George Washington Coach Mike Lonergan directs his team during the Colonials’ 74-59 homecoming win over Duquesne. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

The simplest explanation for George Washington’s 74-59 homecoming victory over Duquesne on Saturday at Smith Center was this: The Dukes played zone defense, so the Colonials shot over it.

Their first six baskets were three-pointers. Before the first half ended, they had matched their season high from beyond the arc. And by intermission, the Colonials (16-4, 6-1 Atlantic 10) were ahead by 22 points and well on their way to a fourth straight victory and 10th win in 11 games ahead of Tuesday’s showdown against conference leader Virginia Commonwealth (16-3, 6-0) in Richmond.

“I was worried they would pack it in, which they did,” Colonials Coach Mike Lonergan said of the Dukes. “They gave us open shots. We’ve been shooting better lately. You’re at home, and you have wide-open threes, so you’ve got to knock them down. We made more than I expected.”

GW extended its home winning streak to 11 (9-0 this season) and equaled its best start in conference play since 2006-07.

Two days after coasting to a 20-point victory at last-place Fordham, the Colonials unleashed a 40-11 run bridging both halves to hand the Dukes (6-12, 1-6) a fifth consecutive defeat.

The Post Sports Live panel debates whether Maryland and Georgetown can win the Big Ten and Big East, respectively, after their victories over conference favorites. (Post Sports Live/The Washington Post)

The hosts led by as many as 36 before fizzling down the stretch.

“Five years ago, I would have really left here in a bad mood,” Lonergan said of the sloppy finish. “But I get the big picture now, and most of that game, we played terrific.”

Patricio Garino did not contribute to GW’s 12 three-pointers but did make eight of nine free throws en route to posting a team-high 20 points. Joe McDonald tied a career best with four three-pointers and finished with 16 points.

Paul Jorgensen set a career high with 13, and Kethan Savage set a personal mark with eight assists (and no turnovers).

The Colonials began the day making an average of 4.3 three-pointers, tied for the second fewest in the 14-team league. But Duquesne’s rigid strategy invited GW to test its range.

“We knew we would get the open shots on the wing,” McDonald said. “We also talked about not just settling for it, doing the inside-outside thing. We all did a great job sharing the ball, making that extra pass and having the confidence to hit the shot.”

The Colonials hit them over and over again: Savage began the three-point assault on the opening possession, and McDonald struck on each of the next two trips. Nick Griffin, a reserve guard, swished two straight, and Jorgensen added one of his own.

GW’s first two-pointer did not come until almost eight minutes had passed, and it occurred during a 16-0 surge that turned a 9-9 tie into an early romp.

When they were not making three-pointers, the Colonials were corralling offensive rebounds. (Kevin Larsen had five.) Garino capped a five-shot possession with a layup, and after a technical foul on Dukes Coach Jim Ferry, Griffin struck again from great distance for a 33-13 lead.

Proof of GW’s ball movement and efficiency: 11 assists on the first 12 field goals.

Jorgensen’s three-pointer with 3 minutes 13 seconds left matched GW’s previous season high (nine against Wichita State) and upped the lead to 22. At halftime, it was 40-18.

Naturally, the Dukes began the second half in a zone. Naturally, McDonald and Savage buried three-pointers. Garino’s traditional three-point play pushed the margin to 49-20.

This week’s visit to VCU will begin GW’s most treacherous stretch of the A-10 campaign. Contenders Rhode Island and Dayton will follow.

As tempting as it was, then, the Colonials did not look past Duquesne.

“A lot of people call it a trap game,” Lonergan said. “I told them [the VCU game] won’t mean as much if we don’t win today. Now Tuesday will be more special.”

The 16th-ranked Rams, who have won 11 straight, and Colonials were picked first and second, respectively, in the A-10 preseason poll.

“We’re excited,” Garino said. “We know they are a great team, but they are definitely beatable. We have experience with them; we know how they play. We know they have a good home-court advantage, but we have good experience.”