GW women’s basketball falls apart late, loses 85-59 at Virginia

By: Liam O’Murchu

Women’s basketball opened up their season Monday night with an 85-59 loss to Virginia in Charlottesville. It marked the most points the team has let up under the tutelage of second year head coach Caroline McCombs in her 32nd game at the helm.

The team started strong and led 34-30 at halftime before losing the final quarter 34-9 in the first game for new Hoos head coach Amaka Agugua-Hamilton. GW looked overmatched down low for long stretches of the game, struggling to contain senior forward Camryn Taylor.

Taylor, playing in her first game since January 13 of last season, finished with 22 points, 13 rebounds, two blocks, a steal and an assist on 8-15 shooting from the floor. Leading GW was Penn graduate student guard Mia Lakstigala with 16 points, five rebounds, three steals and an assist.

Lakstigala was among four players making their debut for the Buff & Blue. Graduate student guard Jayla Thornton, who’s spent time at Syracuse and Howard, finished with nine points and a steal on 3-13 shooting. Junior JUCO transfer Asjah Inniss had nine points, three rebounds and a steal after earning a start. Finally, freshman guard Nya Robertson didn’t score but had three assists and two rebounds.

GW relied on Lakistagala and Thornton in the first half, as the graduate student duo accounted for 17 of the team’s 34 points. GW held the Cavaliers to 17% from the floor in the second quarter, showcasing their defense, which was the best in program history in terms of points per game last year.

Redshirt senior Mayowa Taiwo starred on the defensive end, although the box score didn’t necessarily reflect that. She was credited with six points, seven rebounds, an assist, a block and a steal. Taiwo’s active hands made her a presence inside and outside the paint, and her rebounding prowess was on display as well. In fact, with one more rebound, Taiwo will hit the 500 career rebounds milestone.

Despite GW doing enough in the first half, they looked overmatched in the second half after senior guard Taylor Valladay reentered the game for the Cavs following two early first half fouls. The Marquette transfer’s speed and ball handling ability gave GW fits and she finished with 12 points, four rebounds, and four assists. Notably, she also didn’t have any more fouls while playing every minute of the second half.

The bottom truly fell out for GW in the fourth quarter, where their offense completely stalled and UVA had their way at the other end. GW shot 3-13 from the field while UVA was 12-17 in the final quarter of play.

Overall, I was impressed with what I saw from GW through the first thirty minutes. They held their own playing at an ACC school with many key players playing their first official game in Buff & Blue. It’s clear they’re improved (especially offensively) from last year, they just need to put the pieces together and should have time to do so.

However, I would be remiss not to mention what happened in the final quarter. They were clearly tired and allowed the crowd to push the Hoos over the endline. The long scoreless stretches and single digit scoring quarters need to be a thing of the past, particularly when paired with porous defense like we saw in the fourth quarter.

Notably, GW was missing two returners who figure to play sizable roles when they are back on the court. Sophomore forward Maxine Engel was not in uniform while senior guard Sheslanie Laureano did not make the trip. Also not making the trip was freshman forward Caia Loving.

The Buff & Blue return to action in their home opener on Thursday at 6 PM against Maryland Eastern Shore, who began the season with a 81-53 loss at Miami. That game can be streamed on ESPN+ and WRGW.

George Washington Men’s Basketball Defeats Virginia State 85-58

By: Abe Rothstein

“Incredible turnout today, impressive. I’m sure Virginia State felt it.” The words of Head Coach Chris Caputo following his first win rang true as the Buff and Blue faithful turned out for the season opener. George Washington dispatched Virginia State 85-58. 

Coach Caputo and co turned in an impressive second half showing following a closer first half. Virginia State, which is GW’s first non-D1 opponent since 1990, did not hold a lead at any point in the game. Right from the opening tip, GW took charge.

While Coach Caputo might be new to the program, veteran backcourt duo Brendan Adams and James Bishop took the charge today. With an elevated role following the departure of A10 rookie first-team PG Brayon Freeman, Adams, a graduate student and former transfer from UConn, filled in successfully. After shooting only 27% from three the previous year, Adams had a career-high four threes in only seven attempts. If Adams can find a way to facilitate the offense along with becoming a reliable option from deep, the GW backcourt can be dangerous.

Teaming up with Adams is James Bishop, who was a preseason All-A10 second-team member. Bishop, who led GW in scoring last year, has started to change his style of play to distribute the ball. Bishop, to go along with his game-high 21 points, dished out a career-high nine assists against only one turnover. Both members of the backcourt finished with an exceptional +26 each to help lead the Buff and Blue to victory. 

Coming off the bench, Alabama State transfer EJ Clark was effective even in limited minutes due to foul trouble. His highlight came on a fastbreak alley-oop to third-year center Noel Brown who also contributed positively. Brown was especially strong in the paint as he overpowered the Virginia State defense. An improved Brown could help fill a major hole for GW, as they regularly struggled against bigs. C Hunter Dean, along with Brown, was effective in today’s game. To go with his nine points and four rebounds, he also contributed on the defensive end with both a block and a steal. The word defense could not be spoken about in this game without talking with Ricky Lindo Jr. The senior only finished with three points but stuffed the stat sheet with ten rebounds, three steals, and two blocks. Lindo Jr. was in the top ten in the Atlantic 10 in rebounds, steals, and blocks last year, and he will look to continue to be a dominant force. While the scoring didn’t jump out for Lindo, he finished with a team-high +30. Coach Caputo gave credit to the support of George’s Army when speaking about the play of Lindo and his energy; “He was even gassed in the layup line… the students made that happen, which is awesome.” 

