Perimeter defense has long been a failing for George Washington, and despite a coaching change, that vulnerability hasn’t gone away.
The Colonials allowed Virginia Commonwealth to make nearly half its field goals from behind the three-point arc on Sunday afternoon and, as a result, lost, 75-60, in the first game of the BB&T Classic at Verizon Center.
Six of VCU’s first eight field goals were from three-point range, and the Rams, who average 7.3 three-pointers a game, made nine in the first half.
Bradford Burgess had four three-pointers to finish with 24 points, one of four VCU players to score in double figures.
The Rams finished 12 for 24 from behind the arc and 25 for 58 overall.
VCU is a solid shooting team, but GW’s poor defense seemed to give the Rams’ shooters confidence.
“We were supposed to go under screens and we were helping too much,” GW Coach Mike Lonergan said. “We let Burgess get off to a great start, then we tried to change some things and three or four guys may have been on the same page, but a few guys would have a breakdown on every play. . . . We tried to trap a little, but the rotation was a little slow, which gave them more open threes.”
Though the defensive lapses rankled Lonergan the most, he also was not pleased with how poorly GW handled VCU’s pressure defense.
The Rams harassed the Colonials into 10 first-half turnovers, seven of which came off steals, and turned those miscues into 16 points to take a 43-26 halftime lead.
VCU finished with 21 points off 17 GW turnovers.
After Mikic’s layup gave GW a 14-13 lead, the Colonials turned over the ball on five of their next six possessions and made only one field goal over the next 61 / 2 minutes.
VCU capitalized on GW’s offensive and defensive struggles, going up, 24-16.
“When we go on those scoring droughts, it takes life out of us,” Tony Taylor said. “And we can’t let that happen. We’ve got to turn up our defense. We’ve got to get some easy baskets. We’ve got to finish plays.”
Added Lonergan: “Part of those runs, it’s not just our lack of defense, it’s our scoring problems and our turnovers. Truthfully, I actually think one of the problems with our team is we have some guys that are too confident in their offensive abilities. . . . We try to take things in our own hands and go one on one and that usually is when we get in trouble.”
The Colonials came out energized in the second half and quickly brought the deficit down to single digits.
But they could get no closer than six points and the Rams sealed the win at the free throw line.
Despite shooting mostly jump shots in the game, VCU took 11 more foul shots than GW.
VCU did a nice job of slowing down GW’s leading scorers, Taylor and Aaron Ware. Taylor, who labored to run the offense and score points, didn’t make his first field goal of the game until 3 minutes 8 seconds remained before halftime. Ware made just one basket in the first half.
As the Colonials are learning, if an opponent takes away Taylor and Ware, they don’t have many other reliable scoring options. Lasan Kromah remains inconsistent. Dwayne Smith continues to work his way back into shape. David Pellom is hampered by a shoulder injury, though he is showing signs of being less of a one-dimensional player than originally thought. Jabari Edwards is more of a defensive than offensive threat. Mikic is good for about three three-pointers a game, but not much else. And John Kopriva has yet to adjust to the college game.
“We haven’t put two good halves together yet,” Lonergan said. “We need to get more than a couple guys more committed on both ends of the court, and we really struggle at certain positions defensively. The good thing is it seems like more a lack of effort than talent.”