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Saturday, March 15, 2014 11:56 p.m.

Photos: GW vs. VCU in A-10 semis

Brooklyn, N.Y. – GW’s Atlantic 10 title hopes evaporated on Saturday. The Colonials could not maintain their strong first-half performance, losing to No. 23 VCU.

Here’s what photo editor Samuel Klein captured from the baseline:

Sophomore Joe McDonald goes up for a layup Saturday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Sophomore Joe McDonald goes up for a layup Saturday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Sophomore Joe McDonald tries to captain GW's offense against VCU's "havoc" defense. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Sophomore Kethan Savage made a brief return to the court Saturday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Forward Isaiah Armwood got GW off to a solid start Saturday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Forward Isaiah Armwood got GW off to a solid start Saturday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Senior Isaiah Armwood slams home a dunk Saturday for two of his team-high 15 points. | Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Senior Isaiah Armwood slams home a dunk Saturday for two of his team-high 15 points. | Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Sophomores Kevin Larsen and Patricio Garino walk offthe court after GW's loss to VCU Saturday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Sophomores Kevin Larsen and Patricio Garino walk offthe court after GW’s loss to VCU Saturday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Sophomore Kethan Savage, who has been out for most of the season with a foot injury, saw a brief appearance on the court Saturday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Sophomore Joe McDonald ties his show after being looked at by trainers at the end of Saturday’s game. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Patricio Garino and Kevin Larsen try to stop a VCU player on Saturday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Patricio Garino and Isaiah Armwood try to stop a VCU player on Saturday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Head coach Mike Lonergan, who has garnered praise this year for turning around GW, instructs players on the sidelines Saturday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Head coach Mike Lonergan, who has garnered praise this year for turning around GW, instructs players on the sidelines Saturday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Forward Kevin Larsen stretches on the sideline before Saturday's game. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Forward Kevin Larsen stretches on the sideline before Saturday’s game. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Sophomore forward Kevin Larsen loses the ball against two VCU defenders Satruday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Sophomore forward Kevin Larsen loses the ball against two VCU defenders Satruday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Senior Nemanja Mikic fires a three in the first half. Mikic carried GW with his hot shooting again on Saturday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Senior Nemanja Mikic fires a three in the first half. Mikic carried GW with his hot shooting again on Saturday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Sophomore Joe McDonald struggles to get around a VCU defender. The Rams are famous for their "havoc" defense that suffocates offenses. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Sophomore Joe McDonald struggles to get around a VCU defender. The Rams are famous for their “havoc” defense that suffocates offenses. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

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GW had nothing left in the tank.

After trailing the No. 23 team in the country by just two at halftime, shots stopped falling for the Colonials as VCU stayed hot on its way to a 74-55 victory.

GW will now have to wait until 6 p.m. Sunday to find out its fate in the NCAA Tournament. In ESPN’s Joe Lunardi’s most recent bracket, the Colonials were picked as a No. 7 seed, taking on No. 8 Pittsburgh in Buffalo, N.Y.

“Disappointed with the loss. I thought it was a pretty good game for about two-thirds of the game,” head coach Mike Lonergan said. “I think Nemanja [Mikic] hit a shot with 7:43 left and then after that we just struggled to score.”

The Colonials played the first six minutes without turning the ball over a single time. VCU’s pressure would not change, but the Colonials lost their ability to hold on to the ball. In the final 14 minutes of the half GW turned the ball over 11 times, mostly coming by way of errant and telegraphed passes. The Colonials ended the game with 15 turnovers off nine Ram steals.

GW handled the pressure of VCU’s press early on the game, though, best illustrated by the Colonials first possession of the game. Three crisp passes, first from sophomore Joe McDonald to graduate student Maurice Creek and then to a running Kevin Larsen led to a two-handed slam for senior Isaiah Armwood.

Armwood proved the spark for the Colonials early on, but as it did for the rest of GW, fatigue took its toll as the game progressed. In the first four minutes of the game, the senior scored seven points and grabbed three rebounds, appearing very comfortable in the paint and attacking VCU’s frontcourt on every possession.

“Early in the game we made all the right plays,” Armwood said. “It was the turning point in the game where it wasn’t necessarily them making us turn the ball over, we had some uncharacteristic turnovers that let them take the lead going into halftime and it continued in the second half.”

Senior Nemanja Mikic complemented Armwood’s first-half scoring. For the second straight game, Mikic became GW’s three-point threat, going 3-for-4 from beyond the arc in the first half to finish with 12 points in 16 minutes of play.

Struggling in the first half was Larsen, who had the added responsibility of being ball handler in the absence of Kethan Savage. Larsen turned the ball over five times in the half, but came alive in the second, scoring four straight points for GW to finish with 10.

