW hit against Memphis in the NCAA Tournament last year. Shooting freebies like that will put a damper on the Colonials’ chances to pull out tough wins against even better opponents. GW could face Wichita State in Hawaii.

But trouble from the line or not, now is a good time for the Colonials to know themselves. GW won’t be back to the Smith Center – where the team has won 19 of the last 20 games – until Dec. 30. Conference play starts four days later.

“I think we’re more focused now. We’ve picked it out, our defense. We’ve been focusing,” Garino said. “We’re passing the ball much more.”

It’s worth remembering that the Wooden Legacy tournament was where last year’s team beat Creighton to build its NCAA case, and GW still doesn’t have a true, signature win. Larsen’s improvement could be helping the Colonials hit their stride at just the right time.

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Junior Kevin Larsen came alive in the Colonials 81-68 domination over the Blue Devils, recording 18 points and 8 rebounds. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor

Junior Kevin Larsen came alive in the Colonials’ 81-68 domination over the Blue Demons, recording 18 points and eight rebounds. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor

Updated: Dec. 12, 2014 at 12:06 p.m.

Men’s basketball dominated DePaul inside, scoring more than half of their points in the paint, to defeat the Blue Demons 81-68 Thursday at the Smith Center.

Junior forward Patricio Garino guided the Colonials (6-2) with a team-high 19 points, followed closely by junior Kevin Larsen, who led the team with eight rebounds and scored 18 points to share the second top-scoring spot with junior point guard Joe McDonald.

Against a sharp-shooting DePaul (6-2) team that had the 21st best field goal shooting percentage in the country coming into the contest (.495), GW was able to hold the edge and shoot 57.1 percent on the night to the Blue Demons’ 49.1 percent mark.

“There was really no letdown. We missed some easy buckets, but we never really let any of their guys get going,” head coach Mike Lonergan said. “It’s two games in a row now that we’ve played teams with some talent inside and they didn’t really hurt us too much.”

While DePaul struggled to get the ball in the net, GW thrived down low. The Colonials would finish the night outscoring the Blue Demons 54-24 in the paint and out-rebounding them 38-28.

“[Outscoring DePaul in the paint] was a big plus, but I thought we would be struggling a little more to score inside because both of their big guys are really good players,” Larsen said. “But that motivated us to try to go at them and show that we are better players.”

Three Colonials would end the first half scoring in double figures, helping GW secure a commanding 20-point lead at halftime. Larsen led with 11 first-half points, while Garino and McDonald each scored 10.

“Kevin [Larsen] is so much more effective inside where he can score and do a lot of things,” Lonergan said. “That’s opened up a lot of driving lanes for Patricio [Garino] … and allows guys to get to the rim, and I think that’s why Patricio is shooting an unbelievable percentage in the last three games.”

GW shot an impressive 60 percent from the field in the first half to DePaul’s 34.6 percent and demolished their Big East opponent 28-6 in the paint. Junior guard Kethan Savage scored two points but had a team-high five rebounds, as his team would out-rebound the Blue Demons 21-12 in the first frame.

An 11-4 run by DePaul early in the second half kept the Blue Demons in the game, but DePaul’s 15th of 24 total personal fouls sent GW to the line, slowing down the game.

Sophomore guard Nick Griffin knocked down one of his two threes on the night moments later to liven a quieting crowd and give the Colonials a 52-33 lead. Griffin and freshmen Yuta Watanabe led the bench with six points each, while Watanabe also contributed five rebounds and two assists in the 13-point GW victory.

Junior Joe McDonald didn't stray from the basket as he scored 18 points over in GW's 81-68 win over DePaul. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor

Junior Joe McDonald didn’t stray from the basket as he scored 18 points in GW’s 81-68 win over DePaul. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor

Garino had shot 62 percent in GW’s previous four games and went eight for nine from the field against DePaul, also totaling five of the Colonials’ 10 steals.

