Rams race to win over Colo­nials

GW has 25 turnovers in its most lop­sided loss

The Washington Post Sunday - - COLLEGE BASKETBALL - BY GENE WANG wangg@wash­post.com

RICH­MOND — For a fourth Satur­day in a row, the Ge­orge Washington men’s bas­ket­ball team drew an op­po­nent that was at or near the top of the At­lantic 10 stand­ings, giv­ing the young Colo­nials an­other chance to mea­sure their progress in Coach Mike Lon­er­gan’s sec­ond year of re­build­ing.

This time it was con­fer­ence leader Vir­ginia Com­mon­wealth at one of the most in­hos­pitable en­vi­ron­ments in col­lege bas­ket­ball, and while Ge­orge Washington had an en­cour­ag­ing start, it was un­able to with­stand waves of re­lent­less pres­sure in an 84-57 loss Satur­day night at bois­ter­ous Siegel Cen­ter.

In ab­sorb­ing their most lop­sided de­feat this sea­son, the Colo­nials (1112, 5-5) com­mit­ted 25 turnovers, in­clud­ing 15 in the first half, to match a sea­son high and shot 39 per­cent from the field and 56 per­cent (14 of 25) from the foul line. They also went just 1 of 7 from three-point range.

Fresh­man guard Pa­tri­cio Garino and fresh­man for­ward Kevin Larsen each scored a team-high 10 points on 5-of-9 shoot­ing for Ge­orge Washington, which lost for the third time in four games and dropped to 0-4 all­time against the Rams. Fresh­man point guard Joe McDon­ald was par­tic­u­larly sus­cep­ti­ble to VCU’s vaunted press, com­mit­ting a sea­son-high eight turnovers and miss­ing 5 of 7 shots.

“First play of the game we threw the ball away for no ap­par­ent rea­son,” Lon­er­gan said, “So we def­i­nitely were shook a lit­tle bit, some guys, but got off to a pretty good start. When we cut it to 21-18, I thought we’d set­tle down, and then all of a sud­den our guards started to turn the ball over.”

Af­ter surg­ing to an early lead shortly af­ter tip-off, the Colo­nials went with­out a field goal for nearly five and a half min­utes. The Rams took the lead for good, 11-10, on Melvin John­son’s jumper with 12 min­utes 19 sec­onds left in the first half be­fore clos­ing with a 14-2 flurry head­ing into in­ter­mis­sion.

Ju­nior for­ward Ju­vonte Red­dic be­gan the on­slaught by col­lect­ing an of­fen­sive re­bound and scor­ing on the fol­low, and se­nior guard Troy Daniels added a three-pointer mo­ments later to grow the mar­gin to 33-22. Lon­er­gan called timeout with 2:30 left un­til half­time, but Ge­orge Washington could do lit­tle to counter Red­dic, who scored the next two bas­kets, one on an al­ley-oop dunk that brought the crowd to its feet.

Ju­nior guard Rob Bran­den­berg made a layup, and Daniels fol­lowed with his third of three three-point­ers to pro­vide a 42-24 lead. Ge­orge Washington’s only points dur­ing that stretch came from a pair of foul shots by McDon­ald, and the Colo­nials also missed three more free throws be­fore half­time.

“I think it’s men­tal tough­ness,” Garino said of the litany of missed free throws. “It’s not nerves about the game or any­thing. We’ve been in this sit­u­a­tion on other oc­ca­sions, so we’ve just got to get fo­cused and make free throws.”

The Rams (21-5, 9-2) swelled their ad­van­tage to 52-32 early in the sec­ond half, but the Colo­nials chipped away thanks to re­bound­ing that led to fast­break op­por­tu­ni­ties. Garino was ahead of the pack for six points dur­ing a 10-4 burst that trimmed the deficit to 63-51, prompt­ing VCU Coach Shaka Smart to call timeout with 9:36 left to play.

Out of the stop­page, the Rams scored five points in a row, and shortly there­after, Red­dic scored twice af­ter of­fen­sive re­bounds to make it 72-53, all but en­sur­ing VCU’s fifth con­sec­u­tive win and 18th in 20 games.

Red­dic led the Rams with a sea­son­high 24 points on 11-of-13 shoot­ing, adding a game-high 10 re­bounds. Bran­den­berg, Daniels and Melvin John­son each added 11 points in help­ing VCU shoot 53 per­cent, in­clud­ing 8 of 17 from three-point range.

“I def­i­nitely think there were nerves there, whether in­tim­i­dated by the crowd, I’m not just talk­ing about fresh­men, or what­ever it was,” Lon­er­gan said. “They say you’re never as good as you think or as bad as you think, but we were pretty bad tonight.”

VCU 84, GWU 57

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