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Mike Lonergan

Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016 3:42 p.m.

Photos: Colonials beat VCU on the Road

Seniors Kevin Larsen and Patricio Garino hug in celebration of their third in-conference road win of the season. Cameron Lancaster | Senior Staff Photographer

Seniors Kevin Larsen and Patricio Garino hug in celebration of their third in-conference road win of the season. Cameron Lancaster | Senior Staff Photographer

Senior Patricio Garino slams a dunk en route to his team-high 27 points in GW's win over VCU. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

Senior Patricio Garino slams a dunk en route to his team-high 27 points in GW’s win over VCU. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

Redshirt junior Tyler Cavanaugh drives to the hoop in the Colonials' win against VCU. Cameron Lancaster | Senior Staff Photographer

Redshirt junior Tyler Cavanaugh drives to the hoop in the Colonials’ win against VCU. Cameron Lancaster | Senior Staff Photographer

Patricio Garino celebrates a three point basket. Garino went four for seven from beyond the arc. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

Patricio Garino celebrates a three point basket. Garino went four for seven from beyond the arc. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

Graduate student Alex Mitola contributed five points off the bench in GW's win. Cameron Lancaster | Senior Staff Photographer

Graduate student Alex Mitola contributed five points off the bench in GW’s win. Cameron Lancaster | Senior Staff Photographer

Senior guard Joe McDonald exits the court at the Siegel Center after GW's win against VCU. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

Senior guard Joe McDonald exits the court at the Siegel Center after GW’s win against VCU. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

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The Colonials celebrate their 72-69 victory over VCU at the Siegel Center in Richmond, Va. Senior swingman Patricio Garino led GW with 27 points. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

The Colonials celebrate their 72-69 victory over VCU at the Siegel Center in Richmond, Va. Senior swingman Patricio Garino led GW with 27 points. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

On Saturday morning, senior swingman Patricio Garino looked up his team’s record against VCU over the past four years. The Colonials had one win against VCU and had never won in the Siegel Center.

“I was a little embarrassed to be honest,” Garino said. “Only being able to beat them once? That wasn’t the right thing for us to leave here, our legacy.”

By midday, Garino was amidst a 27-point, four rebound performance, the best of his career, that led the Colonials to a 72-69 win in Richmond Saturday afternoon, the first win allowed by VCU in 12 games, including all of Atlantic 10 play.

He was GW’s most reliable presence at the rim, in the right spots for putbacks and shaking his defenders for transition dunks, while still shooting 4-for-7 from beyond the arc.

But the shot that put GW (18-8, 7-3 A-10) up for good came off a – rare – Garino miss. Senior forward Kevin Larsen (nine points, seven rebounds, three assists) snagged a rebound and passed to senior point guard Joe McDonald, who sank a three to put the Colonials up by one with 1:12 to play.

“The defense was just collapsing and I had a chance to get a wide-open shot,” McDonald said.
“Thankfully it went in, I know my three hasn’t been falling a lot lately but I’m never going to complain winning one at VCU.”

McDonald blocked a layup attempt by VCU point guard JeQuan Lewis (16 points, five assists) on the other end, and the Colonials called a timeout. VCU (17-6, 9-1 A-10) began its next possession with 33 seconds left, but with 10 remaining on the clock had not found anything. First-year head coach Will Wade called timeout and drew up a play designed to get his leading scorer, Melvin Johnson, a three-point look from the corner. He got it, but Johnson missed. VCU guard Korey Billbury collected the rebound but sophomore guard Yuta Watanabe (two points, six rebounds, one block) got a hand on his attempted layup, which missed as well.

“I almost had a heart attack,” Garino said. “It was a clean layup but luckily he missed it, Yuta had a good contest and we got the ball but it was definitely scary.”

McDonald (11 points, five rebounds, two assists, two steals) came up with the ball, got fouled, and hit a free throw to put away the game.

“I’m glad they took a three, I don’t know if I could have handled overtime,” head coach Mike Lonergan said.

Garino’s transition scoring, especially, helped the Colonials close the gap in the paint and then some

Senior point guard Joe McDonald drives in for a layup in GW's win against VCU Saturday. McDonald scored 11 points and added five rebounds. Cameron Lancaster | Senior Staff Photographer

Senior point guard Joe McDonald drives in for a layup in GW’s win against VCU Saturday. McDonald scored 11 points and added five rebounds. Cameron Lancaster | Senior Staff Photographer

in the second half, finishing with a 32-26 advantage in inside scoring and a 16-9 mark in second-chance points despite being out rebounded 42-35 and 12-8 on the offensive glass.

