Men’s Basketball Writer
WASHINGTON – Finally, a last second game went their way.
Isaiah Armwood’s put-back dunk off a missed Lasan Kromah layup with two seconds left gave GW a thrilling 81-80 win in overtime over Dayton on Senior Day, punching the Colonials’ ticket to the Atlantic 10 Tournament in the process with St. Bonaventure’s unexpected loss to Fordham.
The Colonials had five players in double-figures, led by freshman Joe McDonald, who posted 16 points on 7-11 shooting, including 2-2 from beyond the arc. Seniors Dwayne Smith and Bryan Bynes both started in their final game on Tex Silverman Court and combined for 28 points, with Smith scoring 15 and Bynes 13. Bynes was a surprise starter today after missing the past four games with a fractured right tibial plateau, but his added presence was felt from the start, as he produced both offensively and defensively, drawing constant matchups with Dayton’s high-powered guards Kevin Dillard and Vee Sanford.
Lasan Kromah added 12 points and five rebounds in 31 minutes off the bench for the Colonials while the aforementioned Isaiah Armwood contributed 12 points and eight rebounds.
The game itself was a roller coaster ride for GW, who led by as much as six and trailed by as much as 11 just in the first 10:51 of the first half. A fast start for the Colonials, spurred on by the unexpected return and energy of Bryan Bynes, gave way to a 19-2 Dayton run that put the Flyers ahead 21-10 with 9:09 left in the half. Dayton was able to hold that 11 point lead for the next four minutes before GW ended the half on a 17-6 run to tie the game at 33 heading into the locker room.
The Colonials managed to do an extremely good job of keeping themselves within striking distance in the second half, never trailing by more than six points, despite numerous attempts from the Flyers to pull away. Dayton had a chance to put the Colonials away with 7:05 to go and up five, but could not get the defensive stop they needed. This, combined with GW’s persistence driving to the rim and drawing fouls, allowed the Colonials to claw back into the game and eventually tie it with 4:33 left on a Kevin Larsen layup.
The game would go back and forth down the stretch, with Lasan Kromah knotting it up at 71 on an uncontested layup with 39 seconds left. After a crucial defensive stop, GW had a chance to win it with four seconds left. However, Bryan Bynes’ runner off the glass went in-and-out, sending a GW game into overtime for the first time since March 8, 2011.
Overtime only continued the tenseness of the affair, with Dayton seeming to have taken control of the game up four with 1:03 left and controlling possession of the ball. Yet, Dyshawn Pierre dribbled the ball off his foot and right into the hands of Joe McDonald, who laid it in to make a two-point game with 40 seconds left. On the ensuing inbound, Khari Price threw the ball away, right to Dwayne Smith who proceeded to get the floater to go, tying the game at 79.
Matt Derenbecker was able to draw a blocking foul on Smith and make one of his two free throws, giving Dayton an 80-79 lead with seven seconds left and providing a situation that, until today, had proven to be kryptonite for the team.
But that was not the case today, as Isaiah Armwood streaked through a wide open lane that Dayton’s bigs failed to box out and provided the put-back jam to give GW an 81-80 lead, sending the surprisingly large crowd into a frenzy.
Dayton still had one more chance to win the game, with Dyshawn Pierre getting the ball in the corner and draining a three-pointer at the buzzer. However, it was determined that Armwood, who had jumped to block the shot, caused Pierre to hesitate on the shot just long enough that he did not get the shot off before the buzzer, preserving the win for GW.
Dayton (17-13, 7-9 Atlantic 10), who had entered the game Saturday on a three-game winning streak and a stretch of five games in which they averaged over 80 points and shot better than 50 percent, did nothing to end that stretch today, as four players scored in double figures, including Pierre, who led the Flyers with 21 points on 8-9 shooting. Dayton’s leading scorer, Kevin Dillard, scored 20 points of his own but fouled out with 4:31 remaining in overtime, depriving Dayton of their best free throw shooter and closer down the stretch. Fellow guard Vee Sanford scored 18 points and Josh Benson scored 10 on a perfect 5-5 shooting.
Yet, the Flyers will undoubtedly leave Foggy Bottom with a bitter taste in their mouths as their Atlantic 10 Tournament hopes now hang in the balance while the Colonials (13-16, 7-9 Atlantic 10) ticket to Brooklyn is punched with St. Bonaventure’s unexpected home loss to Fordham this afternoon.
Furthermore, today’s effort from GW was a sign of that potential that everyone saw from this team at the start of the season. It was not always pretty, with a stat of 20-42 from the charity stripe likely to leave many Colonials fans shaking their heads. Yet, when the going got tough, it seemed as though GW had an answer, a far cry from their last nine games, seven of which ended in GW defeats.
The win gives them a ton of momentum that they will hope to build on entering the tournament. It is clear that the return of Bryan Bynes gives them a newfound confidence defensively, which will only help GW. Assuming that Patricio Garino will be able to go in the tournament opener, a questionable proposition according to head coach Mike Lonergan postgame, the Colonials will be in great shape defensively. If they can manage to get enough offense, it could make for an extremely interesting week in Brooklyn.