VCU was led by junior forward Treveon Graham, who despite early foul trouble, still led the Rams with eight points at the half. Graham’s damage would be done in the second half, however, as he scored seven points in the first five minutes – just the beginning of a scoring tear that led to 22 points and four assists.

The Rams as a whole picked up their offense in the second half, seeming to heat up as the Colonials legs grew tired. After shooting 39.4 percent in the first half, VCU shot 56.5 percent in the second half, opening the half 5-for-6 from the field. Junior Briante Weber ran a fluid offense for the Rams, dishing out a game-high eight assists, while scoring 16 points.

The Colonials fought hard to stick with the Rams, but were ultimately unable to match the production and energy of VCU’s scorers. The Colonials limited their second half turnovers to four, but would only shoot 7-for-21 from the field, struggling to find open looks and convert attempts.

VCU’s success would also be found in their ability to out-rebound GW in the second half. After ending the first half tied at 17, VCU ultimately outrebounded the Colonials 37-28, leading to 12 second-chance points.

Senior Isaiah Armwood slams home a dunk Saturday for two of his team-high 15 points. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Senior Isaiah Armwood slams home a dunk Saturday for two of his team-high 15 points. | Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

“If you can outrebound GW by nine, that’s a heck of a feat,” head coach Shaka Smart said.

GW would also miss the production of McDonald and sophomore Patricio Garino, who combined for just nine points Saturday. Garino went scoreless in the first half and after a small offensive run in the second, would go silent for the Colonials finishing with six points on 2-of-9 shooting.

McDonald also struggled to shoot the ball, making just one field goal in the game. McDonald’s role Saturday was as primary ball handler, in which he did a more than exceptional job, but his beat-up body would take one too many hits as he left the game with 5:28 left to play after tweaking his ankle. McDonald returned for a short stint a couple minutes later, but would exit the game for good, fouling out of the game with 3:03 left to play.

“It might have been his ankle, which I felt good about since it wasn’t his hip,” Lonergan said. “I knew it would be tough, but he’s a warrior, he plays so hard and I didn’t have a lot of choices as you can see. Give VCU credit, they wore him out and wore all our team out, but hopefully he’ll be back by NCAA’s.”

Sophomore Kethan Savage made his first appearance since Jan. 18 after fracturing his foot against St. Bonaventure, but unfortunately, it was short lived as he played only one minute.

“He cut and he felt some soreness. I think he told the trainers to have me take him right out, so it was tough,” Lonergan said. “I feel bad, I’m hoping he’s alright and maybe a few more days.”

Sophomores Kevin Larsen and Patricio Garino walk offthe court after GW's loss to VCU Saturday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Sophomores Kevin Larsen and Patricio Garino walk offthe court after GW’s loss to VCU Saturday. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

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Saturday, March 15, 2014 10:22 a.m.

Photos: GW vs. UMass at Barclays Center

Brooklyn, N.Y. — GW’s 85-77 win over UMass on Friday night was the Colonials’ first win in the Atlantic 10 tournament since 2007. The game drew thousands of students and alumni to Brooklyn, N.Y.

Hatchet photo editor Samuel Klein was on the sidelines to capture the action.

Isaiah Armwood goes up for a slam against UMass on Friday night. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Isaiah Armwood goes up for a slam against UMass on Friday night. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Patricio Garino is hit by a UMass defender as he goes up for a basket. The sophomore scored 10 points in the Atlantic 10 quarterfinal. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Patricio Garino is hit by a UMass defender as he goes up for a basket. The sophomore scored 10 points in the Atlantic 10 quarterfinal. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Guard Maurice Creek gets a hug after Friday night's game in Brooklyn. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Guard Maurice Creek gets a hug after Friday night’s game in Brooklyn. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

A raucous GW fan section cheered in the Barclays Center on Friday night. The Colonials drew nearly 2,000 fans to Brooklyn. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

A raucous GW fan section cheered in the Barclays Center on Friday night. The Colonials drew nearly 2,000 fans to Brooklyn. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

The Colonials made the trip to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Friday night, playing in front 8,755 fans. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

The Colonials made the trip to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Friday night, playing in front 8,755 fans. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

GW's bench erupts during the Colonials' red-hot second half, when they shot 51.7 percent from the field. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

