The GW men’s basketball team entered the weekend with a chance to stake its claim as the team to beat in the Atlantic 10 West.
The Colonials (9-5, 3-1 A-10) knocked off one of the two teams it shared the division title with last season – Dayton – but were beaten handily by Xavier – the other team that finished atop the A-10 West in 1997-’98.
Shawnta Rogers earned his third Atlantic 10 Player of the Week award for his 36-point performance against the Flyers, but he cooled off against the Musketeers, who held him to 11 points.
GW continues a three-game road trip Thursday night at St. Bonaventure.
Xavier 81, GW 61
When Shawnta Rogers goes cold, that usually means bad things for GW.
The senior point guard hit just three of his 17 attempts, including 1-of-7 shooting from the three-point line, as Xavier handed the Colonials their first conference loss of the season at Cincinnati Gardens Sunday.
The Colonials fell behind by double-digits several times in the early going and never recovered, never narrowing the gap to less than six points.
Sophomore Mike King kept GW in the game early with eight of his team’s points when the Colonials trailed 18-13. But King picked up his third foul against Xavier guard Lenny Brown and was forced to the sideline for much of the game. King scored a team-high 17 points, but was limited to 23 minutes and eventually fouled out.
Xavier pushed its advantage to 11 points with King out of the game, and Rogers and the rest of the GW offense struggling. But the Colonials managed to close the gap to 38-32 just before halftime on a pair of free throws by sophomore Roey Eyal. On its last first-half possession, Xavier ran a set play for guard Gary Lumpkin, who finished with 18 points, who nailed a pro-range three-pointer to push the Musketeers’ lead to nine.
In the second half, Xavier successfully attacked GW’s 1-3-1 zone that featured the 5-4 Rogers playing the baseline. Xavier got past the middle of GW’s zone and took advantage of the smaller Rogers in the lane during a 10-2 run that gave the Musketeers a 51-36 lead. James Posey collected two dunks and an alley-oop slam during that stretch for six of his game-high 20 points.
Xavier shot better than 68 percent from the field in the second half and shot better than 52 percent for the game. GW managed to hit just 32 percent of its shots, including just 6 of its 22 attempts from beyond the three-point arc. GW – which averages eight fewer turnovers than its opponents – committed 21 turnovers to Xavier’s 20.
GW 81, Dayton 69
GW head coach Tom Penders said after Thursday’s victory over Dayton that it’s about time Shawnta Rogers gets some national recognition.
Performances such as the one he gave in the Smith Center against the Flyers – pouring in a career-high 36 points – certainly won’t hurt.
While he dominated the first half with 18 points, as GW held onto a 32-31 lead, he was the spark that ignited a 16-0 run in the second half in which the Colonials held Dayton scoreless for more than seven and a half minutes.
“He’s an amazing player, and I don’t put any pressure on him at all, because I’ve said it from the first day – I think he’s the best point guard in America,” Penders said. “You can’t guard him and he’s a great defensive player.”
With GW down 44-40 with just more than four minutes gone in the second half, Rogers made a three-pointer from the left baseline to pull the Colonials within a point. He gave the Colonials the lead with a short bucket in transition, and scored 13 of GW’s 16 points during the run.
While Rogers took over the game offensively, GW played stifling defense on the other end. The Colonials had trouble matching up with Dayton’s 6-10 center Mark Ashman, who finished with 20 points, before Penders inserted 7-0 freshman Albert Roma.
“Nobody was more important in this game and our turning the game around than Albert Roma coming in for a period of about seven minutes and totally shutting Ashman down,” Penders said.
The Flyers (7-7, 2-2 A-10) finally scored on an alley-oop from Edwin Young to Tony Stanley at the 8:16 mark, their first score since 15:50 remained in the second half.
“We played great defense during that streak,” Penders said. “We didn’t give Dayton any open looks. Then, when they got down 12 or 14 they might have rushed a couple. They missed some they might have made earlier, but I thought our defense really did a good job.”
By the time Dayton’s offense got back on track, it was too late, as GW never led by less than nine for the rest of the game.
Mike King scored 22 points for GW, while Yegor Mescheriakov scored 15 to join Rogers in double figures.
“Any time those three are clicking offensively, GW is going to have a chance to beat almost anybody,” Dayton coach Oliver Purnell said.
Sophomore Antxon Iturbe scored just one point for the Colonials, but he pulled down 10 rebounds. GW won the battle of the boards, grabbing 47 rebounds, including 26 offensive, to Dayton’s 36.
“We’ve been a great offensive rebounding team and we need to be the way we shoot,” said Penders, whose team shot just 33 percent in the first 20 minutes. “In the first half, we killed ourselves with missed put-backs and free throws, though. In the second half, we did a much better job of scoring inside.”
GW led for almost the entire first half, but struggled on offense. Other than Rogers, King and Patrick Ngongba were GW’s high scorers with five points apiece. But Rogers lit up the Flyers early, including 3-of-4 shooting from behind the three-point line.
“We came into the game saying take away his three, and once he hits two or three, we were upset and concerned that he hit two or three,” Purnell said. “We wanted to make him put it on the floor and then get help late on him, but he got rolling and he knocked them down.”