Men’s Basketball Writer
WASHINGTON – Finally, a last second game went their way.
Isaiah Armwood’s put-back dunk off a missed Lasan Kromah layup with two seconds left gave GW a thrilling 81-80 win in overtime over Dayton on Senior Day, punching the Colonials’ ticket to the Atlantic 10 Tournament in the process with St. Bonaventure’s unexpected loss to Fordham.
The Colonials had five players in double-figures, led by freshman Joe McDonald, who posted 16 points on 7-11 shooting, including 2-2 from beyond the arc. Seniors Dwayne Smith and Bryan Bynes both started in their final game on Tex Silverman Court and combined for 28 points, with Smith scoring 15 and Bynes 13. Bynes was a surprise starter today after missing the past four games with a fractured right tibial plateau, but his added presence was felt from the start, as he produced both offensively and defensively, drawing constant matchups with Dayton’s high-powered guards Kevin Dillard and Vee Sanford.
Lasan Kromah added 12 points and five rebounds in 31 minutes off the bench for the Colonials while the aforementioned Isaiah Armwood contributed 12 points and eight rebounds.
The game itself was a roller coaster ride for GW, who led by as much as six and trailed by as much as 11 just in the first 10:51 of the first half. A fast start for the Colonials, spurred on by the unexpected return and energy of Bryan Bynes, gave way to a 19-2 Dayton run that put the Flyers ahead 21-10 with 9:09 left in the half. Dayton was able to hold that 11 point lead for the next four minutes before GW ended the half on a 17-6 run to tie the game at 33 heading into the locker room.
The Colonials managed to do an extremely good job of keeping themselves within striking distance in the second half, never trailing by more than six points, despite numerous attempts from the Flyers to pull away. Dayton had a chance to put the Colonials away with 7:05 to go and up five, but could not get the defensive stop they needed. This, combined with GW’s persistence driving to the rim and drawing fouls, allowed the Colonials to claw back into the game and eventually tie it with 4:33 left on a Kevin Larsen layup.
The game would go back and forth down the stretch, with Lasan Kromah knotting it up at 71 on an uncontested layup with 39 seconds left. After a crucial defensive stop, GW had a chance to win it with four seconds left. However, Bryan Bynes’ runner off the glass went in-and-out, sending a GW game into overtime for the first time since March 8, 2011.
Overtime only continued the tenseness of the affair, with Dayton seeming to have taken control of the game up four with 1:03 left and controlling possession of the ball. Yet, Dyshawn Pierre dribbled the ball off his foot and right into the hands of Joe McDonald, who laid it in to make a two-point game with 40 seconds left. On the ensuing inbound, Khari Price threw the ball away, right to Dwayne Smith who proceeded to get the floater to go, tying the game at 79.
Matt Derenbecker was able to draw a blocking foul on Smith and make one of his two free throws, giving Dayton an 80-79 lead with seven seconds left and providing a situation that, until today, had proven to be kryptonite for the team.
But that was not the case today, as Isaiah Armwood streaked through a wide open lane that Dayton’s bigs failed to box out and provided the put-back jam to give GW an 81-80 lead, sending the surprisingly large crowd into a frenzy.
Dayton still had one more chance to win the game, with Dyshawn Pierre getting the ball in the corner and draining a three-pointer at the buzzer. However, it was determined that Armwood, who had jumped to block the shot, caused Pierre to hesitate on the shot just long enough that he did not get the shot off before the buzzer, preserving the win for GW.
Dayton (17-13, 7-9 Atlantic 10), who had entered the game Saturday on a three-game winning streak and a stretch of five games in which they averaged over 80 points and shot better than 50 percent, did nothing to end that stretch today, as four players scored in double figures, including Pierre, who led the Flyers with 21 points on 8-9 shooting. Dayton’s leading scorer, Kevin Dillard, scored 20 points of his own but fouled out with 4:31 remaining in overtime, depriving Dayton of their best free throw shooter and closer down the stretch. Fellow guard Vee Sanford scored 18 points and Josh Benson scored 10 on a perfect 5-5 shooting.
Yet, the Flyers will undoubtedly leave Foggy Bottom with a bitter taste in their mouths as their Atlantic 10 Tournament hopes now hang in the balance while the Colonials (13-16, 7-9 Atlantic 10) ticket to Brooklyn is punched with St. Bonaventure’s unexpected home loss to Fordham this afternoon.
Furthermore, today’s effort from GW was a sign of that potential that everyone saw from this team at the start of the season. It was not always pretty, with a stat of 20-42 from the charity stripe likely to leave many Colonials fans shaking their heads. Yet, when the going got tough, it seemed as though GW had an answer, a far cry from their last nine games, seven of which ended in GW defeats.
The win gives them a ton of momentum that they will hope to build on entering the tournament. It is clear that the return of Bryan Bynes gives them a newfound confidence defensively, which will only help GW. Assuming that Patricio Garino will be able to go in the tournament opener, a questionable proposition according to head coach Mike Lonergan postgame, the Colonials will be in great shape defensively. If they can manage to get enough offense, it could make for an extremely interesting week in Brooklyn.
The Colonials will now await the rest of the results from the Atlantic 10 schedule to determine their seeding entering next week’s Atlantic 10 Tournament at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. WRGW will have full coverage from Brooklyn starting with GW’s first game on Thursday, March 14th. The time of the game will be announced once the seeding for the tournament has been finalized.