Lonergan said that the Colonials were hesitant to box out at times because of VCU’s athleticism, but that he expected to win the rebounding battle. Redshirt Junior forward Tyler Cavanaugh led the Colonials with eight rebounds to go with his 11 points, though he missed much of the first half with foul trouble.

The game stayed within five points for the entire first half, which had five ties and six lead changes. The Colonials shot 42 percent to VCU’s 35 and made five three-pointers, but the Rams dominated the paint 18-8.

The second half started on a promising note for the Colonials, with Larsen getting his first points of the game to tie the score at 31.

But VCU quickly opened up a nine-point lead with an 11-2 run including three consecutive three-pointers and eight straight VCU points from Lewis.

“We scored the first bucket and tied it up and then boom,” Lonergan said. “Three threes in a row, the crowd got into it, I’m like, ‘Oh, boy, here we go again.’ So our guys kind of hung in there. We had to grind it out.”

The Colonials responded with a 7-0 run of their own, with five of the points coming from Garino. Back and forth they went, trading runs. But the Rams never got more than a 7-0 run going after that, mitigating at least a little bit of the damage from the sellout crowd in the Siegel Center.

“It can get out of hand so quickly here,” McDonald said.

The win adds some heft to the Colonials’ NCAA Tournament case, which was looking a bit shaky entering the game. GW is in the middle of one of the toughest stretches of its season, with its next game coming Wednesday against Saint Joseph’s.

For now, though, Lonergan will enjoy the moment.

“It was nice to finally win here,” Lonergan said.

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Friday, Feb. 5, 2016 10:49 p.m.

Preview: Men’s basketball vs. VCU

Senior Patricio Garino scores in transition against Davidson Wednesday night. The Colonials continue one of the toughest stretches in their schedule Saturday afternoon at VCU. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

Senior Patricio Garino scores in transition against Davidson Wednesday night. The Colonials continue one of the toughest stretches in their schedule Saturday afternoon at VCU. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

What: Men’s basketball (17-5, 6-3 A-10) vs. VCU (17-5, 9-0 A-10)

Where: Siegel Center, Richmond, Va., CBSSN (TV)

When: Saturday, Feb. 5 at 12 p.m.

The more things change, the more they…

OK, you get it. It’s that time of year, folks. GW’s heading down to Richmond for a matchup at VCU. The Rams are atop the Atlantic 10 with a perfect conference record. So much for that adjustment year, head coach Will Wade has VCU on a 12-game winning streak going into the contest.

Here’s what to expect from the game:

The case for the Colonials:

It’s always possible VCU is due for a stinker, but that’s definitely not something for Colonials fans to count on.

Teams with size have fared well against VCU, and GW will have a size advantage in the game. The 6-foot-10 Michael Gilmore and 6-foot-9 Ahmed Hamdy-Mohamed will see time, but the majority of VCU’s minutes up front go to Mo Alie-Cox and Justin Tillman, both 6-foot-7. Alie-Cox (9.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game) has been a difficult matchup for GW in the past, but the addition of Tyler Cavanaugh and Yuta Watanabe’s development into a better around-the-rim player (which has been apparent in the last two games, though Watanabe had a tough stretch at the beginning of the conference season) could open up the paint to GW’s advantage.

The Colonials have had the best rebounding margin (with the most offensive rebounds and third-most defensive rebounds) in the league in conference play, while VCU is fifth. The worst-case scenario for GW is VCU getting on a big run in their packed house, and a good performance on the boards should help prevent that and keep things close.

If the game is close, the Colonials will have one thing on their side: free throws. GW has the third-best free throw percentage (75) in conference play while VCU has the worst (67).

The case for the Rams:

VCU is a difficult matchup for GW. The Rams still use essentially the same defensive pressure (9.1 steals per game and a +5.22 turnover margin in conference play, both best in the league) they did under Shaka Smart, but it’s VCU’s offense that may pose the biggest threat. The Rams have averaged an A-10-best 83.8 points per game since conference play began and are outscoring opponents by 15.6 points per game.

Point guard JeQuan Lewis is averaging 11.2 points and 4.8 assists per game after working to become more of a passer during the offseason. He’s critical to the motion and ball-screen work VCU has been difficult to stop with and, as the kind of quick guard GW typically struggles against, will be a huge challenge. He’ll have a speed advantage on Joe McDonald so GW’s bigs will have to lock down the paint to prevent him from driving easily, especially since he’s been near-perfect from the free throw line in conference play.