“I think pressuring the ball on defense allows me to run the transition,” Garino said. “And I think I’m going to the rim and making layups. I have to pick up my free-throw shooting, but I feel comfortable and again, pressuring the ball opens everything for me.”

Despite the Blue Demons’ improved 63 percent shooting in the second half and GW’s 14-27 mark at the free throw line, the Colonials would hold on for the fourth consecutive win at home this season. GW is now 19-1 in their last 20 games at the Smith Center.

The Colonials will look to extend their three-game winning streak Sunday as they head to University Park, Pa. to take on Penn State at 12 p.m.

This post was updated to reflect the following corrections:
In a photo caption, The Hatchet incorrectly identified DePaul as the Blue Devils. They are the Blue Demons. The Hatchet also incorrectly reported that the rebounding margin was 31-21. It was 38-28. We regret these errors.

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Junior Joe McDonald recorded 11 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists in GW's 78-70 win over the 49ers at the Verizon Center on Sunday. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor

Junior Joe McDonald recorded 11 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in GW’s 78-70 win over the 49ers at the Verizon Center on Sunday. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor

There’s no “I” in team.

Head coach Mike Lonergan rattled off the familiar cliché when describing his team’s success at the BB&T Classic, where they secured a 78-70 victory over Charlotte for their fifth win of the young season.

“I always tell our guys, ‘Hey, there’s no ‘I’ in team,’ and it really is true,” Lonergan said. “And we’ve got to play for each other because we have a chance to be a very good team, but we’ve got to take advantage of each of our strengths and hide our weaknesses, and we can’t do that individually.”

The fourth-year head coach said the Colonials “tried to do too much on [their] own” in their 58-54 loss to a still undefeated Seton Hall on Nov. 29. Up against former Atlantic 10 rival Charlotte on Sunday, GW proved just how important playing as a team can be.

In the eight-point victory, an evenly filled stat sheet and unselfish play helped GW overcome many of the struggles the team has faced so far this season.

GW had just seven assists in the loss to Seton Hall, while junior forward Kevin Larsen, the team’s go-to big man, scored just three points. But smarter passing got everyone involved Sunday, as the Colonials totaled 17 assists and the starting GW frontcourt combined for 17 points.

But the scoring didn’t stop there. Junior point guard Joe McDonald flirted with a triple-double, tallying eight rebounds, eight assists and 11 points on the day, and for the first time this season, all four starting juniors would score in double figures.

McDonald now leads the team with 6.9 rebounds per game, a rare statistic for a point guard, but he says rebounding is just another shared team responsibility.

“You know we’re missing Zeek, and you don’t want to put all of that pressure on Kevin [Larsen] and John [Kopriva],” McDonald said. “It’s not just me. Kethan [Savage] rebounds, Patricio [Garino] does, so it’s more a team effort.”

While McDonald has served as a rebounding guard all season, players moved outside of traditional roles in another way on Sunday. Instead of relying solely on their three-point specialists like Watanabe and sophomore Nick Griffin, who scored the only two threes in the Seton Hall loss, the Colonials saw improved three-point shooting Sunday, going a season high .500 from beyond the arc.

GW was able to get open looks for McDonald, Kopriva, Jorgensen and junior Kethan Savage who combined for five three-pointers on the day.

“We’ve been shooting very poorly from the three-point line this year. It’s no secret … but almost every three we took [today] was wide open. For us, five for 10 is excellent,” Lonergan said.

The Colonials also managed a season-high .750 shooting percentage from the line against the 49ers, led by McDonald who went 6-7, as five Colonials combined for 15 crucial points from the charity stripe.

The change may not be by accident or just a random switch. Lonergan said he was hoping the team would be 6-1 at this point instead of 5-2, calling the loss at Seton Hall a disappointment. He mentioned the presence of NBA scouts at practices as a distraction and said he may have been “too into” the team’s preseason pick as second in the A-10, which he discussed with the team.

“I just told the guys really after Virginia and Seton Hall that I don’t want to hear about the NBA and all that stuff. That stuff will come if you win games and play as a team,” Lonergan said. “Winning takes care of everything … These guys have got a lot of goals but the team goals come first.”