Men’s Basketball Writer
WASHINGTON - Coming off a disheartening loss to Richmond on Wednesday night, the George Washington Colonials had the eighteenth-ranked team in the country on the ropes with seven minutes left to play on Saturday afternoon at the Charles E. Smith Center. However, they could not carry that lead home to the finish, ultimately falling to the Saint Louis Billikens 66-58.
Kevin Larsen led the Colonials in scoring, finishing with 14 points on 7-14 shooting to go along with four rebounds. Seniors Lasan Kromah and Dwayne Smith combined for 22 points off the bench, with Kromah scoring 12 and Smith scoring 10, while Isaiah Armwood grabbed 10 rebounds. Patricio Garino also had a solid game, finishing with a modest stat line of eight points, six rebounds, and four steals in the losing effort.
Saint Louis (23-5, 12-2 Atlantic 10) was led by junior forward Dwayne Evans, who finished with an impressive line of 22 points and 12 rebounds in 30 minutes of action. Kwamain Mitchell was also a thorn in the Colonials’ sides, using his speed and explosiveness with the ball to finish with 18 points on 6-12 shooting. Jordair Jett also contributed off the bench for the Billikens, finishing with 11 points on an efficient 3-5 shooting.
The game itself can best be described as a good, old-fashioned slugfest dominated by physicality on both ends of the floor. The teams were equal inmost facets of the game, with both squads shooting about 41 percent from the field. Saint Louis grabbed 34 total rebounds while GW garnered 32 of their own. The Billikens turned the ball over 16 times compared to the Colonials’ 14.
But the game was decided on three-point and free throw shooting. The Billikens made three more three-pointers than GW did in the win while converting on 21 of their 24 free throw attempts. Meanwhile, the Colonials made only eight of their 15 free throw opportunities, once again creating headaches for Mike Lonergan, the coaching staff, and the GW fans in attendance on Saturday.
Yet, despite their woes in those two crucial categories, GW weathered a few Saint Louis runs and led by three with 7:12 remaining, sending the 3,258 in attendance into a frenzy. But, a 14-3 Billiken run over the next four and a half minutes proved to be too much for the Colonials to handle as Saint Louis took firm control of the game and proved by they are the eighteenth-ranked team in the country and, arguably, the best team in the Atlantic 10.
However, GW has nothing to hang their heads about following a hard-fought loss to a team that is, quite simply, more talented than they are. In fact, they can take pride in the fact that they forced a Saint Louis team averaging only 11 turnovers per game entering Saturday to commit 16 turnovers on the afternoon. In addition, the Colonials’ 1-3-1 zone employed in early portion of the second half created many problems for the Billikens that took a while to remedy.
However, coming close can only provide you so much solace and for the Colonials, while they did play one of their better games of the season and proved to be a worthy foe for a highly talented Billiken team, it still was not enough to come out with a win. In fact, the loss, combined with Dayton’s four point win over Richmond, puts GW in an extremely precarious spot entering the final week of the Atlantic 10 season. Regardless of who wins the matchup between Charlotte and St. Bonaventure, the Colonials will be in a three-way tie for eleventh place, with one of those teams on the outside looking in. The Colonials still control their own destiny entering the final week, with two wins assuring them a spot in Brooklyn. However, they have set themselves up for a nail-biting final week.
GW (12-15, 6-8 Atlantic 10) will now prepare for their final road game of the season, a tough rematch from earlier in the season with La Salle (20-7, 10-4 Atlantic 10) at the Tom Gola Arena in Philadelphia. Coverage starts at 6:45 with tipoff at 7 p.m. on WRGW-Colonials Radio Central at gwradio.com.
Last season was hailed as a revival of George Washington men’s basketball. New head coach Mike Lonergan came with a lot of momentum. He assembled a new coaching staff and hoped to lead last year’s 17-win to a bigger and better finish. There were even aspirations of a fringe NCAA tournament bid.
By season’s end though, both fans and the team found themselves staring at a 10-21 record, another first round exit at the hands of the Dayton Flyers, and the graduation of their leading scorer and current Tulsa 66ers rookie Tony Taylor.
Consider this season “The Foggy Bottom Revival: Take Two.”
Returning to the fold are seniors Lasan Kromah and David Pellom, the team’s top returning scorers from last year. Kromah, who scored 11.1 points per game, showed some rust a year removed from his foot injury but still showed some game-changing potential. From his double-double performance – with a career-high 14 rebounds – against Xavier and two strong scoring totals against Richmond, there’s still more to come from the local guard. Pellom averaged career highs in points (10.4), rebounds (6.1), and shot an A-10 leading and program-record 68.5% from the field. With his energy and as the GW’s principal low-post scoring threat, Pellom served as a crucial staple in the rotation even though he only started four games. The Colonials are going to miss him early in the season though as he’s still recovering from left wrist surgery in the off-season.
Senior guard Bryan Bynes was the lone backup at point-guard last year and will likely keep that role. He comes into this season as the team’s best perimeter defender and will look to expand his offensive versatility. Swingman Dwayne Smith is coming into his senior season healthy for the first time in his Colonials career and will likely start right out of the gate. Concussion symptoms plagued him all last year, but he showed a glimpse of his strong sophomore season in a late six-game stretch where he averaged 11 points and four rebounds. Coupled with his already tough inside play, if he regains his ability to stretch the floor with his jump shot, he will be GW’s biggest x-factor on both ends of the floor.