GW’s bench erupts during the Colonials’ red-hot second half, when they shot 51.7 percent from the field. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Head coach Mike Lonergan, in his third year on the GW sidelines, calls for a play in his team's Friday night win. Lonergan was a presence as usual on the sidelines: waving, stomping and flailing during big plays. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Head coach Mike Lonergan, in his third year on the GW sidelines, calls for a play in his team’s Friday night win. Lonergan was a presence as usual on the sidelines: waving, stomping and flailing during big plays. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Guard Maurice Creek lunges back for the ball in Friday night's win over UMass. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Guard Maurice Creek lunges back for the ball in Friday night’s win over UMass. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Sophomore Kevin Larsen drives in the paint on Friday night. The forward scored just six points but grabbed seven rebounds. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Sophomore Kevin Larsen drives in the paint on Friday night. The forward scored just six points but grabbed seven rebounds. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Patricio Garino, Kevin Larsen and Joe McDonald celebrate in GW's 85-77 win. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Patricio Garino, Kevin Larsen and Joe McDonald celebrate in GW’s 85-77 win. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

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Saturday, March 15, 2014 1:19 a.m.

Mikic comes back to life in Colonials A-10 triumph

There was no return of sophomore guard Kethan Savage Friday night, but there was the return of another missing Colonial.

Senior Nemanja Mikic shoots a jumper against UMass on Friday night at the Barclays Center. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Senior Nemanja Mikic shoots a jumper against UMass on Friday night at the Barclays Center. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Senior forward Nemanja Mikic.

The Serbia native. The three-point specialist that had been on one of head coach Mike Lonergan’s milk cartons for some time. The lone holdover from the Karl Hobbs era playing in his final Atlantic 10 Tournament.

In just 12 minutes of play, Mikic would drop 14 points on 4-for-6 shooting – his most points since GW’s win over Rutgers on Dec. 4.

The forward’s three treys and even his three rebounds were the most since the Colonials’ Feb. 5 victory over Duquesne.

What better way for the senior to begin the end to his Colonial career.

“It’s terrific, what else can you look for. This whole season has been great – 24th win,” Mikic said. “We are looking forward to the game tomorrow against VCU. We won one, we lost one, we feel like we owe them, so it’s exciting.”

In crunch time as the regular season came to a close, Mikic was ice cold. Over the last four games, the forward had made just one shot, while going 0-8 from beyond the arc. His points per game average was down to 4.4, as he missed wide open shot after wide open shot.

But Friday, Mikic couldn’t stop calling for the ball. His hand could be seen high in the air as GW ran down the court, and with each made basket, a fist pump to celebrate what once was lost.

“I just told him – maybe it’s not the right thing to do – I said, ‘what I remember from last season is you hit inside the backboard with a three late in the game,’” Lonergan said. “It’s not too late to turn things around.”

Lonergan certainly couldn’t plan for Mikic to get hot, but he certainly couldn’t deny it either once the shots started falling.

The A-10 All-Academic team member was so hot, that Lonergan was doing offense for defense substitutions with him in the first half’s final minutes. So hot, that his number was getting called on set plays and UMass defenders began falling for his pump-fakes.

“He’s a good player,” UMass head coach Derek Kellogg said. “He gives them another weapon and as you can see, when you can make some three pointers, that loosens things up and opens the game up for them.”

Led by Mikic’s hot hand, the Colonials went off for one of their best shooting nights of the season. GW’s 50 percent shooting from the field – its best in seven games – and 42.9 percent from three-point range silenced the Minutemen as they tried to climb back into contention.

“We’ve known he’s been a great shooter for a long time, but that nine points in the first half, actually, that kind of propelled them and gave them some confidence. I thought we were guarding them pretty well and that they were actually running things for him was pretty surprising.”

Mikic’s three treys boost his career total to 185, good enough for fifth all-time in GW program history. His presence on the perimeter couldn’t come at a better time for GW, and as Lonergan said, couldn’t feel better for the four-year Colonial.

GW will need another strong performance from Mikic off the bench Saturday if they wish to win the grudge match against VCU and continue its journey to an A-10 title.

“Seniors step up this time of year and it was a really good three games coming into today,” Lonergan said. “And to see a senior, really just a smile on his face after the game, makes you feel really good. But it’s a seniors’ time of year right now and we need our seniors to step up.”

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Brooklyn, N.Y. – For the first time since 2007, the men’s basketball team will get to play a second game in the Atlantic 10 Championship.

After being eliminated by Massachusetts in last season’s A-10 opening round and suffering its lone home loss of the year to the Minutemen, GW finally came out on top, winning 85-77 in Friday’s A-10 quarterfinal matchup.

Six Colonials scored in double figures, thanks to 50.8 percent shooting from the field – its highest in seven games. GW will take on VCU for the third time this season in Saturday’s semifinal matchup at 4 p.m.