The work continues for the Colonials as they return to the Smith Center to take on DePaul on Thursday at 7 p.m.

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The Colonials were looking for a solid win, a statement about the strength and dependability of the junior “core four.” They got one.

Despite taking 18 fewer shots, GW (5-2) scored at will against former Atlantic 10 rival Charlotte (4-4), pulling away in the second half to beat the 49ers in the BB&T Classic at the Verizon Center on Sunday.

Led by Patricio Garino’s 21 points, each member of the junior core hit double figures to win 78-70, with much of the team’s best work on offense coming above the rim.

“I thought we controlled the tempo and ended up getting them in foul trouble, and I thought our guys played a really smart second half,” head coach Mike Lonergan said. “It kind of felt like our team again, getting to the rim with Kethan [Savage] and Pato [Garino] getting to the basket and opening some things up.”

Junior Joe McDonald controlled the game as GW topped Charlotte 78-70 at the Verizon Center. In 32 minutes of play, McDonald recorded 11 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor

Junior Joe McDonald controlled the game as GW topped Charlotte 78-70 at the Verizon Center. In 32 minutes of play, McDonald recorded 11 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor

When GW took shots, the majority of them fell. The Colonials shot nearly 55 percent from the field and shot 50 percent from beyond the three-point line, compared to Charlotte, which shot less than 40 percent from the field and just over 42 percent from beyond the arc.

But they didn’t always shoot. GW had nine fewer shot attempts than Charlotte in each half, allowing the 49ers to stay close despite strong shooting. Charlotte owned the offensive boards 19-8 and out-rebounded GW 37-34 in the game overall.

“One thing we’ve got to be better at is finishing the play. They got so many offensive rebounds, especially Willie Clayton, but other than that, we stuck to the game plan,” junior point guard Joe McDonald said.

Junior forward Kevin Larsen, a source of much concern earlier in the season, had another nice game after turning in a 14-point performance the last time out against UMBC. He scored 10 points and had six rebounds, including a precious three offensive rebounds, matched only off the offensive glass by Savage, who had a 15-point night.

Junior Patricio Garino had 21 points in the Colonials 78-70 win over the 49ers. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor

Junior Patricio Garino had 21 points in the Colonials’ 78-70 win over the 49ers. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor

Larsen also benefited from the foul trouble of Charlotte’s leading scorer, Mike Thorne Jr., who was held to just 21 minutes of play after picking up four fouls early in the second half when it was still close.

The Colonials went to the lockers up 31-28 after getting nearly all of their offense in the first half from Garino. The junior swingman scored 12 of his points in the first half on perfect 6-6 shooting on the way to his second straight game scoring 20 points or more.

“I think we’re pushing the ball a little more. I feel very confident in transition and I feel like we’re pushing the ball ahead,” Garino said. “We’re not being so selfish in the two-on-one, three-on-one game, and that’s what I feel comfortable with.”

With the Colonials down by two at 12-10, Garino followed up on two straight blocks from freshman forward Yuta Watanabe, the first of which would have been a surefire dunk off the fast break for Charlotte, with a steal and a one-handed slam of his own to tie the game.

Another steal, this time by sophomore guard Nick Griffin, gave Garino an easy layup. He scored GW’s next three baskets, including another dunk fed by a McDonald steal. McDonald filled the stat sheet with 11 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, again hinting at a triple-double.

With the starters taking over for GW, both teams used their benches lightly. Charlotte’s bench outscored GW’s 17-14, but the Colonials got a nice boost from freshman Paul Jorgensen, especially in the first half.

Visibly upset after being called for a travel, Jorgensen responded with five straight points, laying one in and then elevating for a rebound on the other end before putting GW up 29-26 with a triple. Jorgensen finished the game with eight points, showing some development going into a tough stretch of games to close out non-conference play.

