Much of the talk surrounding men’s basketball has been about how the team will try to replicate the success of last season, but in the season-opening win over Grambling State on Friday, the team showed that this year, they will do things a bit differently.
Last season, it took a foot injury to Kethan Savage to move Patricio Garino into the starting lineup. On Friday, the Atlantic-10 Preseason First Teamer led GW with a game-high 21 points in just 24 minutes of play, four points shy of his career record.
He dominated above the rim, went 3-3 from the free throw line, and also sunk two three-pointers on the night, a number only matched by sophomore Nick Griffin
“I felt confident the whole game,” Garino said. “I think at the beginning, I should have shot a couple of shots where I was open, but I think my feet were ready and I was in the right positions.”
Savage, too, showed expansion of his game, hitting a pair of smooth jumpers after getting the game started with a two-handed slam on a pass from Garino. Savage and Lonergan both spoke about his improved jump shot before the season, and the explosive shooting guard put it on display Friday night, perhaps making memories of last year’s departed leading scorer Maurice Creek fade away ever so slightly.
Garino and Savage also dominated on the other side of the court, with Garino leading the team with four steals and the two players sharing the team lead in blocks with senior John Kopriva.
Garino has always been a slasher and Kopriva a strong defender, but even when their play was not anything new or surprising, Garino said the home crowd on opening night gave the team energy.
“It feels great for us… just the atmosphere of the students hypes everyone up and gives us a little extra confidence in the game,” Garino said.
The building was set particularly abuzz with one of the least familiar sights of the game when Kevin Larsen splashed in the first three-pointer of his career from just outside the top of the arc, though Larsen made sure to say after the game that fans should not expect him to be launching shots from long range on a regular basis.
“It was the first three I’ve made and it felt great, but I’ve got to find other ways to score points like getting down one-on-one in the post,” Larsen said. “But Joe made a great pass and I was like ‘Oh, well,’ so I shot it and it went in.”
Larsen was otherwise himself: He commanded the paint and tallied a team-leading nine rebounds and was the second-highest scorer in the game with 15 points, all in just 26 minutes of playing time.
Larsen also guided the team to 49 total rebounds to Grambling State’s 24. He said rebounding was an area of concern coming into the season, but was pleased to see almost everyone contributing to the statistic.
The Colonials also focused greatly on free throw shooting this offseason, after losing their best shooter in Creek and finishing with a dismal 65.2 percent from the line last year.
Although the Colonials finished 66.7 percent from the line as a team Friday, the two top scorers showed improvement, with Garino going 3-3 and Larsen 6-6.
Despite facing an opponent far less formidable than most teams the Colonials will encounter this season, the performances of the starters bode well for GW. If this year’s squad can continue to score in different ways, breaking last year’s mold could actually prove to be a good thing.