“It’s a good feeling,” senior Isaiah Armwood said. “We’ve got six players in double figures scoring. We score a couple times and they came back and cut it down to maybe eight, so we wanted to keep stretching the lead. So it’s definitely a good feeling moving on to the next round.”

Sophomore Kevin Larsen goes for the jump hook over a Massachusetts defender in Friday's A-10 Quarterfinal win. | Photo Editor Sam Klein

Sophomore Kevin Larsen goes for the jump hook over a Massachusetts defender in Friday’s A-10 Quarterfinal win. | Photo Editor Sam Klein

The Colonial shooters were electric in the first half, going 15-30 from the field, while being led by senior Nemanja Mikic and sophomore Joe McDonald. McDonald scored five of the first seven points for GW and would finish with twelve points on the night. The point guard would add seven assists to just one turnover, over a game-high 37 minutes of playing time.

GW found the open man all game long, posting 18 assists on its 30 made field goals.

Graduate student Maurice Creek would struggle in the first half, missing all five of his shot attempts, but for the first time in recent games, was saved by the bench. By the end of the first half, GW’s bench had scored 14 points, mainly from the three-point presence of Mikic.

Mikic went 3-5 from beyond the arc, draining all three of his treys in the first half. As a team, GW would go 6-12 from beyond the arc for the game and the bench would end the contest with 19 points.

“I think lately, the last couple games, Maurice Creek has really been hitting those shots and I’ve been pretty much got a lot of open shots lately,” Mikic said. “They didn’t go in the last couple of games but coach, the team believed in me, passed me the ball when I was open and they dropped down tonight.”

Besides its hot shooting, GW won the battle with its defense. The Colonials went after every loose ball, trapped the Minutemen in the corners and pressured the UMass ball handlers. GW would force five turnovers in the first nine minutes of the game and finish the night with 19 takeaways.

The Minutemen were led by junior Maxie Esho and senior Chaz Williams, who came alive for the Minutemen in the second half. Esho, who was instrumental in UMass’ comeback against URI Thursday, would go 7-11 from the field and finish with a game-high 22 points. Williams would score 16 of his 19 points in the second half, trying to will his team back into the game as his teammates shots kept clanking off the rim. Lonergan would describe Esho as a “handful” and added that Williams’ quickness was hard to control.

UMass cut the 12-point GW lead to four in the closing seconds of the first half, but a 5-0 stretch over just four seconds of play, off a corner three from freshman Nick Griffin and a lay in by Armwood, got the lead back up to nine, 40-31.

“What was difficult honestly was the end of the first half – it drew me to insanity actually,” UMass head coach Derek Kellogg said. “It was not fun in the locker room, because we cut it to four, the flow of the game was our way, I thought we had them right kind of where we wanted them. A couple of non smart basketball plays gave them the momentum going into halftime.”

GW extended its lead in the second half and continued its success shooting the ball. The Colonials shot 51.7 percent in the second half, led by 10 points from sophomore Patricio Garino and nine from Creek after missing his first eight shots. GW would lead by as many as 18 points.

Despite their success, the Colonials began to unravel with sloppy turnovers, committing 17 turnovers on eight UMass steals. The Minutemen began to press the Colonials backcourt, leading to seven turnovers by the GW guards and a slow comeback.

As expected, UMass crept back into the game, and as expected their push would be led by Williams. After not scoring for the first nine minutes of the second half, Williams would score 16 points on a combination of quick attacks through the lane and timely threes.

Even as the lead got down to single digits late, the more mature Colonials remained confident and handled the pressure. There would be no hands in towels this time around – instead, a grudge match with the Rams to decide a berth in the A-10 finals.

Isaiah Armwood goes up for a slam against UMass on Friday night. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

Isaiah Armwood goes up for a slam against UMass on Friday night. Samuel Klein | Photo Editor

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On top of their best season in seven years, six members of the men’s basketball team received a conference-high eight postseason basketball awards, the league announced Tuesday.

It’s the second-most awards for GW in program history and the most since 2005-2006.

Sophomore Kevin Larsen earned the Chris Daniels Most Improved Player award for his improvement from his freshman season. After averaging 8.5 points and 5.0 rebounds a season ago, Larsen increased his averages this season to 11.3 points and 7.1 rebounds. Larsen is the first GW player to earn the award since Pops Mensah-Bonsu did it back in 2004.

