Concentrating more on defense and rebounding to open the second half, the George Washington men’s basketball team gained separation from Manhattan and leaned on seniors Isaiah Armwood and Lasan Kromah to handle the scoring on the way to a 67-55 victory in the first game of the BB&T Classic on Sunday afternoon at Verizon Center.
Armwood scored a season-high 23 points and added game highs of nine rebounds and six blocks, and Kromah chipped in with 18 points to lead three Colonials in double figures. Freshman Patricio Garino had 10 points and frustrated Jaspers leading scorer George Beamon defensively, limiting the senior to nine points on 3-for-13 shooting.
Kromah scored seven points during George Washington’s 11-3 burst immediately following the break. The guard’s three-point play to cap the run provided a 43-36 lead with 14 minutes 26 seconds left in regulation after the game was tied at 32 at halftime, and his basket moments earlier had given the Colonials (4-3) the lead for good, 36-34.
“We just went into the locker room, and we tried to focus on executing and really playing with intensity like we normally do,” said Kromah, who made 5 of 9 field goals for the fourth straight game above 50 percent shooting. “We came back in the second half, got our composure and tried to make a run.”
The Jaspers (2-4) bounced back with a 6-2 run that closed the margin to 48-46 with 9:05 to play, but George Washington grew its advantage to 54-49, and at that point Coach Mike Lonergan called timeout with 3:20 to go.
The Colonials scored their next 10 points from the foul line, where they missed just twice during that stretch. Armwood and Kromah each converted four free throws, and Kromah’s three-pointer with 18 seconds left produced the final points of the game for George Washington.
The Colonials went 24 for 29 from the line for their second highest percentage (82.8) this season. George Washington made more foul shots than Manhattan attempted and in the second half limited the Jaspers to 25 percent shooting from the field, including 1 of 6 from three-point range.
“I always try to give the other team a lot of credit, and I want to give [the Colonials] a lot of credit because I think they did a terrific job,” Manhattan Coach Steve Masiello said. “But I also thought we missed seven layups kind of at point-blank range around the rim. Now is that their defense, or is that us? I think it’s a combination. Somewhere in the middle lies the truth.”
One of those misses came with 2:06 left after Beamon stole the ball from Armwood and approached the rim for an uncontested basket. But the first-team all-Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference selection missed the dunk, and soon thereafter Armwood was at the foul line making both ends of the bonus.
George Washington was able to overcome 23 turnovers in part because it outrebounded Manhattan decisively in the second half, 26-12, for its third win in four games. The Japsers’ point total was the second fewest the Colonials have allowed this season, and their field goal percentage of 34 marked the fourth time GW has limited an opponent to below 40 percent shooting.
“Tonight we were great from the line,” Lonergan said. “Isaiah was making a lot of them to finish the game. Twenty-four of 29, I mean free throws are so huge. Like all areas of the game, we’ve just got to keep getting more consistent.”