6-foot-4 senior guard Melvin Johnson is VCU’s top scorer, at 19 points per game, and he’s actually shooting slightly better (44 percent) from beyond the arc than in front of it (43 percent). Head coach Mike Lonergan may handle him with a combination of Patricio Garino and Yuta Watanabe, hoping to limit Johnson’s options with their length. With both Garino and Watanabe on the court, the other would likely take guard Korey Billbury, who’s getting 11.0 points per game to go with 5.1 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.2 steals per game.

Still, GW will have to prepare for a lot of different matchups, since Will Wade plays a solid ten-deep. That tenth man, guard Jonathan Williams, still averages 11.9 points per game, which translates to a Rams team that will still be relatively fresh at the end of this one.

The bottom line: A win here would do a lot for GW’s NCAA Tournament resume, but it’s not likely. Recent history, at least, says VCU should win here. Still, the Colonials seem to be trending up, and they’re a scary team when playing to full potential. A sustained 40-minute effort with good team defense and rebounding, plus points at the free throw line, seems like the formula for an upset in this one.

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Sophomore forward Yuta Watanabe celebrates a dunk in GW's 79 to 69 win over Davidson. Watanabe registered 13 points going 5-for-7 from the field. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

Sophomore forward Yuta Watanabe celebrates a dunk in GW’s 79 to 69 win over Davidson. Watanabe registered 13 points going 5-for-7 from the field. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

For two basketball teams in D.C. Wednesday night, the challenge at hand was how to handle the best shooting team, and player, in their league.

While the Wizards anguished against Steph Curry and the Warriors down the street, the Colonials got their first win against Davidson as Atlantic 10 rivals in a 79‒69 victory, holding the Wildcats nearly 12 points below their season scoring average.

“Tonight, for the most part, I thought we were pretty focused defensively, talking more and just trying to help each other out and that’s what we should do,” head coach Mike Lonergan said.

The win put GW back on track at home after a double-overtime loss to Richmond last time out in the Smith Center, and began a difficult stretch in the Colonials’ A-10 schedule on a high note. Lonergan said he felt good after the win.

“Much better than I did six days ago,” he said. “[The Richmond loss] was a rough night for me, turning 50 years old, depressing, losing in double-overtime my first [home] loss of the year. It takes me a long time to recover from those games. The losses just kill me so, but it was really about our team defense.”

GW led for most of the second half but didn’t get much separation until around the six-minute mark. Graduate student Alex Mitola, who had thought about a three from the other side of the court but couldn’t get open, dribbled under the basket and turned around for a short jumper from the other side.

Davidson’s leading scorer Jack Gibbs turned it over on their next possession and Tyler Cavanaugh (16 points, six rebounds) hit a catch and shoot three from Patricio Garino (17 points) that put GW up by eight, 68‒60, with 5:54 to play.

The closest Davidson got after that point was when Gibbs drained a three to reach his normal scoring average, 25 points, and cut GW’s lead to 74‒69 with 1:34 left in the game.

But, after a pair of free throws for Cavanaugh, Larsen nabbed a rebound and fed

Senior guard Joe McDonald flies through the air for a basket in the Colonials' win against Davidson. McDonald led GW with 10 rebounds. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

Senior guard Joe McDonald flies through the air for a basket in the Colonials’ win against Davidson. McDonald led GW with 10 rebounds. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

sophomore Yuta Watanabe up the court. The sprinting Watanabe (13 points, six rebounds) slammed it home ‒ his second dunk of the night after a stunning fakeout of forward Peyton Aldridge that put GW up 43-40 early in the second half ‒ and the Colonials led 78‒69, one free throw from Larsen away from the final tally.

Gibbs led all scorers with 25 points, opening up late with a 6-for-12 second-half effort including a few late jumpers that kept the game in question. Yuta Watanabe kept Gibbs quiet in the first half but Davidson’s leading scorer had more success late when Lonergan switched Garino onto him.

“He’s a great player who’s got some tools,” Garino said. “You can’t be guessing with him. If you’re trying to get the 3-pointer out of him, he’s going to drive to the basket, and vice versa. I think the mentality was not letting him go right so often, which was a challenge.”

Garino struggled when Gibbs got space to get around him, but senior forward Kevin Larsen (seven points, six rebounds) was a good helper on Gibbs from inside at times.

Lonergan said he was expecting even more post scoring, but the Colonials were still the dominant team on the interior. It was more with drives than post moves, but GW outscored Davidson 40‒22 in the paint and 18‒11 on second-chance points while winning the rebounding battle 38‒29.

“We thought they were a little inferior on the inside, so we thought we could drive them or get the ball to Kevin or Tyler on the block and let them go to work,” senior point guard Joe McDonald, who had a game-high 10 rebounds, said.

With those good inside shots, GW shot 52 percent for the game to Davidson’s 42 to make up for the Wildcats’ nine 3-pointers. Guard Brian Sullivan had 13 points and Aldridge had 11, but Davidson did not get much help otherwise.

