George Washington men’s basketball gets past UMBC to continue strong start

December 21, 2013

The George Washington men’s basketball team went into a week-long Christmas break with a fifth straight win, opening a healthy lead in the second half and surviving some sloppy moments thereafter to outlast Maryland Baltimore County, 74-61, Saturday afternoon in front of 2,219 at Smith Center.

Guard Maurice Creek led three Colonials in double figures with a game-high 22 points, including 17 in the first half, and guard Kethan Savage added 15 points. Two of those field goals came on dunks in the second half to help George Washington (10-1) extend its best start since 2005-06 when it won 26 of 27 to finish a school-record 27-3.

GW is off to its second best start in 60 years and is three wins from matching its victory total from all of last season. The last time the Colonials won 10 of their first 11 came during the 1992-93 season.

“It feels great to be 10-1,” Colonials Coach Mike Lonergan said. “I’m very happy for our players. We worked really hard since we lost to U-Mass in the A-10 tournament. I wish we played a little better today going into Christmas, but give UMBC credit. They came out, and they battled us.”

The Colonials shot 53 percent but were unable to pull away for good in part because of balky free throw shooting. They missed 14 of 27 from the line, by far GW’s worst performance this season, and committed 10 of their 17 turnovers in the second half.

But defense bailed out the Colonials, who limited their opponent from the America East Conference to one field goal over the final six minutes. UMBC (3-9) committed 21 turnovers and managed just 10 field goals in the second half in losing for the fourth time in a row.

GW opened the second half on a 9-0 run and opened a 53-34 lead when Savage (Episcopal) soared through the lane for a dunk off teammate Isaiah Armwood’s miss. Minutes later Savage stole the ball and dunked one-handed again for a 64-46 advantage with 11 minutes 42 seconds left in regulation.

“I don’t know exactly where it came from,” Savage said. “I guess maybe with experience, this is my second year being here at GW, I’m seeing things a lot more slowly. I’m just picking my spots, and I’m just trying to be aggressive, get to the rim and finish when I can.”

The Retrievers then mounted a push that got them within 68-58 with 5:58 to play. That’s when GW turned up the defensive pressure by getting into passing lanes and deflecting balls leading to fast breaks.

The Colonials finished with 28 points off turnovers and had nine players score, relying primarily on their starters. GW finished at a 36-11 deficit in bench points, with no reserve collecting more than five points.

Backup forward-center Brett Roseboro led the Retrievers with 13 points. Rodney Elliott was the only other UMBC player in double figures with 10 points, but the starting guard had a game-high seven turnovers.

“We worked hard to be here,” said Creek, a transfer graduate student from Indiana who hails from Oxon Hill. “A lot of people didn’t think we’d be here, but we’re here now. This team can go as far as we want to go, as far we want to take it. We’ve got goals in mind to get those championships.”

Gene Wang is a sports reporter covering multiple beats, including Navy football, the Capitals, Wizards, Nationals, women’s basketball, auto racing, boxing and golf. He also covers Fantasy Football.
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