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.