The Colonials went into halftime up 39‒33 after a balanced scoring effort. GW had led by as many as eight midway through the first period, allowed Davidson to pull back ahead at 22‒25, but retook the lead before the break on the strength of a 6‒0 stretch capped by a three – take that, Steph – for Larsen.

By the time Gibbs’ final attempt, which should have been an easy layup, spun around the rim and slipped off of it as the last few seconds ticked away, the Warriors were up 59‒46 Warriors, and Steph Curry had 29 points on 11-for-12 shooting, 7-of-8 on three-pointers.

In that moment, Lonergan was happy to be winning at home. McDonald was happy to get a win heading into a difficult matchup at VCU Saturday. For both of them, the defense was the biggest positive takeaway.

“It’s great for momentum heading into a big game with VCU, especially for the fact that I thought our defense was a lot better,” senior point guard Joe McDonald said.

Tipoff against the Rams is set for noon Saturday.

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Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016 12:16 p.m.

Preview: Men’s basketball vs. Davidson

What: Men’s basketball (16-5, 5-3 A-10) vs. Davidson (12-7, 4-4 A-10)

Where: The Smith Center, Washington, D.C., MASN, SNY (TV)

When: Wednesday, Feb. 3, 7 p.m.

Since Davidson joined the Atlantic 10 conference, the Wildcats have had GW’s number. The Colonials were winless in two matchups last season and will be looking for a fresh start Wednesday night at home.

Here’s what to expect from the game:

The Case for the Colonials:

This year’s Davidson squad has not been as surprisingly-dominant as last year’s version. The Wildcats are 2-5 away from home and are giving up 79.6 points per game.

Scoring margin is usually a good predictor of team strength, and the Wildcats are barely outscoring opponents – by 1.2 points per game – while the Colonials have created more distance at +7.4 points per game.

GW has the biggest matchup advantage inside. Forwards Kevin Larsen and Tyler Cavanaugh should be able to pound the paint and get second chances, while helping around the perimeter on defense. The Colonials play a lot of man defense and may play even more than usual against the Wildcats, but help will be critical for GW, especially to guard against picks.

Sophomore forward Nathan Ekwu is the team’s best shot blocker and most efficient rebounder but is less skilled than Larsen, prone to fouls and turnovers. Outside of Ekwu, Davidson’s forwards are less traditional post players than Larsen or even Cavanaugh.

The Case for the Wildcats:

Davidson is going to score. The Wildcats average an A-10 best 80.8 points per game and have the league’s top scorer in Jack Gibbs, who’s adding 25.5 points per game. They also hit 9.9 three-pointers per game, on average.

On Gibbs, as well as Davidson in general, the task for the Colonials will be more about picking what shots they can live with and taking away the rest than a complete shut-down. If GW struggles to follow the scouting report, as head coach Mike Lonergan has said they have in the past, Davidson could get the good looks that the team does so much damage with.

The extra pass will also be critical to prevent. With so many scorers, (Peyton Aldridge gets 15.7 points per game, Brian Sullivan gets 13.8 and four others get more than five) the Wildcats can go anywhere with the ball. Davidson leads the league in assist/turnover ratio at 1.5 and averages more than 15 assists per game. Guarding to the very end of possessions will be important for the Colonials.

The Bottom Line:
Davidson has some clear strengths, but if the Colonials execute well they should have more weapons to beat the Wildcats with. If GW’s inside game can make Davidson one-dimensional, the Colonials should be able to withstand a few big buckets and still get the win, but this game should say a lot about defense, especially.

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Redshirt junior Tyler Cavanaugh attempts a shot in GW's win over George Mason. Cavanaugh was one of four Colonials scoring in double figures with 15 points. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

Redshirt junior Tyler Cavanaugh attempts a shot in GW’s win over George Mason. Cavanaugh was one of four Colonials scoring in double figures with 15 points. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

After giving up a 10-point second-half lead, the Colonials escaped with a 76–70 victory at George Mason Sunday afternoon.

The Patriots, just 1‒6 in Atlantic 10 play entering the contest, battled all game long in front of a raucous EagleBank Arena crowd, hitting 25 field goals to GW’s 20 and winning the on the boards 47–42.

But GW, with a veteran lineup up against a Mason squad that starts three freshmen, had its experience on display late.

Senior forward Kevin Larsen sank two crucial free throws and put back a missed layup on the next offensive possession to regain a 65‒61 lead in the game’s final minutes that his team would not surrender.

