GW Men’s Basketball Midseason Update

Jeff Pawling
Co-Director

The Colonials finished their non-conference schedule strong with four straight wins and a championship at the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic. Let’s take a look at where GW stands right now as conference play gets set to begin on Saturday.

Current Record: 10-3, T-3rd in Atlantic 10

High Point: Defeating #11 Wichita State to Win the Diamond Head Classic

When the Diamond Head Classic field was released last year, the team that immediately stuck out to most GW fans was Wichita State. One could not help but hope for a potential showdown with the Shockers, a team that embarked on a Final Four run two seasons ago and an undefeated regular season last year.

The Colonials got their matchup in the championship game of the Diamond Head Classic after disposing of Ohio and squeezing by Colorado. The game against the 11th-ranked team in the country began the same way the Colonials’ previous games against big-time opponents had. GW was holding their own but could not gain any separation. And with 9:45 remaining, it looked like the game would go the route of Virginia and Penn State, with the Shockers coasting to a comfortable double-digit victory. However, the Colonials had other ideas on Christmas Night, embarking on a 23-9 run down the stretch to win 60-54. It was easily GW’s best win of the season thus far, as they held Wichita State to 34 percent shooting and their leading scorers Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet to a combined 20 points. It was the type of win that led to pure elation for both the team and the fan base, which had waited for this squad to show their full potential. On Christmas Night, the Colonials did just that, dispelling any notions that they were a chronic underachieving squad.

Low Point: 58-54 Loss at Seton Hall

Of the Colonials’ three losses, this one may not be the most deflating (that would be the loss at Virginia) but it is certainly the most disappointing because of GW’s lack of execution in the final minutes. The Colonials had three chances to tie or take the lead in the final 90 seconds, but instead of getting the big shot they needed, the possessions ended in disaster, with Kethan Savage ending two of the final three possessions with a turnover. GW turned the ball over 18 times in the game and missed five free throws in the loss. Reverse either of those statistics and this loss becomes a solid road win over a Big East team that looks better and better with each passing game. The loss is not the low point of the season because they were upset by a lesser team or got run off the court, it is because it was a game they had every chance to win and then some.

Midseason MVP: Patricio Garino

It is hard to ignore the season Patricio Garino is having thus far. With non-conference play in the books, Garino has gotten it done on both ends of the floor, averaging 13.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 2.3 steals per game. He is 14th in the Atlantic 10 in scoring, ninth in field goal percentage, and second in steals and has gained notice nationwide for his play. During a three-game stretch from December 4-11, Garino was especially red hot, averaging 21 points on a 69 percent clip from the field. He was nothing short of incredible for the Buff and Blue in the first half of the season and Mike Lonergan and the coaching staff can only hope that he continues this pace in conference play.

Most Surprising Player: Yuta Watanabe

Watanabe was the preseason x-factor for this team because of his height and length. However, as a true freshman becoming only the fourth Japanese-born player in Division I college basketball history, most would not blame him if he had to endure a lengthy transition to the collegiate level. Instead, Yuta has hit the ground running for GW in the first half of the season, averaging seven points and four rebounds a game and posing as a threat from beyond the arc. Furthermore, his play has pushed starter John Kopriva to play at a high level just to hold on to his starting job. Watanabe still has room for improvement as his game is not totally refined just yet, but considering his role essentially as a sixth man playing a position of weakness for the Colonials, Yuta has been a revelation for Mike Lonergan and his staff.

Conference Play X-Factor: Kevin Larsen

Larsen had an up-and-down non-conference season, with strong performances against lesser opponents and invisible performances against major conference teams. Early on, his inconsistency was holding GW back to a degree as the team was unable to establish a presence down low without him setting the tone. But as of late, Larsen has come alive in terms of his level of play and his consistency. He was the biggest reason for the Colonials’ triumph at the Diamond Head Classic, averaging 11.3 points on 48 percent shooting and 8.3 rebounds in the three games, thereby earning tournament MVP honors. But even before the trip to Honolulu, Larsen had shown signs of coming alive with 18 points and eight rebounds in the win over DePaul and 15 points and 13 rebounds in the loss at Penn State. Larsen is playing his best basketball of the season right now as conference play gets set to start and the Colonials will need him to keep up this level of play in order to emerge at the top of the Atlantic 10.

Bottomline

After an up-and-down start in which the Colonials had shown signs of the pitfalls that had held them back in previous years, GW is currently playing their best basketball of the season. The hope is that the momentum garnered from their upset over Wichita State and their triumph in paradise will carry over into Atlantic 10 play. A 12-6 conference record would get them to my preseason prediction of 22 regular season wins, but if they can build on their recent success and cut down on some of their flaws (turnovers and missed free throws), the Colonials could easily take advantage of what is expected to be a down year overall for the conference and exceed 12 conference wins. This would give the Colonials a real shot at toppling VCU and Dayton for the Atlantic 10 title.

About Jeff Pawling

Co-Assistant Sports Director, News & Social Media, WRGW District Radio

Posted on January 2, 2015, in Campus, GW Basketball, Men's Basketball and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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