Kevin Larsen goes up in the post against VCU earlier this season. Hatchet File Photo

Kevin Larsen goes up in the post against VCU earlier this season. Hatchet File Photo

Senior Isaiah Armwood took home two awards Tuesday, earning Second Team All-Conference honors, as well as a spot on the conference All-Defensive team. “The Blockness Monster” finished the regular season ranked second in the A-10 in rebounds at 8.7 per game and sixth in blocks, totaling 49 for the year. On the offensive end, Armwood is averaging 12.3 points per game, which ranks 23rd in the conference. Armwood finished the regular season tied for third with 10 double-double’s on the season.

Senior Armwood sends home a dunk earlier this season. Hatchet File Photo

Senior Armwood sends home a dunk earlier this season. Hatchet File Photo

Like Armwood, sophomore Patricio Garino also picked up two awards Tuesday, joining Armwood on the All-Defensive team and being selected to Third Team All-Conference. Playing just 23 games for GW due to a finger injury, Garino was responsible for picking up the slack left after sophomore Kethan Savage’s regular-season ending injury. Garino did just that, finishing the regular season averaging 12.3 points, while shooting 57.5 percent form the field, good enough for sixth best in the conference. On the defensive end, Garino, who was a preseason pick to take home all-defensive honors, averaged 1.6 steals per game, ranking fourth in the conference.

Sophomore forward Patricio Garino slices between two UMass defenders earlier this season. Hatchet File Photo

Sophomore forward Patricio Garino slices between two UMass defenders earlier this season. Hatchet File Photo

Joining Garino on Third Team All-Conference is graduate student Maurice Creek. Creek was the offensive general for the Colonials all season, leading the team at 14.6 points per game. Throughout the season, Creek’s high-scoring efforts were complemented by his scoring from beyond the arc, where he ranked seventh in the conference at 40.9 percent from three. Creek averaged 2.6 three point field goals per game, ranking fourth in the conference, and finished the season with 74 made threes. In GW’s last regular season game against Fordham, Creek knocked down a career-high six three’s.

Guard Maurice Creek hits a jumper earlier this season. Hatchet File Photo

Guard Maurice Creek hits a jumper earlier this season. Hatchet File Photo

Topping off the list for GW were junior John Kopriva and senior Nemanja Mikic, who were tabbed to the conference’s All-Academic Team. With the two selections, GW becomes the most decorated academic program in league history, with 15 selections to the All-Academic team since its debut in 1991. Mikic also becomes the 13th A-10 student-athlete to earn All-Academic Team honors three times in a career. Earlier this season, Kopriva was named to the CoSIDA/Capital One Academic All-District 2 First Team.

Third-seeded GW will head to Brooklyn, N.Y., for the Atlantic 10 Championship quarterfinals this Friday at 9 p.m.

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It’s been a week since the Colonials nearly upset Saint Louis last Saturday. A week to think about what’s left to be done and for head coach Mike Lonergan to get his team back to early season form, stating after Saturday’s loss that his team had lost its swagger.

With just three games to play before the Atlantic 10 tournament, and the Colonials still fighting for a top four finish in the conference, Lonergan told his team it’s officially a three-game season. First up, a rematch against George Mason.

In their last meeting on Jan. 25, GW topped GMU 75-69 at the Patriot Center. The Colonials handed the Patriots their sixth-straight conference loss, while improving to 4-1. But since then, GMU has gone 3-4, beating A-10 foes such as Massachusetts and Richmond, while losing in overtime to the Billikens. GW has done slightly better, going 4-3 in that period.

The Colonials will go for the Revolutionary Rivalry sweep Sunday when they face off against the Patriots. | Courtesy of GW Athletics

The Colonials will go for the Revolutionary Rivalry sweep Sunday when they face off against the Patriots. | Courtesy of GW Athletics

“They had been playing everybody tough early in the year and were just kind of snake-bitten,” Lonergan said at a practice Friday. “Now they’ve gotten some wins and got their confidence up and they’re definitely one of the better offensive teams in our league.”

The Patriots continue to be led by the senior duo of Sherrod Wright and Bryon Allen. In the seven games since the two teams’ last meeting, Wright has averaged 20.5 points per game, while Allen has averaged 19.1. Anchoring the defense is redshirt freshman Jalen Jenkins, who ranks 16th in the conference at 6.3 rebounds, pulling in 8.3 rebounds in GMU’s last three games. In January, Jenkins, along with senior Johnny Williams, hurt the Colonials with outside jumpers and aggressiveness on the glass.

“They rebound good, they play good defense and last time we got burned with their big men shooting elbow jumpers. I think he [Williams] hit like four of them,” sophomore Kevin Larsen said. “We’ve got to be ready to go out and close out under control and make him drive.”

But for Lonergan, it’s not about scouting Mason as much as it is scouting his own team. Lonergan said Friday that there are three keys for the Colonials to get back to their winning ways; knocking down shots and getting back to focusing on rebounding and defense.