“[George Mason] made a run and I thought we responded,” redshirt junior forward Tyler Cavanaugh, who posted 15 points and 8 rebounds Sunday, said. “We’ve got good senior leadership and we made the plays down the stretch.”

Senior swingman Patricio Garino led four GW starters who posted double-digit scoring numbers with 19 points, while Larsen added a team-best 11 rebounds en route to his eighth double-double this season.

Once again, GW’s free throw shooting proved pivotal. The team scored nearly 40 percent of its points at the line, going 30-for-36 from the stripe on the day.

“Everyone is making free throws, that’s the confidence of the team,” Garino said. “We know that if we go hard to the rim and get fouled we’re going to get two points.”

GW (16‒5, 5-3 A-10) came out strong, with Cavanaugh knocking down a triple on his team’s first possession. He and Garino would lead the Colonials with nine points each in the frame.

The Colonials jumped to an early 17–11 lead behind good shooting, but their efficiency quickly began to stagnate. The visitors went a subpar 25.7 percent from the field, but George Mason (7–14, 1-7 A-10) wasn’t much better, posting a 26.5 percent clip in the half.

Freshman guard Jordan Roland provided a spark off the bench, netting five points, the only production off the pine in the first half.

Senior forward Particio Garino slams a dunk in the Colonials' win against George Mason. Garino was on the floor for 39 minutes of play, leading GW. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

Senior forward Particio Garino slams a dunk in the Colonials’ win against George Mason. Garino was on the floor for 39 minutes of play, leading GW. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

But the Patriots battled back with a strong rebounding effort, grabbing 31 boards to GW’s 22 in the first period, and got 10 points on 12 trips to the free throw line.

Freshman guard Otis Livingston II led the charge with two threes and 10 points. Both squads went 3-for-10 from beyond the arc in the frame, but George Mason would prevail on the scoreboard, taking a 31–29 lead into halftime.

Back-to-back three-pointers from graduate student guard Alex Mitola, who led the bench on the day with eight points was part of a 10–0 GW run to open the second half.

“I think we attacked much better in the second half,” Cavanaugh said. “Alex [Mitola] stepped up big and made a couple threes and we don’t win the game without him.”

But like they did all day, George Mason bounced right back.

The Patriots shot 48.5 percent from the field and hit four critical threes in the second frame which allowed them to capture a 61–59 late-game edge.

But the Colonials refused to be rattled. Senior guard Joe McDonald, who finished with five points and three rebounds, drew a foul and hit two at the line to tie the game at 61.

Twenty-two second-half free throws would win the day as GW held on for a bounce back win to move to 16–5.

“Thank God we’re experienced because Mason did a great job and we didn’t play well offensively,” head coach Mike Lonergan said. “But when we’re struggling, we get to the free throw line, that’s what we do and we made them pay.”

The Colonials return home Wednesday to host Davidson at 7 p.m.

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Senior guard Joe McDonald goes up for a layup in the Colonials' 62-58 win over Rhode Island. McDonald had seven points and five rebounds in his first game back from injury. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

Senior guard Joe McDonald goes up for a layup in the Colonials’ 62-58 win over Rhode Island. McDonald had seven points and five rebounds in his first game back from injury. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

There’s no place like home for the Colonials. Even during a blizzard, down 18 points.

After trailing Rhode Island Friday afternoon by that margin, GW pulled off a 62–58 comeback victory to go with the return of senior guard Joe McDonald and to maintain a perfect, 11-0 record at home this season.

“We came out soft to start, and [Rhode Island] came out really aggressive and we just had to respond,” McDonald said. “Once we did that and we settled down, I think it turned into the dogfight everyone expected it to be.”

Despite shooting 37.5 percent from the field and just 1-for-7 from three-point range, GW (15-4, 4-2 A-10) scored 25 points at the free-throw line in the four-point win in which six Colonials contributed seven points or more.

Securing his fifth double-double on the year, redshirt junior forward Tyler Cavanaugh led with a team-high 13 points and 10 rebounds. Senior swingman Patricio Garino added 10 points, and senior forward Kevin Larsen posted nine points and eight boards in front of a sizeable, noisy audience that gathered despite the weather.

“I’m so thankful our students and the Colonial Army came today,” head coach Mike Lonergan said. “Even though it wasn’t a huge crowd I thought it was very loud. Our guys hung in there, finally went inside and didn’t settle for jumpers and got them in foul trouble. [Rhode Island] is  tough and they battle and their hard to guard. It was a grind-it-out, tough battle.”

As the first flurries of the storm began to fall outside the Smith Center, GW came out ice cold.

More than midway through the first half, the Colonials were 6-for-18 from the field, looking out of sync and uninspired on the attacking end.