“I thought it was really important when you look at our schedule,” Lonergan said. “This was definitely a game we had to get not being on our home court but in our home city.”

Besides a win over a Rutgers squad that had the college basketball world’s head spinning, the victory was GW’s first against a team not ranked in the Division I cellar of the NCAA.

That should give the team some confidence as it heads into the final games of non-conference play, starting with DePaul (6-1) on Thursday in the Smith Center.

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Junior guard Patricio Garino scored a season-high 23 points and secured a team-leading seven rebounds Thursday against UMBC, guiding the Colonials to an 83-60 victory and their fourth win of the season.

But Garino was not alone: All but one dressed GW player scored, and all five starters finished with at least seven points and three rebounds each, as the Colonials shot 44.9 percent from the field and outscored UMBC 44-26 in the paint on the night.

“The first half was kind of sloppy … and we had some breakdowns, but it was good to get Kevin [Larsen] off to a good start,” head coach Mike Lonergan said. “[Larsen] scored a lot inside, and Patricio did a good job attacking the basket … so it’s nice to get out with a win, no injuries, and get a lot of our young guys some playing time.”

Following a disappointing performance against Seton Hall, junior forward Kevin Larsen bounced back against the Retrievers, trailing Garino with 14 points and six rebounds on the night.

“You always want to do better than you did the last game,” Larsen said. “I was definitely more motivated and just trying to get my game back to where it was last year.”

The Colonials were able fire up the crowd early, as a familiar alley-oop from Savage to Garino opened up the scoring and gave GW a lead that it would maintain all night.

Garino led the team in the first half with 12 points and two steals as the Colonials shot an impressive 58.6 percent from the field in the frame to the Retrievers’ 46.2 percent. Larsen led the half with five rebounds and scored 10 points from the field.

Junior guard/forward Patricio Garino completes a layup during the GW's victory over the UMBC Retrievers. Francis Rivera | Senior Staff Photographer

Junior guard/forward Patricio Garino completes a layup during GW’s victory over the UMBC Retrievers. Francis Rivera | Senior Staff Photographer

But UMBC remained in the game at halftime, only down by 12 heading into the locker room because of their stellar shooting from beyond the arc. Half of the Retrievers’ 12 field goals in the half came from deep, despite GW holding the No. 1 spot in three-point defense entering the game.

However, GW was able to tighten up defensively in the second half, forcing the Retrievers to shoot 0-6 from three in the final frame, and causing UMBC to turn the ball over 21 times on the night to the Colonials’ nine.

Although the Colonials also finished with a 40-30 rebounding edge over the Retrievers, collecting 16 offensive rebounds to UMBC’s four, Lonergan said senior forward John Kopriva and Larsen still need to improve their board play.

“Eight or 10 minutes in, I told John, ‘You have no fouls and no rebounds,’ and then he really started playing hard,” Lonergan said. “It’s kind of contagious when guys play hard, but I think we should be a much better offensive rebounding team … Our guards can really rebound, but we’ve also got to get our bigs rebounding better.”

The Colonials also set two defensive season-high records with eight blocks and 12 steals. Kopriva had a team-high three blocks.

Junior Ryan McCoy also saw his first significant minutes of the season, after he was sidelined with a minor back injury, and hit a three-pointer early in the first to put up his first points as a Colonial.

The Manhattan transfer was one of six Colonials to score off the bench, as the reserves recorded a total of 24 points on the night. But Lonergan said he is still looking to his starters to make the biggest impact on the court.

“It’s hard for me to get confidence in too many guys, especially young guys,” Lonergan said. “These juniors should be able to play a lot of minutes, and hopefully they’ll be focused because we’ve got some great opponents coming up.”

The Colonials return to action Sunday in the BB&T Classic at the Verizon Center, where they will take on Charlotte at 2:30 p.m.

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Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014 10:01 p.m.

