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.
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.