Meanwhile the Rams (11-8, 3-3 A-10) through smart, quick passing and a number of missed assignments on defense for GW, were red-hot out of the gate. The visitors knocked down 12 of their first 16 attempts from the field, four of which came from beyond the three-point line.

Suddenly, Rhode Island had opened up a staggering 30–12 lead. Sophomore guard Jarvis Garrett led the Rams with 10 points in the first half, while junior forward Kuran Iverson added eight points and three rebounds.

GW needed a spark, and in his return from an eye injury that sidelined him for two games, McDonald provided it. Down 18, a spectacular drive and finish at the rim by the veteran, who also drew a foul, enlivened the crowd and his team.

Seniors Patricio Garino and Kevin Larsen celebrate a basket in GW's win over URI. Garino and Larsen combined for 19 points in the win. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

Seniors Patricio Garino and Kevin Larsen celebrate a basket in GW’s win over URI. Garino and Larsen combined for 19 points in the win. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

From there the Colonials embarked on a 15–2 run, helped along by a 13-of-15 clip at the free-throw line, that put them right back in it.

“It was huge [to have Joe back],” Cavanaugh said. “Especially against this team. Joe brings our toughness, he’s the heart and soul of our team so with him out we did what we had to do, but having him back is crucial for this run through conference. The way he controls the tempo and battles inside, outside and defensively is key.”

Cavanaugh led GW with nine points and six boards, followed by McDonald with seven points and the team’s lone assist of the first half. Rhode Island eventually stopped the bleeding, maintaining a 34–29 edge into halftime.

The Rams knocked down four more three-pointers in the second half and racked up 10 assists to GW’s four on the day, but the Colonials answered on both ends of the court, which Lonergan says was a product of an improved energy level.

“I thought we got some help defense that we haven’t gotten a lot this year,” Lonergan said. “Tyler and other guys came over and blocked shots and we played defense like a team. We’re not the most athletic team but when we play as unit on defense we’re really good.”

GW improved to 43.5 percent from the field in the second frame to Rhode Island’s 32. Larsen, finally looking comfortable and aggressive under the rim, scored all of his points in the second half, while Garino added eight, including a quick jumper that would give GW a 57–55 lead with 1:23 to play.

GW’s bench, led by sophomore guard Paul Jorgensen who put up seven points, also added 15.

“We just had to keep plugging away. I mean they punched us in the mouth first, but that shows the maturity of our team to bounce back,” Cavanaugh said. “We just made the right decisions down the stretch.”

The Colonials return to action Thursday at 9 p.m. when they host Richmond.

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Kevin Larsen, Tyler Cavanaugh and Matt Cimino celebrate during GW's win over Duquesne. Cavanaugh and Larsen combined for 39 points in GW's win at UMass on Tuesday. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

Kevin Larsen, Tyler Cavanaugh and Matt Cimino celebrate during GW’s win over Duquesne. Cavanaugh and Larsen combined for 39 points in GW’s win at UMass on Tuesday. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

AMHERST, Mass. – They may have used trumpets at Lexington and Concord, but on Tuesday night in Amherst, Mass., all the Minutemen heard was the sound of a whistle blowing.

The shrill tone sounded so frequently in a stretch bridging halftime it was remarkable that every stray dog between Greenfield and Springfield didn’t come barking down the doors of the Mullins Center. One fan implored a referee to “pull your head out,” which was delicate by Hampshire County standards.

Dissatisfaction from an opposing home crowd was a new sound, one that came as GW rode a 29-34 mark from the free throw line all the way to a 81-70 win over UMass, the team’s first road win of the Atlantic 10 season, without senior point guard Joe McDonald.

“I know UMass isn’t a first place team but this is a good win for us,” said head coach Mike Lonergan. “Any road win in college basketball in a conference basketball game is big, especially after we gave that one away at Saint Louis, we had to get our first one for confidence as much as anything.”

Tyler Cavanaugh, once again, led all scorers with 26 points and Kevin Larsen had a game-high eight rebounds to go with 13 points.

“When we go inside good things happen and I thought we did a great job getting to the free throw line and we made our free throws,” Lonergan said.

The game was tied at 38-38 more than two minutes into the second half before the Colonials (14-3, 3-1 A-10) drained a series of three-pointers to take the lead and keep it. GW made 8-of-19 three-point attempts, six of the makes coming after halftime. The Colonials were 12-12 from the free throw line in the first half to keep it close despite ten turnovers and as the UMass (8-8, 1-3 A-10) press took time off each possession.

Patricio Garino broke out of a scoring slump with 17 points, aided by a 3-for-5 night from beyond the arc. Garino, in his fourth year playing with McDonald, said he was driven by a voicemail the point guard left with an assistant coach to play for the team before the game.

