GW men’s basketball coach Tom Penders has said the Colonials would be a good offensive team this year whenever at least two of his guards are clicking.
In its exhibition opener Tuesday night at the Smith Center, GW debuted its three-guard lineup with a performance that was clicking on all cylinders. SirValiant Brown made his college debut by scoring 29 points (including five three-pointers and 25 points in the second half), while juniors Bernard Barrow and Mike King added 20 points apiece.
And so for one night at least, the question of what guard would carry the offense was still left unanswered – but only because they all did.
The second-half explosion from Brown was just enough to ease the Colonials past the Five Star Hawks, whose greater experience – both as individual players (four had pro experience) and as a team (they were playing their sixth game in nine days) – had put GW on the ropes. But the Hawks’ tired legs could not hold on to the two-point lead they took into halftime.
The contest opened with Barrow, Brown and King introducing the 2,756 in attendance (including Shawnta Rogers and Red Auerbach) to GW’s three-guard lineup, while junior Antxon Iturbe and sophomore Albert Roma comprised the frontcourt.
Right from the start, GW – wearing new baggy, simpler, bright white uniforms – went on the attack, with the guards creating a quick two for Iturbe. Seconds later, GW forced a tie-ball, and it appeared Penders’ chaos defense was in full effect.
The Hawks managed, though, to hang with GW and opened a nine-point lead that the Colonials cut to two with a quick burst in the last minute of the first half.
In that first 20 minutes, freshman Chris Monroe saw time off the bench but was hampered by foul trouble throughout. The crew of Atlantic 10 officials called 40 personal fouls in the game.
Brown also received three fouls in the first few minutes of the game, and he and Barrow (4-of-12 shooting in the first) both appeared to struggle on offense early. But any hope the Hawks had of picking up another win – after beating Davidson University in their first game – was demolished by Brown’s second-half shooting.
The fouls came real early in the game – like that, Brown said. And I couldn’t get in a flow.
Because of Brown’s foul trouble, Penders felt compelled to play Barrow the full 40 minutes, which is somewhat unusual for an exhibition game.
I want him to play less, Penders said.
I didn’t think about it, Barrow said. I just kept playing.
But Barrow and Brown both were obviously as well-conditioned as Penders had said. Barrow pushed the ball up on every possession and GW’s pressure defense again helped GW to compensate for what has become a typical shooting disparity (51.7 percent for Five Star, 44.9 percent for GW). GW forced 24 turnovers, with a large number of traveling and out of bounds calls, to its own 10. Helped by 14 offensive rebounds, three from both Brown and sophomore Jason Smith, the Colonials fired 20 more shots than the Hawks.
Although GW managed to turn the game into a blowout behind the momentum of seven second-half three pointers, the Colonials took a surprising 32. It’s surprising because GW was not expected to be a perimeter team.
Val took a couple right in front of me that made me want to grab his shirt, Penders joked. But you don’t want them thinking about it – looking over their shoulder at the coach. Val is a great three-point shooter. Bernard is a good one.
Improved play from Albert Roma and Jason Smith and the exciting performances from GW’s inexperienced young guards had everyone smiling afterwards and left Penders singing his recruits’ praises.
Val’s as good a guard as I’ve ever had, he said.I didn’t expect Val and Bernard to play this well their first time in a uniform.It was a good exhibition game for us.I was happy they got a game to build confidence on.
Penders commented on GW’s defense, which allowed 83 points.
We can hold the ball and fart around for 30 seconds and you guys can say what a great defensive team we are, he said. But that doesn’t sell tickets and doesn’t get Val and Bernard to play here and has nothing to do with defense. We outscored a team by 15 points – that’s the only thing I’m looking at.