Preview: GW men’s basketball vs. UMBC

Junior Joe McDonald drives to the net in GW's win over Rutgers earlier this season. File Photo by Dan Rich | Hatchet Photographer

Junior Joe McDonald drives to the net in GW’s win over Rutgers earlier this season. File Photo by Dan Rich | Hatchet Photographer

What: GW (3-2) vs. UMBC (0-6)
Where: Smith Center
When: Thursday, Dec. 4 at 7 p.m.

Head coach Mike Lonergan said the Colonials will look to “take out [their] frustration” against UMBC on Thursday, following a four-point loss to Seton Hall over the weekend.

The Retrievers remain winless through six games, dropping their most recent contest 65-52 to Maryland-Eastern on Tuesday. Expect UMBC to have a tough time scoring against a more rested GW squad that comes into the contest ranked 21st nationally in scoring defense at 55.2 points allowed per game.

Much like last week’s game against Longwood, Thursday will serve as an opportunity for the struggling Colonials to regain confidence. Junior forward Kevin Larsen, who scored just three points against Seton Hall, will especially need to bounce back to ease concerns about the GW frontcourt.

The case for UMBC:
Senior guard Wayne Sparrow, who leads the Retrievers with 11.7 points per game, and senior forward Cody Joyce, who’s second in scoring and leading the team with five rebounds per game, will each need huge nights against a stifling GW defense for UMBC to pull off an upset.

The duo has tried to make up for the significant offensive loss of sophomore guard Rodney Elliott, the reigning America East Rookie of the Year who averaged 15 points per game in his first season and is out indefinitely this year due to a shoulder injury.

As a team, the Retrievers will need to drastically improve both facets of their game to take down the Colonials. A dismal 53 points per game puts them at 347th out of 351 Division I teams in scoring, and a 305th ranking in rebounding, compared to GW’s 67th, means some colossal individual performances will be required to secure the team’s first win.

The case for GW:
The Colonials are averaging 16.8 more points per game than UMBC and shooting about 45 percent from the field, compared to the Retriever’s 38 percent. If the Colonials can hit their shots and improve their inside play, they will dominate the game.

Look for the GW defense to force turnovers easily against a UMBC team that has already totaled 96 on the season, while the Colonials have only tallied 63. Also expect the Colonials to be more aggressive on the boards and most likely out-rebound the Retrievers by a wide margin, following a game against Seton Hall in which Lonergan said his team was “out-toughed.”

It will also prove to be another game where GW’s bench sees substantial minutes. Expect all five rookies and sophomore Nick Griffin to have significant playing time once the Colonials secure a lead.

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Friday, Nov. 28, 2014 11:54 p.m.

Preview: Men’s basketball at Seton Hall

What: Men’s basketball (3-1) vs. Seton Hall (4-0)
Where: Prudential Center, Newark, N.J.
When: Saturday, Nov. 29 at 4 p.m.

Two evenly matched teams – projections have this a one-possession game – will go strength-on-strength Saturday: GW’s stingy defense against a Seton Hall offense that has scored 80 points in back-to-back games.

The Pirates sail home from the Virgin Islands with the Paradise Jam title in hand, looking to prove their success was not merely because of a bracket lampooning at the tournament, which matched them up with Nevada, Gardner Webb and Illinois State. Meanwhile, the Colonials will try to play more smoothly together than they did against Longwood on Wednesday.

The Pirates are slightly favored at home, but the game will likely come down to which squad is able to recover quickly from its last game and bring energy to the Prudential Center.

The case for Seton Hall:
After playing just three days before, fatigue may work against the Colonials. Head coach Mike Lonergan lamented having to give his starters serious minutes in the Longwood game, which was more competitive than anticipated. Patricio Garino, Kevin Larsen and Joe McDonald each played over 30 minutes.

Junior Sterling Gibbs has been on fire for the Pirates, putting up a 40-spot in the Paradise Jam finale. The guard is averaging 22 points per game – and any player shooting .542, .632 from beyond the arc and .889 from the charity stripe is going to be tough to stop.