“He wanted us to make the first punch first, just be aggressive and take care of the ball. It was hard to hear but it was a nice touch from Joe. You can see his leadership and how much he cares about the team and that definitely motivated us to this win, playing for him,” Garino said.

McDonald did not play due to an eye injury suffered in GW’s win against Duquesne Saturday. Lonergan said that his eye was swollen shut when he went to the emergency room from the game, and that the main issue is getting the swelling down. Lonergan said that he would talk to McDonald’s doctors Wednesday and that the senior would be evaluated further later in the week, but that he was “probably doubtful for Dayton.”

Sophomore Paul Jorgensen started in his place, and got help off the bench from graduate student Alex Mitola. Jorgensen, who Lonergan said got the start for “confidence,” had two points and three assists in 26 minutes while Mitola recorded 11 points in 25 minutes with 3-for-6 shooting from beyond the arc.

Mitola in particular was fantastic against the Minuteman press, recording seven assists without any turnovers, passing out of traps against much taller players and prompting broadcaster Tom Pecora to cry that Mitola “looks like an altar boy but plays like a Navy SEAL.”

“I’ve never heard a comment like that before,” Mitola said, laughing. “I’ve been heckled and called Justin Bieber before!”

Ball movement was typically critical for GW’s offense, as the Colonials recorded 18 assists on 22 made baskets.

“Coach said to us before the game that he wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to test myself and Paul with our starting point guard being out so we were kind of ready for it,” Mitola said. “But they were controlling the tempo in the first half because of their press. In the second half we did a much better job of handling it, breaking it, getting better shots, getting what we wanted.”

Lonergan said he still wants the team to get better defensively, though he thought the 1-3-1 looked the best it has in several games. The Minutemen still shot 49 percent, but had 15 turnovers, 11 coming in the second half.

It doesn’t get easier from here for the Colonials, who face Dayton on the road on Friday. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.

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Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016 12:25 a.m.

Preview: Men’s basketball at Massachusetts

What: Men’s basketball (13-3, 2-1 A-10) vs. Massachusetts (8-7, 1-2 A-10)

Where: William D. Mullins Center, Amherst, Mass.

When: Tuesday, Jan. 12 at 7 p.m.

Garnering a No. 20 national ranking after winning 10 of its first 11 games this season, GW went 3-2 over winter break, dropping contests at DePaul and Saint Louis.

But following the 65-62 loss to the Billikens last week, its first in Atlantic 10 play, the Colonials responded with a commanding 27-point victory over Duquesne Saturday, despite senior Joe McDonald, now listed as day-to-day, leaving the game with an eye injury.

With momentum on their side, the team travels to Amherst Tuesday night to spar with the Minutemen, who have lost two in a row and six of their last nine, in hopes of stringing together a pair of conference wins for the first time this year.

The case for the Colonials:

The frontcourt led the way for GW against the Dukes, as redshirt junior forward Tyler Cavanaugh and senior forward Kevin Larsen recorded career-highs, scoring 30 and 25 points, respectively.

Despite the Colonials’ recent slump, Cavanaugh, who has scored in double figures in all 16 games this season, has remained consistent. He leads the team with an average of 16.6 points per game, followed by senior guard Patricio Garino who puts up an average of 12.2 per game.

Larsen adds a team-high 8.1 boards and 3.0 assists per game to an offense that is averaging 38.5 rebounds per contest to Massachusetts’ 36.8. GW’s staunch defense, which ranks 74th-best in the country, also concedes just 66.6 points per game compared to 77.7 by the Minutemen’s.

Even if McDonald, who averages 7.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game, does not play Tuesday, GW’s trio of guards off the bench in Paul Jorgensen, Alex Mitola and Matt Hart proved Saturday they are capable of picking up the slack by combining for 31 points.

The case for the Minutemen:
Senior guard Trey Davis (18.7 PPG) and sophomore guard Donte Clark (18.0 PPG) captain a high-powered Massachusetts offense averaging 77.9 points per game, fourth-best in the A-10, to GW’s 75.9.

The Minutemen hold an RPI ranking of just 135 compared to GW’s 30, but could frustrate the visitors, who are a perfect 10-0 at home but have split their four games on the road, if they are able to solve the Colonials’ defense.

Despite a stellar 75.9 percent clip from the foul line by GW, Massachusetts also holds a slight edge in three-point shooting, going 34.7 percent from beyond the arc on the season. If the Minutemen can exploit their home court advantage by slowing down the Colonials’ offense and staying hot offensively, they could pull off their first Top-100 RPI win this year.