The energy in the Smith Center surely felt different and was made clear by Brendan Adams, who spoke about the energy, stating that it was certainly better than anything in the previous year. A player who can bring a lot of energy to the team is Max Edwards, the highlight of the transfer class from Kansas State. Edwards, who went to high school at Our Savior Lutheran, where he teamed with rumored GW commit Christian Jones, is seen as a freshman in the eyes of Caputo. The inexperience did show at times, as Edwards found himself in early foul trouble. Edwards did show up offensively in the second half, finishing with 12 points on 5-8 shooting, along with six rebounds. Edwards will look to stay out of foul trouble, as his four fouls did cost him playing time. 

The Buff and Blue will take on Howard this Friday at the Smith Center, which should prove to be a fun local duel. This game was a good start for the Chris Caputo era, and GW will look to take advantage of the out of conference schedule, which was something they were not able to do last year.

As Caputo continues to acclimate to the new environment, and with a team that was largely in place already, his mindset is to “seek to understand before being understood.” The connection between the players and the coaching staff is evident, and Caputo will look to take GW back to the top of the A10.

Men’s basketball cruises to 78-61 exhibition win over Western Connecticut State

By: Liam O’Murchu

The Chris Caputo era started successfully on Sunday afternoon thanks to a 78-61 exhibition win over Division III Western Connecticut State.

“It’s great to play Western Connecticut [State].” GW head coach Chris Caputo said. “My childhood really, really good friend that grew up on the same block as me is Guy Rancourt, the coach of Western Connecticut. He’s one of the reasons why I got into coaching. So it was fun to have that moment with him.”

Senior guard James Bishop led all scorers with 19 points on 5-9 shooting from the floor and 4-7 from three point range. Bishop also had six assists, two steals, a rebound and no turnovers in an efficient tuneup performance headed into his third year in Foggy Bottom.

Redshirt freshman guard Max Edwards followed closely behind Bishop with 18 points, nine rebounds, and three assists of his own. Edwards showcased his bounce in his first game with GW, throwing down a dunk and grabbing rebounds over players taller than him. Edwards transferred to GW this offseason after spending his freshman year at Kansas State but sitting out the season due to a leg injury.

“I’m forever blessed.” Edwards said. “I haven’t played in two years, so it was a great feeling to be out there with my teammates.”

Another player who put in a strong performance was graduate student guard EJ Clark. The Alabama State transfer finished with 11 points, four rebounds, two assists and a steal in 26 minutes. But a lot of the things the Dallas, Texas native does well don’t necessarily show up in the box score. He is a quick guard who is willing to defend the length of the floor and handle the ball. He also does well to get to the line and has been a 85.6% free throw shooter in his two D-I seasons.

The other newcomer that got some action was junior forward Keegan Harvey, who transferred to GW last December from College of Charleston and sat out the season due to NCAA transfer rules. The Australian is a lanky stretch four and gave fans a taste of his three point shooting prowess, going 1-2 from beyond the arc. Despite his size, Harvey struggled to bring down rebounds, finishing with only one but getting a touch on countless other potential boards.

Scoring was generally pretty balanced, which is a good sign for a team that often relied on big games from Bishop or (now departed) Joe Bamisile last season. 31 of GW’s 45 shots were three pointers and the Buff & Blue connected at a 48.4% clip on those three pointers. In fact, GW didn’t score a two point field goal for the first 11:13 of the game. Unfortunately for fans in attendance, the promotion for free Domino’s Cheesy Bread after eight GW three pointers was not up and running for the game.

“I don’t think we settled for ‘hey, they’re going under, I’m just going to sit behind it and shoot.’” Caputo said. “It was more ‘keep it moving, let’s see if we can get them into a mistake.’ And then the ball found the open guy and that guy stepped up with confidence and made threes.”

The Buff & Blue jumped ahead thanks to a 22-6 run over 6:46 in the first half. From there they never looked back and looked comfortable against a Wolves team that went 16 players deep.

As good as the GW three point shooting and guard play looked, there were still some issues that must be ironed out before the start of the regular season. The defensive rebounding left something to be desired (although GW finished with a 24-19 advantage on the defensive boards) and the Wolves were getting decent penetration into the paint, especially early.

But the most obvious issue was one that also plagued GW last season. Junior center Noel Brown and senior forward Ricky Lindo both struggled with foul trouble throughout the game and eventually fouled out. Brown had three fouls in the first eight minutes of the game, limiting his minutes for the rest of the day and forcing GW into some unique lineups.

This has particularly been an issue for Lindo, who had four or more fouls in 11 of the 27 games he appeared in last year. The fouls you can stomach are the ones that stem from aggressive play driving to or defending the basket. The ones you can’t stomach are the ticky tack off ball ones and the needless ones after a play (both of which he had on Sunday).

