A sold-out crowd of 4,705 arrived at Smith Center on Saturday hoping that the resurgent George Washington men’s basketball team could bounce back from the 17-point drubbing it suffered Wednesday at Virginia Commonwealth. Instead, the Colonials backslid in a 67-61 loss to Massachusetts, falling behind by double figures early and playing catch-up the rest of the way en route to its first home defeat this season.
“I thought the crowd was great, and I was disappointed with the first half,” said GW Coach Mike Lonergan, whose team has fallen from second to fifth in the Atlantic 10 in a span of four days. “I thought we’d come out really aggressively, and we struggled. We were shooting fadeaway jumpers. Even the last play of the first half, instead of taking the ball to the basket, we get our shot blocked down our throat.”
GW managed to claw back and took a 58-57 lead with 5 minutes 17 seconds left on senior forward Isaiah Armwood’s dunk, but the Minutemen countered with four of the next five points, with sophomore guard Trey Davis making 2 of 3 foul shots to give them the lead for good.
The Colonials (19-6, 7-4) got within a point two more times until Davis made two free throws for a 64-61 lead with 27 seconds left. Moments later, sophomore point guard Joe McDonald missed a mid-range jumper for GW, which shot 37 percent and missed 9 of 13 three-pointers and eight free throws in 21 attempts.
GW came into the game leading the Atlantic 10 in field goal percentage (47.8) and was fourth in three-point field goal percentage (36.2).
But sub-par showings in those categories kept the Colonials from reaching 20 wins for the first time since 2006-07. The Colonials also were unable to establish themselves inside, where they normally thrive thanks to Armwood and sophomore forward Kevin Larsen (seven points, 3-of-11 shooting).
“We were rushing a little bit,” said Armwood, who missed 9 of 14 shots and had three turnovers. “They just bothered us, took us out of our comfort zone. They did a good job of doing it.”
The Colonials saw their 13-game home winning streak dating from last season end and, at the moment, are out of position for a double bye in the Atlantic 10 tournament. The top four finishers during the regular season automatically qualify for the quarterfinals.
Sophomore guard Patricio Garino scored 20 points (8 for 15) for the Colonials to match a game high and added three rebounds, three steals, two blocks and one assist. Armwood had 16 points and eight rebounds, and guard Maurice Creek chipped in 11 points, including 2 of 3 from three-point range, but committed four of his team’s 14 turnovers.
Senior forward Sampson Carter led Massachusetts (20-5, 7-4) with 20 points, and sophomore guard Derrick Gordon scored 11. The Minutemen had three starters finish with four personal fouls, including senior point guard Chaz Williams, who picked up his fourth with 11:31 to go but was able to avoid GW’s attempts at getting him disqualified.
“I thought today would be a good day for us, and we’d make more than four three-pointers,” Lonergan said. “We just didn’t do it. They were really collapsing inside, and we’ve got to step up and make some outside shots. I thought Patricio attacked the basket really well, but we don’t have a lot of guys who can do that.”
Bench production continues to be a concern for GW, which had just three points from its reserves courtesy of senior forward Nemanja Mikic’s three-pointer in the second half. Other than Mikic, no GW backup played more than six minutes.
Over the last two games, the Colonials’ bench has been outscored 45-11, including 33-8 during Wednesday’s 92-75 loss to VCU at Siegel Center.
“We usually are a good team bouncing back from losses,” Garino said. “Today it wasn’t the case.”