Even without its primary ballhandler for most of the game, the George Washington men’s basketball team continued its march through the Atlantic 10, exacting payback for its lone conference loss on the strength of suffocating defense to forge a 69-47 victory over La Salle on Wednesday night in front of 3,611 at Smith Center.
The Colonials won their fifth consecutive Atlantic 10 game, matching their longest such streak since 2006-07, when George Washington won the regular season championship. George Washington also moved to 10-0 at home and has won 11 straight overall at Smith Center, where its average margin of victory is more than 18 points.
The Colonials had four players in double figures, including a team-high 16 points and 14 rebounds from center Isaiah Armwood (Montrose Christian). George Washington’s leading rebounder collected his sixth double-double this season.
GW (17-3, 5-1) won for the sixth time in seven games and moved into second place in the Atlantic 10.
Guard Maurice Creek and forward Kevin Larsen (Montrose Christian) each chipped in 15 points for the Colonials, who last lost Jan. 9 at La Salle, 76-72. Larsen missed seven of his 10 shots in that game but since has been on a tear, having made 34 of 48 shots (71 percent).
“It was definitely kind of revenge for me,” Larsen said. “I’ve been kind of mad since that [loss to La Salle].
“I’ve been more focused, so it was definitely kind of sweet for me to play well today and get the win.”
With the score tied at 19, George Washington yielded one field goal over the final 8 minutes 1 second of the first half while scoring 19 points. The Explorers (11-9, 3-3), who shot 27 percent overall, missed seven consecutive field goal attempts and committed three turnovers from that point until Tyreek Duran’s three-pointer with 35 seconds left until intermission.
Also during that stretch, Colonials point guard Joe McDonald (Landon) landed hard while getting fouled driving to the basket for a layup. Several teammates helped the sophomore starter to his feet, and McDonald made both free throws before exiting for good with 6:29 to play in the half.
“I really don’t know,” GW Coach Mike Lonergan said of McDonald, who’s scheduled to be evaluated further Thursday. “When he went out in the first half, our trainer just told me he was done, so I’ve been kind of worrying about that for awhile. I don’t know what that means. Hopefully we’ll find out more tomorrow, so pray he’s going to be okay, and we’re just going to have to find a way if he’s not.”
Complicating matters for George Washington is an injury to starting guard Kethan Savage. The sophomore broke his left foot Jan. 18 in a 79-71 victory over St. Bonaventure and is expected to miss six to eight weeks. With McDonald out for the second half Wednesday, Lonergan turned to Larsen to bring up the ball in some instances.
George Washington was able to overcame 19 turnovers in part because it shot 52 percent, owned a 30-16 advantage in points in the paint and outrebound the Explorers, 42-30. The Colonials also held La Salle’s leading scorer, Tyrone Garland, to five points on 1-for-14 shooting. Garland had been averaging 17 points.
“You talk about at home, everybody in the country wins more games at home than they do on the road, but this is a special place,” Armwood said. “We’ve got our crowd, our fans, and it’s hard for us to come out here, especially this year, and play bad because we’ve got so much energy and people behind us.
“It’s definitely a good feeling when we’re here.”