The bottom line:
Still in search of its first conference win on the road, a big victory at Massachusetts would offer a much needed confidence boost for GW before visiting A-10 powerhouse Dayton on Friday. But the Colonials must come out focused and not overlook their opponent in a league where no win comes easily.

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No. 1 Alex Mitola and No. 30 Matt Hart celebrate a three-point shot in the Colonials' win over Duquesne. The pair went a combined 5-for-7 from beyond the arc. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

No. 1 Alex Mitola and No. 30 Matt Hart celebrate a three-point shot in the Colonials’ win over Duquesne. The pair went a combined 5-for-7 from beyond the arc. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

The Colonials rolled over Duquesne, 91-64, Saturday night in the Smith Center, but for a game in which forwards Tyler Cavanaugh and Kevin Larsen both had career-high scoring nights, all the focus was on point guard Joe McDonald, who left the game in the first half after hitting his face crashing to the floor.

McDonald was taken out of the building by emergency medical personnel to be evaluated. Head coach Mike Lonergan had not yet spoken with training staff after the game.

“I didn’t even see him get hit, I just saw him on the floor and he’s probably one of the three toughest kids I’ve ever coached so I figured he got hit pretty hard if he was laying there,” Lonergan said.

Gradually lightening the mood in the Smith Center after McDonald’s departure, the Colonials hit 13 three-pointers on 48 percent shooting. Six of those came from Cavanaugh, who had 30 points and 10 rebounds.

The game was tied at 16 with nine minutes left before halftime when GW took off. By the time, midway through the second half, that the Colonials got back-to-back-to-back three-pointers from Cavanaugh, Matt Hart and Alex Mitola, they had doubled up on Duquesne, 51-24, since that point. That was before Mitola hit three free throws after being fouled shooting, again from downtown.

“Once you see a couple go in, then it just feels like you’re shooting into an ocean so it was really nice to get into a flow,” Cavanaugh said.

Even Larsen, who scored 25 points and added a game-high 11 rebounds, hit one from beyond the arc.

Senior foward Kevin Larsen attempts a layup in GW's 91 to 64 win over Duquesne. Larsen registered 25 points and 11 rebounds in 30 minutes of play. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

Senior foward Kevin Larsen attempts a layup in GW’s 91 to 64 win over Duquesne. Larsen registered 25 points and 11 rebounds in 30 minutes of play. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

Defensively, GW held Duquesne to 36.4 percent shooting and a 5-for-22 performance from beyond the arc while outrebounding them 50-28. Derrick Colter and Mar’Qywell Jackson had 10 points each as the only Dukes in double-figures as the Colonials keyed on Colter and Micah Mason. The veteran pair of guards were a combined 5-for-16.

“We wanted to focus on two guys. I don’t like to normally do that but those two guys, we wanted them to have a rough night and they didn’t get a lot of shots off and they didn’t shoot a great percentage so I think that was a key,” Lonergan said. “They combined for 18 instead of 40, which they’re capable of.”

Mitola filled in smoothly for McDonald, scoring a season-high 15 points in 24 minutes. All four of his buckets from the field were from beyond the arc. He also collected four of GW’s 18 assists, including a behind-the-back pass that set up one of Cavanaugh’s threes. Ball movement was critical to GW’s big game on offense.

“He’s not a good shooter, he’s a great shooter,” Lonergan said. “And I know a lot of people like to Monday morning quarterback and wonder why he plays and this and that, thinking he’s just some secret weapon to make free throws, but he can shoot. The adjustment to this level has been tough, he’s small, it’s hard for him to get a good look but tonight guys found him.”

Other bench players got more minutes than usual, due to McDonalds exit and the score. Jordan Roland played 13 minutes, Anthony Swan saw eight and Collin Goss, who got big cheers for a block in garbage time, saw five, but the trio did not record a point. Paul Jorgensen and Hart, who normally receive good minutes, scored nine and seven points, respectively, with Lonergan saying he felt like Jorgensen got out of a “fog”

Senior guard Joe McDonald crouches after the hit that would take him out of GW's win over Duquesne Saturday night. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

Senior guard Joe McDonald crouches after the hit that would take him out of GW’s win over Duquesne Saturday night. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

in the game.

Starters Yuta Watanabe and Patricio Garino were both quiet, going a combined 0-10 from the field.

The Colonials now head on the road to play Massachusetts on Tuesday before a trip to Dayton on Friday. It remains to be seen if McDonald will be able to play.

“Joe, he’s our most important guy,” Larsen said. “So seeing him go down, it was tough. But we’ve got Paul and Alex very confident and can step in when needed.”

Tipoff in Amherst is set for 7 p.m.

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