“I think we stopped getting better and started losing the focus of our program, which is really defense and rebounding,” Lonergan said “If your shots don’t drop, you can still guard and you can still help a team in other ways and we’ve got to all recognize that. So we got to get our energy and enthusiasm back and I think we’ll have a great crowd the next two home games.”

As a team, GW has shot just 36.3 percent from the field over its last three games. To change that, Lonergan is continuing to hope that graduate student Maurice Creek will find his stroke. Creek, who’s been the pulse of the team all season long, struggled mightily against Saint Louis last Saturday, not scoring his first bucket until seven minutes into the second half. Lonergan said that he needs Creek to produce, because when the guard is on, it’s contagious.

“We’ve got to get Maurice Creek hitting shots because I think when he was hitting shots, it opened things up for Nemanja Mikic who was shooting really well, but now his numbers are down too,” Lonergan said. “We’re gonna try and get [Creek] some open shots and hopefully he’ll get back on track. He had a very good all-around game at Mason and he’s due for a breakout game.”

With the conference tournament now just two weeks away and a possible NCAA tournament appearance to follow, it would be easy for GW to overlook a GMU team that sits near the bottom of the conference. But the Colonials seem focused and ready to return to the Smith Center floor where they are 12-1 on the season.

“There’s no room to look ahead. We’ve got to focus on each game at a time and on Sunday we’ve got George Mason and right now that’s the most important game on the schedule,” Larsen said.

Tip off for this Revolutionary Rivalry matchup is at 1 p.m. Sunday.

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Isaiah Armwood goes up against Duquesne defenders Wednesday night. Cameron Lancaster | Assistant News Editor

Isaiah Armwood goes up against Duquesne defenders Wednesday night. Cameron Lancaster | Assistant News Editor

Maybe it was the broken rim. Or GW’s dominance in the paint. Either way, it made for a statement win for the Colonials.

After a highlight-reel slam by Duquesne’s Ovie Soko, Smith Center staff would be forced onto the court to fix what appeared to be a crooked rim.

A ladder and a level later, second-half play would continue, but Duquesne’s ability to score would not. GW would embark on a 17-8 run over the next nine minutes to grab the win, 71-57. The Colonials would not trail once in the entire game.

“I thought we did a pretty good job in the second half. We definitely didn’t shoot as well from three and we struggled from the free throw line, but our inside guys played another strong game,” head coach Mike Lonergan said.

The big question coming into the game was whether or not Lonergan would get playing time out of his injured stars: Joe McDonald and Maurice Creek.

Patricio Garino dribbles past a Duquesne defender at the Smith Center on Wednesday. Cameron Lancaster | Assistant Photo Editor

Patricio Garino dribbles past a Duquesne defender at the Smith Center on Wednesday. Cameron Lancaster | Assistant Photo Editor

That question would be answered with both suited up in warmups and McDonald eventually in the starting lineup. Creek would enter the game at 15:31 in the first half, but not look himself, scoring just one point over 21 minutes of play.

McDonald wouldn’t have that big an impact either – 3 points and a team-high six assists – but both their presences on the court seemed to add an energy and speed that just wasn’t there in the Dayton loss Saturday.

“I think it helps with some of our role players, it kind of takes the pressure off them, even if they just see those guys,” Lonergan said of having McDonald and Creek back tonight. “I knew Nemanja [Mikic] would play much better. Whenever Maurice is playing, Nemanja is much better and he just can’t be our first or only option from three.”

GW would ultimately win the game with its dominance in the paint and quick hands on the defensive end. Led by a double-double performance from senior forward Isaiah Armwood, the Colonials would outscore the Dukes 36 to 26 in the paint and outrebound them 42-37.

There must have been some grease on the ball from all the $1 hot dogs Wednesday, as possession seemed to change hands after every few dribbles. The two teams would combine for 30 turnovers, 15 each, but GW would take advantage of those opportunities, outscoring the Dukes 16-10 in points off turnovers.

In the first half, it was raining threes for both teams. Duquesne would enter into Colonial territory as the worst three-point defense in the Atlantic 10, but they would also bring with them the conference’s hottest shooter: Micah Mason.

Mason, who came in shooting 61 percent from three, led all scorers at the half with 11 points, draining 3-4 from behind the arc. He would go scoreless, though, the entire second half.

GW combated with its three-point duo of Mikic and freshman Nick Griffin. Both hit two threes for the Colonials in the first half, Griffin’s coming on back-to-back possessions, as GW extended its first half lead to 15.

The Colonials would lead by as many as 19 in the game, up 30-11 with 7:48 left in the first, but that large lead wouldn’t last as the Dukes would end the half on a 19-6 run.

