There was no question George Washington was tired of losing. The Colonials had won only once since Thanksgiving, losing nine of their past 10 games coming into Wednesday’s Atlantic 10 Conference home opener against Rhode Island.
And though it appeared at times that GW might have forgotten how to win, the Colonials did just enough to pull out a 69-61 win over the Rams before 1,951 at Smith Center.
“We’ll take it,” GW Coach Mike Lonergan said. “It’s nice to get a win now.”
David Pellom, whose improved conduct off the court had earned him a starting spot on it, made the most of his second start of the season. The junior forward recorded his first double-double of the season and the third of his career by scoring 17 points and grabbing a season-high 11 rebounds. Tony Taylor led the Colonials (6-10, 1-2 Atlantic 10) with 18 points and six assists.
“Any time you lose a game it hurts a lot,” Taylor said. “We went on that stretch where we just weren’t winning. We’re practicing so hard and we’re not rewarded by a win. It’s always tough.”
GW couldn’t have asked for a better team to help it get its offense back on track than Rhode Island (3-14, 0-2). The Rams have the worst scoring defense in the Atlantic 10, allowing 75.9 points per game and rank 326th nationally in field goal percentage defense (48.8 percent).
However, GW, which has the worst scoring offense in the league (61.1 ppg), did little to capitalize on the Rams’ vulnerability. It almost seemed as if the Colonials needed a Herculean effort to score every point. And because GW’s defense is so poor at times, this game became much more interesting than it needed to be.
From the moment Rhode Island made its first basket — a three-pointer — the Rams appeared to have GW on its heels. They made 50 percent of their field goals in the first 20 minutes, including 5 of 7 from behind the arc.
Even though Rhode Island led most of the first half, Pellom kept GW in the game by scoring 10 points in a row.
“I usually stick my head around the rim and somehow come up with the ball and finish it,” he said.
A flurry of scoring by GW gave the Colonials a lift going into halftime. Jabari Edwards tipped in a shot. Lasan Kromah (12 points, 10 rebounds) put back another. And had the three-point shot by Taylor that rolled around the rim and popped out fallen, GW would have taken a two-point lead into the break instead of trailing, 31-30.
The Colonials were sluggish coming out of halftime, and Rhode Island scored three quick baskets to go up 37-32. But just as the game seemed ready to slip away, GW became more energetic on defense and more productive on offense.
By holding Rhode Island without a field goal for more than 12 minutes, the Colonials used a 20-5 run to take a 52-42 lead. Although GW failed to close out the game as cleanly as it would have liked, the Rams did their part to help the Colonials by missing free throws. Rhode Island made only 12 of 28 foul shots.
“We just don’t have the depth and the talent to have some of our better players not play well,” Lonergan said. “And tonight was one of the first times we had three of our better players play well on the same night. Obviously, there were a lot of mistakes but I’m fine with the mistakes if we’re playing hard, and we weren’t playing hard all of the games here, especially at home. That’s what’s been disappointing. But the guys played hard tonight.”