GW pounded the ball inside early and continued to get points in the paint to dispatch American University 74-47 Wednesday night at the Smith Center.
The Colonials (3-0) took control early, running off nine straight points to open the game. Twice during the run Alexander Koul got the ball under the basket in good position for an easy layup, which turned out to be a common theme throughout the game.
“I was really proud of the big guy (Koul), especially on defense,” GW head coach Mike Jarvis said. “He basically set the tone inside. He was like a big wall they couldn’t get over.” GW’s 7-1 center had 10 points in dominating the first 12 minutes of play, and finished the game with 20 points to go along with seven rebounds.
The rest of the front line helped Koul dominate a physically smaller AU team, with Pat Ngongba scoring 10 points and Antxon Iturbe chipping in eight more.
The only part of GW’s frontcourt that was misfiring was forward Yegor Mescheriakov, who went 0-6 with just one point in the first half. Mescheriakov recovered in the second half to finish with nine points.
“They were bigger and stronger and outnumbered us in depth tonight,” American head coach Art Perry said. “We were very tired by the end of the game.” Despite jumping out to a big early lead and dominating inside, GW never pulled away until late.
“I thought we should have put it away earlier, but they played a good game and kept fighting,” Iturbe said.
Leading just 33-21 at halftime, one of the reasons the Eagles (0-1) were able to stay in the game was the Colonials’ struggles from the free throw line. Through the first half and into the second GW shot a dismal 36 percent from the charity stripe.
The Colonials began to pull away late when their free throw shooting improved, making 15 of their final 16 free throws. GW put together a 14-6 run late in the second half, in which it sank eight free throws in a row, to take a 56-37 lead and put the game out of reach.
GW also played solid team defense throughout the game, limiting American to just 31 percent shooting from the field. Only senior Nathan Smith broke into double figures for the Eagles with 18 points.
The Colonials are back in action Monday when they will face the ninth-ranked University of Kentucky in the first of three games at the Maui Invitational in Hawaii. After seeing his team play in five games, Jarvis said he is anxious to see his team play some of the elite teams in men’s basketball.
“We’re ready to play,” Jarvis said. “We’re ready to find out if we can match up against the best teams in the country, and playing them is the only way to find out.”