The Colonials will now await the rest of the results from the Atlantic 10 schedule to determine their seeding entering next week’s Atlantic 10 Tournament at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. WRGW will have full coverage from Brooklyn starting with GW’s first game on Thursday, March 14th. The time of the game will be announced once the seeding for the tournament has been finalized.
Men’s Basketball Writer
WASHINGTON – A win, no matter how ugly it is, is still a win in the end.
That sentiment could not be any truer than it was on Wednesday night, as GW defeated Fordham 68-60 despite converting on only 46 percent of their free throw attempts and making only one of eight three-point opportunities.
Freshman center Kevin Larsen led the way for the Colonials, scoring 15 points on 6-11 shooting to go along with five rebounds while senior guard Lasan Kromah added 13 points on 6-8 shooting in 29 minutes off the bench. Isaiah Armwood also had a solid outing for GW, coming a bucket away from securing another double-double with eight points and 12 rebounds. However, the Colonials may have lost a key contributor for their all too important stretch run as senior guard Bryan Bynes left the game with an undisclosed right knee injury, leaving a large void defensively for GW.
An extremely slow start out of the gate for the Colonials, which saw them get down 7-2 a little under three minutes in was combated with a 23-9 run over the next ten minutes that gave GW a lead they would not relinquish the rest of the night. The closest Fordham would get to the Colonials from that point was four as GW took a 36-32 lead into halftime.
Choppy play would dominate the second half of action as strings of Fordham baskets that seemed to keep them in the game would be countered with GW’s own succession of buckets that would seemingly take Fordham right out of it. The Colonials would attempt to keep it interesting down the stretch, missing key free throws as part of a half that saw them shoot 12-26 from the charity stripe. But Fordham’s inability to make a key shot to put GW truly on their heels going to the finish was the death knell for the Rams, who fell to 6-21 and 2-10 in the Atlantic 10 with the loss.
As for the Colonials, winning ugly is certainly not going to fretted upon too much as the victory was desperately needed for this team, which seemed to still be reeling from being dismantled by Shaka Smart’s highly talented VCU squad last Saturday night. However, the two biggest red flags to emerge out of tonight’s performance were issues that have arisen and plagued them over the past three games: free throw and three-point shooting. The Colonials’ free throw shooting has gotten progressively worse over the past three contests, dropping from 70 percent against Butler to tonight’s dismal 46 percent, turning what should have been an easy win into a win that the team and its fans had to sweat out.
In addition, tonight’s disappointing 1-8 mark from beyond the arc means that the Colonials are now 3-27 from three-point land over the past three games. Their poor three-point shooting contributing to their heartbreaking loss to Butler two Saturdays ago and may have cost them another game tonight had they been playing an opponent stronger than Fordham.
And that is ultimately what the silver-lining was in this game. GW was lucky to have been playing a struggling Fordham team at home tonight and not a tougher Atlantic 10 team battling for seeding in the conference tournament. The Colonials may have emerged victorious tonight, but make no mistake about it, they have some serious flaws that need quick remedying if they are to emerge from their brutal final stretch of the regular season with their ticket punched to Brooklyn for the Atlantic 10 Tournament.
GW (12-12, 6-5 Atlantic 10) now get ready to travel to northwest Philadelphia for a matchup with tenth place St. Joseph’s, who trail the Colonials by a game in the Atlantic 10 standings. Our coverage of that matchup from the Hagen Arena starts at 3:45 on Saturday with tipoff at 4 p.m. on WRGW Sports-Colonials Radio Central at gwradio.com.
Last season was hailed as a revival of George Washington men’s basketball. New head coach Mike Lonergan came with a lot of momentum. He assembled a new coaching staff and hoped to lead last year’s 17-win to a bigger and better finish. There were even aspirations of a fringe NCAA tournament bid.
By season’s end though, both fans and the team found themselves staring at a 10-21 record, another first round exit at the hands of the Dayton Flyers, and the graduation of their leading scorer and current Tulsa 66ers rookie Tony Taylor.
Consider this season “The Foggy Bottom Revival: Take Two.”
Returning to the fold are seniors Lasan Kromah and David Pellom, the team’s top returning scorers from last year. Kromah, who scored 11.1 points per game, showed some rust a year removed from his foot injury but still showed some game-changing potential. From his double-double performance – with a career-high 14 rebounds – against Xavier and two strong scoring totals against Richmond, there’s still more to come from the local guard. Pellom averaged career highs in points (10.4), rebounds (6.1), and shot an A-10 leading and program-record 68.5% from the field. With his energy and as the GW’s principal low-post scoring threat, Pellom served as a crucial staple in the rotation even though he only started four games. The Colonials are going to miss him early in the season though as he’s still recovering from left wrist surgery in the off-season.
Senior guard Bryan Bynes was the lone backup at point-guard last year and will likely keep that role. He comes into this season as the team’s best perimeter defender and will look to expand his offensive versatility. Swingman Dwayne Smith is coming into his senior season healthy for the first time in his Colonials career and will likely start right out of the gate. Concussion symptoms plagued him all last year, but he showed a glimpse of his strong sophomore season in a late six-game stretch where he averaged 11 points and four rebounds. Coupled with his already tough inside play, if he regains his ability to stretch the floor with his jump shot, he will be GW’s biggest x-factor on both ends of the floor.