“That was probably the first half time I went off a little bit today, trying to be a lot more positive because we have a mature team, an experienced team,” Lonergan said. “But that was definitely disappointing to be up by 19 at home. We kind of blew it because of some breakdowns.”

GW would return the favor in the second half, though, possibly with some help from the biceps of Soko.

Soko, Duquesne’s leading scorer, would record a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds, but ultimately do minimal damage to GW, going just 7-13 from the line.

Garino would lead the way for the Colonials, scoring 11 of his game-high 17 points in the second half. Three others would finish in double figures for Lonergan – Armwood with 14, Larsen with 13 and Mikic with 11 – but that wasn’t what impressed the head coach most.

“We had 23 assists on 26 baskets,” Lonergan interjected. “Everyone will talk about four guys in double figures, but I like seeing a lot of guys with multiple assist games, because we’re a very unselfish team and if we reverse and share the ball, we’re pretty good.”

GW will defend its now 11-0 record at the Smith Center Saturday when they face off against Fordham at 4 p.m.

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Who: GW (17-4, 5-2) vs. Duquesne (10-10, 2-5)
When: Wednesday @ 7 p.m.
Where: Smith Center

Case for Duquesne:

If the Dukes walk out of the Smith Center with a win Wednesday, it’s going to be because of their offensive production and GW’s many injuries. Duquesne has the third-best scoring offense in the Atlantic 10, averaging 76.2 points per game, while shooting 44.7 percent from the field. The Dukes are also incredibly efficient with their possessions, boasting the best assist-to-turnover ratio in the league at 1.4.

Senior forward Isaiah Armwood goes up against a Duquesne defender in the two team's matchup last season. Hatchet File Photo

Senior forward Isaiah Armwood goes up against a Duquesne defender in the two team’s matchup last season. Hatchet File Photo

Additionally, Duquesne moves the ball well, ranking second in the conference at 15.1 assists per game, which could spell trouble for the Colonials who struggled to stop a good passing team in Dayton Saturday.

A quartet of players lead second-year head coach Jim Ferry’s team.

Senior forward Ovie Soko leads the Dukes in scoring, and ranks second in the conference at 18.4 points per game. A transfer from University of Alabama at Birmingham, Soko is the only A-10 player ranked in the top-10 in both scoring and rebounding, in which he also leads the team at 7.6 rpg. The native of London has tremendous ability to get to the rim, as he averages 9.9 free throw attempts per game.

Junior Dominique McKoy is another weapon for the Dukes. McKoy is averaging 10 points per game, while shooting an impressive 63.9 percent from the field, good enough for the second best field goal percentage in the conference. Sophomore Derrick Colter, last season’s A-10 rookie of the year, anchors the team, averaging 9.9 points and 3.7 assists per game. In the absence of tight defensive pressure from Kethan Savage and possibly Joe McDonald, the point guard could have a very productive night for the Dukes.

Case for GW:

The Colonials will look to build momentum at home after a close double-digit loss to Dayton in which they were without leading scorer Maurice Creek and sophomores Joe McDonald and Kethan Savage.

In order to stay perfect at home and avoid losing back-to-back games, the Colonials will need to continue to be one of the best scoring defenses in the league. GW currently ranks second in the conference, allowing 65.7 points per game.

Because Duquesne is a very effective offensive team, the Colonials will also have to win the rebounding battle and limit the Dukes offensive possessions. Duquesne is an average rebounding team, averaging around 35 rebounds per game. The GW frontcourt of senior Isaiah Armwood and sophomore Kevin Larsen lead the team at 8.4 (fourth in the conference) and 6.5 rebounds per game, respectively.

Inside, the key to limiting Soko’s production will be to pressure him and force him to turn over the ball, something he has done 49 times this season. GW is averaging 14.4 turnovers per game.

On offense, the Colonials will need to exploit Duquesne’s A-10 worst scoring defense, allowing 75.2 points per game, with opponents shooting 45.6 percent from the field. The Colonials currently have three (active) players averaging double figures, Larsen (11.8 ppg), Armwood (11.6 ppg) and Garino (10.4 ppg).

Wednesday’s game could be another opportunity for senior Nemanja Mikic to regain his three point rhythm. After shooting 1-8 from the field at Dayton, Mikic has a chance to exploit a Duquesne three-point defense that has allowed 194 made three pointers this season. Opponents shoot a whopping 40.2 percent from the field from deep against the Dukes.

