The George Washington men’s basketball team rallied from an early second-half deficit thanks to a taller lineup that controlled the interior for a 76-67 victory over Virginia Military Institute on Saturday in the second game of a doubleheader sweep that began with the Colonials women outlasting George Mason, 60-52, at Smith Center.
Senior forward Dwayne Smith scored 14 of his season-high 18 points in the second half for the men, who ended a three-game slide while playing for the first time in 11 days. Senior forward Isaiah Armwood matched Smith’s team high with 18 points and added a team-high nine rebounds in a game the Colonials trailed, 46-44, with 13 minutes 29 seconds to play.
At that point Coach Mike Lonergan inserted a lineup that gave GW (5-6) a distinct height advantage at all positions, and that group scored seven in a row during a 9-0 burst that had the Keydets trying to play catch-up the rest of the way. Patricio Garino, a 6-foot-5 freshman, made a three-pointer to give the Colonials the lead for good with 12:12 left, and they extended the margin to 64-54 six minutes later following Smith’s three-point play and three-point basket.
“This was a real important win for us going into the holidays,” said Lonergan, adding he was concerned how the team would respond in its first game since losing to Kansas State and Rutgers, each by three points.
George Washington’s size difference resulted in a 48-33 advantage in rebounding against VMI, including 19-11 offensively. The Colonials also made 19 of 22 free throws and limited VMI to 37 percent shooting, although the Keydets made 9 of 21 (43 percent) from three-point range to stay close for much of the game.
Senior forward Stan Okoye had 19 points and 10 rebounds, both game highs, for VMI and added a team-high six assists. Keydets freshman guard Tim Marshall scored 14 points, sinking 4 of 5 from three-point range, and junior guard Rodney Glasgow scored 12 points.
The closest VMI (4-7) got in the final minutes was 72-65 after Okoye’s three-pointer, but during a timeout with 1:34 to play, officials assessed the Keydets coaching staff with a technical foul. Armwood made two free throws, and a two-handed dunk by Smith (8-for-11 shooting) provided the final points in front of an announced crowd of 1,734.
“Coach did a good job motivating us in the locker room,” Smith said. “I just basically did what he said, attack aggressively, and I had a good second half.”
In the women’s game, the Colonials got a season-high 21 points from Danni Jackson to win their second in a row. The senior guard was the only George Washington player to score in double figures, adding seven assists and a career-best seven rebounds.
Jackson’s basket with 1:55 to play gave the Colonials a 57-52 lead after George Mason had drawn within three on the heels of a 15-4 run. Moments before that, senior guard-forward Megan Nipe’s three-pointer provided George Washington with a 51-37 margin, its largest of the game.
The Colonials (6-5) led by double figures seven times, and even though they were unable to pull away for good, timely defense combined with George Mason miscues kept them from trailing at any point. George Washington limited the Patriots to 29 percent shooting, but George Mason (4-5) kept it close by making 11 of 11 free throws in its first game since Dec. 8.
“One of our goals we had talked about, when you’re playing a team that’s had a lot of time off, is you can’t give them early confidence,” GW Coach Jonathan Tsipis said. “They’ve worked on a lot of things and probably had two weeks of prep work for us, and I thought we did a good job in that, and I thought Danni Jackson was really good early on of taking what the defense gave her.”