There was no second-half comeback this time.
Earlier this season, down 20 points against La Salle, the Colonials embarked on a 19-4 run that cut the lead to five and gave the Smith Center crowd a reason to hang around.
On Wednesday night, in the final road game of the season, GW wasn’t so persistent. The game finished just as the last against the Explorers ultimately did, with another mark in the Colonials’ loss column. This 84-70 defeat has a heightened impact for the Colonials, with only one conference game remaining and the team’s A-10 tournament status still hanging in the balance.
GW must beat Dayton Saturday to make it to Brooklyn.
“It’s just hard to come back,” head coach Mike Lonergan said, “when you’re not making open shots and you’re missing free throws.”
Up 10-9 early in the first half, it appeared GW might be able to hang with the third-ranked team in the A-10. That wasn't the case, though.
La Salle turned up the heat, storming ahead on a 19-4 run and leaving the Colonials wondering if they would make it to playoff basketball. Igniting and bolstering La Salle’s run was the nights’ one-man wrecking crew: Explorers’ senior guard Ramon Galloway.
“You try not to let the best player beat you, but he definitely hurt us tonight and had a great game,” Lonergan said.
Galloway finished with a game-high 29 points on 11-of-17 shooting, giving GW’s defense fits the entire night.
But for the Colonials, he was just the beginning of their problems, with the inability to find an effective defense proving to be most fatal.
“We played a man-to-man defense to start, and we just didn’t guard the three point line well,” Lonergan said. “They were going by us and kicking it for threes, and we weren’t doing a good job guarding the threes, so we called a timeout and got out of that.”
Nothing was getting the job done. When GW went to man, La Salle’s guards had no trouble blowing past them to the basket. The easy points led to 61 percent shooting for the Explorers on the game.
When the Colonials switched to a 1-3-1 zone, the Explorers showcased their spot-up shooting. Despite coming in with the game plan of limiting La Salle’s long-range attempts, GW just simply left too much space for the lethal shooters.
At the end of the half, the Explorers had made 10 three-pointers – compared to only one for GW – and would go on to record 12 treys in the game. Trying to get a head start on a much-needed comeback, GW began to claw away at La Salle’s lead over the end of the first. A jumper here and a lay-up there gave the team some momentum, but a Galloway drive or outside three constantly put another speed bump on the team's road back.
With one final possession left in the first, the lead was down to eight, but a déjà vu floater by La Salle guard Tyreek Dyren put the margin back up to double digits.
“They were playing for the last shot, and their guy fumbled the ball and I thought one of our guys could’ve dove for the ball,” Lonergan said. “But they just stood there, and he picked it up and hit a shot at the buzzer. So it was a big momentum killer.”
In the second half, GW just couldn't get the lead below double digits, accomplishing nothing more than trading baskets with the Explorers. The team certainly had its chances, able to get the ball inside, but blown lay-ups and turnovers led to the eventual 84-70 loss.
One bright spot in the game was GW’s performance on the glass, outrebounding La Salle 28-17, but that was expected with the small four-guard line-up that the Explorers like to suit up. And the Colonials again struggled at the free throw line, going 5-for-10 in the game and failing to get to the free throw line in the first half.
Senior forward Isaiah Armwood used his height advantage inside to lead the team with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Also scoring in double-digits were freshman guard Kethan Savage, who used a strong first half to put up 12 points, and senior guard Lasan Kromah, who made the lone three-pointer for GW and finished with 15 points.
This loss certainly increases the difficulty of the Colonials making it to the A-10 tournament, but their fate is still in their hands.
“We gotta win Saturday. It’s like a one-game season,” Lonergan said. “I guess Duquesne was winning, but then lost in overtime, so we didn't get any help there. So basically we’ve gotta beat Dayton.”