Highly touted freshman prospect Isaiah Whitehead seems to be getting his sea legs, scoring 18 points with six assists against Illinois State, and the guard combo of Whitehead and Gibbs will be a tough matchup for the GW backcourt.

The case for GW:
The inside game has been shaky at times during this young season for GW, but it should have the advantage on Saturday.

Freshman Angel Delgado is averaging over 10 points per game, but was shut down in the Pirates’ most recent contest where the freshman forward scored just one point. The combination of Kevin Larsen, John Kopriva and Yuta Watanabe’s versatility will be tough for Delgado along with Brandon Mobley and Rashed Anthony to guard.

Through four games, the Pirates have been averaging a better shooting percentage, .467, on three-pointers than on two-point field goals, where they are shooting .438. That sharp-shooting success could run smack into the Colonials’ stellar three-point defense, which is allowing opponents just three triples per game on .214 shooting.

Seton Hall has a talented crop of freshmen, including Whitehead and Delgado, but GW’s maturity advantage should also come in handy both as a team that starts more upperclassmen and has already faced tough competition this season. One thing the Colonials have yet to do is clamp down with a big run when it actually matters, and Saturday could change that if Seton Hall’s rookies get flustered with the new level of competition.

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Updated: Nov. 27, 2014 at 1:19 p.m.

On the night before Thanksgiving, the Colonials (3-1) filled up on second-half points and saw five players carve their way to double figures, topping Longwood (2-4) after scoring 55 points in the second half.

But the game was not without its frustrations for head coach Mike Lonergan, as the Lancers hung around in the first half.

“I told my guys this is one film I’m not going to watch, and that’s hard for me,” Lonergan said.“I think we can be so good, but we just have to put our emphasis back on rebounding and on defense and not on scoring or individual things, and we’ve got to become a team again. Tonight was the first night, even our bench, I heard them saying ‘pass the ball.’”

Senior forward John Kopriva drives to the basket in an exhibition game earlier this season. Kopriva had a career night Wednesday as the Colonials topped Longwood 91-66. | Hatchet File Photo.

Senior forward John Kopriva drives to the basket in an exhibition game earlier this season. Kopriva had a career night Wednesday as the Colonials topped Longwood 91-66. Hatchet File Photo.

But while the pieces weren’t always clicking together, the 91-66 win did come with a special accolade for senior forward John Kopriva, sometimes the forgotten man in GW’s starting five, who had a career night with 19 points and six rebounds.

He passed his career total with a Kevin Larsen-assisted layup that made it 67-55 and got him a shot at an extra point, which he made. Kopriva was 6-9 from the line and was greeted by a standing, clapping group of teammates as he went to the pine with less than three minutes to play.

“I was feeling it for a little bit. Kev [Larsen] hit me right away to start it off and got a couple quick buckets and that always helps. You start getting into a rhythm. I’ve just gotta be able to do it again. It can’t be a one-time thing,” Kopriva said. “It felt good to put the ball in the basket.”

He put it in six times on eight attempts from the field, even adding a three in the first half, which he followed with a trip to the line after grabbing his own offensive rebound.

Kopriva’s frontcourt mate, Larsen, also had a strong night after a quiet first half. Though the Colonials’ first play gave Larsen the ball inside on a pass from junior point guard Joe McDonald, the junior forward scored just four points before halftime.

But Larsen came out of the lockers with more aggression, getting to the line and having, as Lonergan said, “his way inside,” to finish the game with 16 points, three rebounds and four assists.

He smashed a two-handed dunk and followed up with a rare three-pointer – he had his first in the team’s season opener – jogging down the sideline flashing the three point symbol after draining the triple.

Larsen and the rest of the Colonials, however, could not contain Longwood center Lotanna Nwogbo. Nwogbo did the vast majority of the scoring for the Lancers, scoring a game-high 25 points. He didn’t miss from the field until late in the second half, ending the night on 10-11 scoring.

“It was his strength. It’s no secret we’re not really that big inside. He was able to post John up really close to the basket,” Lonergan said. “We were going to double him every time and we couldn’t get the double there quick enough. And he got his confidence early, he got to the rim.”