With the possibility of Joe McDonald out for his second straight game, freshman Miguel Cartagena will have to put up another solid performance, take care of the ball and distribute – something he did nicely against Dayton, totaling seven assists and a single turnover in 33 minutes

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Cameron Lancaster | Assistant Photo Editor Sophomore Joe McDonald passes the ball during GW's game against George Mason on Saturday January 25th. The Colonials came back from a 1 point deficit to win the game 75-69 over the Patriots.

Cameron Lancaster | Assistant Photo Editor
Sophomore Joe McDonald passes the ball during GW’s game against George Mason on Saturday January 25th. The Colonials came back from a 1 point deficit to win the game 75-69 over the Patriots.

Fairfax, Va. – Despite a week off from their last win against St. Bonaventure, the Colonials needed an extra 20 minutes Saturday to find their rhythm.

After a sluggish first half of play, GW (16-3, 4-1) embarked on a huge second half, in which they shot 66.7 percent from the field, to silence the Patriot Center crowd and run away with a 75-69 victory over George Mason.

Sophomore Joe McDonald would score all of his team-high 14 points in the second half, with the frontcourt duo of Isaiah Armwood and Kevin Larsen combining for an additional 26 points on 11-20 shooting. As a team, the Colonials would finish with five players in double figures.

Isaiah Armwood drives past a George Mason defender on Saturday. Armwood was one of five GW players to finish in double figures. Cameron Lancaster | Assistant Photo Editor

Isaiah Armwood drives past a George Mason defender on Saturday. Armwood was one of five GW players to finish in double figures. Cameron Lancaster | Assistant Photo Editor

“We started scoring,” Lonergan said. “We struggled to score late in the first half. Isaiah sat a lot with foul trouble, but he played more and made some baskets, did a good job going inside the whole game. And then our 1-3-1 was pretty effective, at least early on in the second half.”

GW got off to a fast start to begin the game, opening on 4-4 shooting from the field and executing head coach Mike Lonergan’s plan to establish an inside game. But a host of troubles would halt the progress for the Colonials.

As starters began to tire, Lonergan called for a platoon swap, substituting his reserves for an extended period in the first. Lonergan admitted he did that because they couldn’t get a whistle and didn’t want to waste a timeout.

The long stint, though, revealed the bench still wasn’t ready to handle the load or be a big difference maker in the game. They seemed confused, unable to run a play through point guard Miguel Cartagena without having a ticking shot clock force them to shoot the ball.

On the day, the GW bench would be outscored 30-13 by the Mason reserves.

Mason (7-13, 0-6), on the other hand, began to heat up thanks to hot shooting by Jalen Jenkins and Johnny Williams. Williams would shoot 5-5 in the first half, while Jenkins would put up nine points against a GW frontcourt that was without Armwood for all but four minutes in the first.

“He got me on my heels a little bit in the first half, that’s why I got my two fouls,” Armwood said about Jenkins. “I just knew I had to stay disciplined, and that’s just what I did in the second half.”

Larsen and fellow sophomore Patricio Garino would carry the Colonials offense in the first half, combining for 17 of GW’s 29 first half points. Similar to Armwood, graduate student Maurice Creek would play just a total of eight minutes in the first, combing for a first half stat-line of four points, one rebound, and one assist.

In the second half, GW – with Armwood on the floor – would find the balance and energy they had been missing. The Colonias would quickly erase the slim Patriots’ lead, going on an 18-7 run over the first seven-and-a-half minutes of the half. They would score a total of 46 second half points.

Armwood led GW during the run, scoring eight points on two ferocious one-handed slams. He would finish the game with 12 points and two rebounds.

Surprisingly picking up the slack on the boards would be forwards Nemanja Mikic and John Kopriva, who would combine for 10 rebounds. Mikic would add seven points, highlighted by a fast-three off an assist from Larsen.

In the backcourt, GW was propelled by the balanced attack of Creek and McDonald.

After starting the game 1-3, Creek would shoot 3-5 in the second half and finish in double figures with 11 points, four rebounds, and a team-high seven assists. After going scoreless in the first half, McDonald would score 14 second-half points on 5-6 shooting, going 2-3 from deep. Without Savage, McDonald was able to control the ball well, only surrendering a single turnover.

The solid inside-out attack that the Colonials were able to find in the second half served as a good sign that GW may be able to survive without the highlight-reel play of Savage. They will need to continue to be unselfish, and have more 20-assist days like they did Saturday.

“We have no one on our team really that plays like Kethan, so we’re just gonna have to make up for his rebounds and for some of the things he does as a team. But that’s one good thing about our team, we really are a team,” Lonergan said.

GW will return to the Smith Center Wednesday at 7 p.m. when they host La Salle for their second conference meeting of the season.

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