“I need him on the court.” Caputo said of Lindo. “So, we’re gonna continue to work. A lot of times it’s being out of position. You’re late to a play and you come in and foul. You have to be careful with your hands, your verticality.”

Absent from the lineup for GW were two presumed starters in graduate student guard Brendan Adams and senior forward Hunter Dean. Neither injury is long term and I personally am expecting them to play in the season opener (that’s my opinion, not the official GW stance. Caputo said he expects them back “soon”).

Also not in uniform was freshman forward Jabari West Jr, who is dealing with more of a long term injury and waiting for medical clearance to practice. It is unclear when he will be back.

The Buff & Blue will open up their regular season and officially begin the Caputo era on Monday November 7 at 7pm against D-II Virginia State.

Men’s soccer dominates George Mason 3-0, makes A-10 Championship

By: Liam O’Murchu

GW men’s soccer booked their ticket to the A10 championship with a 3-0 win at George Mason on Saturday night.

The Buff & Blue knew coming in that a win would get them in and were propelled by goals from senior midfielder Elias Norris, junior defender Lucas Matuszewski, and graduate student forward Oscar Haynes Brown.

“We knew what we had to do tonight.” GW head coach Craig Jones said. “Win and we were definitely in. But at the start of the season, that’s where you want to go. You want to make the conference tournament. Once you’re in then you got a chance to win. So I’m super delighted for the guys.”

GW was on the back foot to start and struggled to get on the ball in the opening minutes. But once they settled in, they began having lots of success down the left wing through Norris. In the 17th minute, senior midfielder Tom Cooklin sent the first true warning shot with a cross that nicked off the top of the crossbar and went out for a goal kick.

In the 26th minute, GW turned Mason over after an errant pass from junior midfielder Henry Wachsman. Junior midfielder Carter Humm collected the ball and laid it back to senior midfielder Roee Tenne, who played a through ball to Norris at midfield. Norris did what he does best and made a surging run down the wing, cut it back and curled it to the far corner to make it 1-0.

The dominance of the Bethesda, Maryland native continued for the rest of the first half, but the rest of GW’s offense hadn’t yet found their feet. At the half, GW led 1-0 but wasn’t convincing. However, that changed coming out of halftime.

Just 23 seconds into the second stanza, GW doubled their lead off a set piece. Cooklin dropped the ball on top of the six yard box, finding Matuszewski, who rose above everyone else and nodded it into the side netting. Wild celebrations ensued as the Pitt transfer ran to the corner and was mobbed by his teammates. 

For what it’s worth, GW should not have been awarded a corner kick in the first place. The referee claimed the ball last touched the Patriots defender but that’s not what happened, at least from what I could see. Either way, a goal is a goal and I don’t think it changed the result.

In the 53rd minute, Humm picked up another errant pass and quickly played Haynes Brown through on goal. The Englishman made no mistake and placed it to the far post. This was Haynes Brown’s 38th career goal, moving him closer to the 40 goal mark and the top 3 highest scorers in GW history.

**EDITOR’S NOTE: Tom Cooklin was awarded an assist on this goal and simply did not touch the ball throughout the entire sequence. I’m not saying he doesn’t deserve an assist for moral support but he just jogged alongside the play.**

If we’re awarding two assists to Cooklin, he has the fourth most assists in a single season in GW men’s soccer history (13) and is tied for the fifth most career assists in program history (20). Cooklin also sits in first place across the entire NCAA in assists.

“He’s been superb for us this season.” Jones said. “I mean, everybody just assumes the assists and the attacking side of it, but the graft and the work he does defensively kind of sets the tone. I’d have him for another four years if I could.”

GW continued the pressure, and in the 64th minute, junior defender Aaron Kronenberg had the ball in the back of the net after a header off a corner. However, the goal was disallowed because of a foul committed by Haynes Brown on the Mason goalkeeper. Five minutes later, freshman forward Alex Nicholson was through on goal but was stopped by Mason’s goalkeeper.

In the 77th minute came the best chance of the game (yes, including the goals). Nicholson played a dangerous ball across the face of goal and junior forward Demi Amigun got a foot on it. Unfortunately for Amigun, the ball went straight up, hit off the bottom of the crossbar and bounced away. It was genuinely the most incredible miss I have ever seen in person.

But the Buff & Blue closed it out and booked a ticket to their second A-10 tournament in three years. They will play at Loyola Chicago on Saturday at 4pm on ESPN+. Earlier this season GW fell 4-0 to the Ramblers in one of their worst performances of the year. But this season has been marked by the resiliency of the team. Early in the season they suffered a rash of injuries and have bounced back from numerous poor performances.

“I’m so proud of this group, to be honest with you.” Jones said. “To be in a position where in the last game of the season, you still have a chance to get in the postseason, from what we’ve had to deal with this season is just such a credit to the guys. But every time we got knocked down, whether it was another injury, or a bad result, we were able to bounce back.”

At this point, they’re playing with house money. They can score goals, they’ve proven that already. If they can avoid taking plays off they have an opportunity to make some noise in the postseason.