RICHMOND — The George Washington men’s basketball team knew the deal as the visiting side for Wednesday night’s game against Virginia Commonwealth at Siegel Center. If the Colonials’ could handle VCU’s vaunted press, affectionately dubbed “40 Minutes of Havoc” in these parts, they might be able to escape with a sweep of the regular-season series.
It took just six and a half minutes in the first half for that, and GW’s aspirations of claiming sole possession of second place in the Atlantic 10, to unravel during a 92-75 loss that included Colonials Coach Mike Lonergan’s ejection with 43 seconds remaining.
In front of 7,741 that packed the arena for a 48th straight sellout despite a snowstorm pelting the South and mid-Atlantic, the Colonials had no counter shortly after taking an early four-point lead. That’s when VCU sped them up considerably and got hands on balls for deflections and timely turnovers that led to easy points during a 15-2 flurry.
“We let their pressure get to us,” GW senior forward Isaiah Armwood said. “They disrupted us the entire game. . . . We went on two runs, maybe, but their pressure bothered us the entire game.”
GW (19-5, 7-3 Atlantic 10) also was at a disadvantage in the early going when starting sophomore point guard Joe McDonald picked up two quick fouls, forcing backup Miguel Cartagena to handle the ball. The freshman promptly committed two of the Colonials’ 22 turnovers and came out of the game shortly after the next stoppage.
By the time junior guard Treveon Graham swished a three-pointer, the Rams were ahead, 25-12.
GW’s margin swelled to 21 when Doug Brooks stole the ball and pulled up on the fast break for another three-pointer.
“Joe got a silly second foul that was definitely a foul, and that really hurt us,” Lonergan said. “We had to sub, and we just don’t have another point guard really.”
GW had four players reach double figures, including team highs of 17 each from Armwood and Maurice Creek, who shot 4 of 9 from three-point range. The Colonials missed their first nine three-point attempts and finished 6 for 18. They also missed 9 of 20 free throws.
VCU, meantime, was 13 for 25 from long range. Half of Graham’s six field goals came via three-pointers to push him to a game-high 25 points (10 for 14 free throws) and a team-high 10 rebounds. Johnson added 21 points on 8-for-12 shooting, making 5 of 8 three-pointers, for the Rams, who won their 18th straight at home.
“I can’t emphasize enough how appreciative I am of the crowd tonight,” Rams Coach Shaka Smart said. “Another reminder of how special a following we have here.”
The Colonials made portions of the second half interesting, first with a 10-1 surge that drew them to 59-54 with 9:19 left, but VCU sank three-pointers on three of its next four field goals during a 13-3 run. GW then trimmed the deficit to 79-71 with 3:25 to play on Creek’s three-pointer from NBA range.
Again the Rams (20-5, 8-2) blunted the rally, this time with an assist from Lonergan, who was whistled for a technical foul with three minutes to go. Junior guard Briante Weber (game highs of seven steals, six assists) made the ensuing foul shot and a layup moments later before Graham’s four consecutive free throws extended the lead to 87-71 with 1:59 left.
Senior guard Rob Bradenberg’s dunk a minute later had the crowd in a lather, and Lonergan came onto the floor to try get the officials’ attention for a timeout, drawing a second technical and mandatory ejection.
“Just frustration with my team,” Lonergan said. “Nothing to do with the referees. I thought they were very good officials and did a great job. We just kept turning the ball over and getting stripped, so it was really just frustration, and it was definitely a mistake on my part.”