FAIRBANKS, ALASKA – After Friday night’s season-opening win over Indiana State University, it was easy to wink at GW’s 40-percent field goal shooting Saturday night, it was hard not to shut both eyes.
After hanging with the University of Oklahoma (2-0) for a half, GW found an offensive disaster in the second half. The Sooners held the Colonials to 20 points, turning a tight 37-34 halftime lead into a 73-54 blowout in the second round of the Top of the World Classic in front of 4,501 at the Carlson Center in Fairbanks, Alaska.
GW (1-1) raced out to a 4-0 lead and in the opening frame appeared capable of bringing Coach Tom Penders his 500th victory. Improved rebounding from Friday night (led by nine from senior Francisco de Miranda, who started at center) and 10 forced turnovers helped GW to remain just three points back at halftime. The second half, however, was an entirely different story.
Oklahoma opened with seven straight points and never looked back. The story for the Sooners was not their offense, which was merely consistent in the second half, but their defense. Whether it was OU’s defense, or a bad night for GW’s three starting guards (who took 43 of GW’s 59 shots), the Colonials’ scoring machine came to a standstill. From four minutes into the half until there were only two and a half minutes left, GW scored all of four points – while the margin moved from 49-42 to 69-46.
We had a hard time guarding them off the dribble, because they’re quicker than a lot of teams, said Oklahoma Coach Kelvin Sampson. Our zone slowed them down. We forced them to go sideline to sideline. Their niche is to go to the basket and penetrate. Our key was defensive rebounding in the second half.
And there were many rebounds to be had. For the game, the Colonials shot 33.9 percent and 22.2 percent from long range. Freshman guard SirValiant Brown, who led all scorers with 18 points, shot 6-for-22, while junior guard Mike King shot 2-for-9 and freshman guard Chris Monroe shot 2-for-7. Junior Bernard Barrow shot a more than respectable 3-for-5 from inside the arc, but when he ventured outside it, he missed five of his seven attempts.
Most glaring in Barrow’s performance was the fact that he again had seven turnovers, but only notched one assist. That leaves him in a tie for the team lead with several players who have two on the season, including senior guard and Alaska native Mark Lund, who saw eight minutes of action Saturday night.
Penders did point out that it’s hard to get assists when no one’s making shots.
The object is still to put the ball in the hoop, said Penders, who is 2-12 all-time against OU. When you pass it to guys who don’t make shots, you don’t get a lot of assists.
Penders also gave a lot of the credit to Oklahoma’s defense and all-around play.
We faced a very good basketball team, a tough basketball team, he said. They’re in a lot of people’s top 25s. I’m not at all disappointed in this ballclub. It’s early. You don’t get down on kids. You keep working with them.
They were mixing up their defenses, junior forward Antxon Iturbe said. And we didn’t adjust to that.
Though Brown had a fairly forgettable night, despite scoring 18, Penders and Sampson both praised him.
He’s gonna be a great one, said Penders. And no doubt he’s gonna be a great shooter.
Be patient with him, said Sampson. I think he’s gonna be a good one.
The Colonials finish play in Fairbanks Sunday night at 6:45 p.m. in Alaska, 10:45 p.m. in D.C. EST against the University of Houston, coached by NBA legend Clyde Drexler.
* Oklahoma junior guard Nolan Johnson and Bernard Barrow were teammates last year at Kilgore (Texas) Junior College. Both are also from New York City.
* Sophomore guard Dorien Brown was still injured and in street clothes Saturday night.