But Nwogbo was one of just two Longwood players to finish in double figures. Even players who did not reach double figures in scoring filled the stat sheet for GW, with McDonald adding 10 rebounds and seven assists to his eight points, grabbing some long rebounds but also often beating larger players off the glass inside. He helped GW out-rebound Longwood 40-29 in the game, with Lonergan putting him on triple-double watch for the season.

“I mean if he made his free throws,” Lonergan quipped. “I tell you what, he’ll get one [triple double]. Rebounds you would think the hardest thing and he’s been there a bunch of times.”

“Joe’s just manhandling people at 6-foot-1 so it’s fun to watch him,” he said.

McDonald’s backup, sophomore Nick Griffin, brought the heat from downtown, scoring 11 points in the game bolstered by 2-3 shooting from beyond the arc and a 5-6 mark from the free throw line. GW ended the game shooting nearly 52 percent from the field.

The Colonials also showed signs of improvement at the free throw line, shooting nearly 70 percent from the stripe, where they added 27 points to Longwood’s 11 on the Lancers’ 19 attempts.

Despite the win, Lonergan said he was not able to rest his starters as much as he had hoped while the game was still competitive. GW has a quick turnaround as team heads on the road to play Seton Hall on Saturday at 4 p.m.

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that Larsen’s first three pointer came in the team’s exhibition game this season. It was during the season opener. We regret this error.

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Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014 9:04 p.m.

Preview: GW men’s basketball vs. Longwood

Joe McDonald played 38 minutes in GW's first loss of the season to UVA on Friday night, more than any other GW player. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor

Joe McDonald played 38 minutes in the Colonials’ first loss of the season to UVA on Friday night, more than any other GW player. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor

What: GW (2-1) vs. Longwood (2-3)
Where: Smith Center
When: Wednesday, Nov. 26 at 7 p.m.

After then-No. 9 Virginia’s stifling, suffocating defense proved too much on the road last Friday, the Colonials will look for a bounce-back win against a much weaker team that plays a much faster style of basketball.

Longwood, which went 8-24 last season, may not always be the team doing the scoring, but either the Lancers or their opponents have topped 70 points in every game they have played this year, ranking 63rd in Division I in adjusted tempo, according to the Ken Pomoroy ratings. The Colonials, on the other hand, are playing a middle-of-the-pack 161st in tempo, but are riding a NCAA 12th-best scoring defense.

The game should serve as a tune-up, particularly for players like Kevin Larsen and Patricio Garino who were shut down by the Cavaliers, before the team heads into a much more competitive Thanksgiving break road matchup against Seton Hall on Saturday.

The case for Longwood:
Longwood has gotten a boost from Tulane transfer Lotanna Nwogbo, a center who is averaging nearly 15 points and eight rebounds per game while shooting 60 percent from the field.

That means GW’s post presence, which was strangely missing against Virginia, will be challenged more than other areas of the game. Even Nwogbo should be overmatched by a player like Larsen, but Longwood should put up enough of a fight inside to provide a barometer for how the Colonials respond to their first loss.

The Lancers do have recent historical success against GW, having won the previous matchup in 2009 on their home court 80-78.

The case for GW:
If the Lancers continue to play fast, GW’s defense should be able to turn that speed into a frenzy of turnovers. Longwood is averaging nearly 20 per game so far, including over 11 steals per game.

The Colonials also have a height advantage at nearly every matchup and should be able to dominate the game physically. The Lancers have struggled to rebound, where GW owns a 40.7-34 advantage over opponents, so the Colonials should be able to turn Longwood’s pace into plenty of possessions.

That advantage should also help revive the passing game as GW should be able to get plenty of assists on plays over and around Longwood.

The Lancers are overmatched in this game, so the measuring stick may become how much fire it seems like the team has after the Virginia game, as well as how much rest head coach Mike Lonergan can give his starters before suiting up at Seton Hall just three days later.

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