For once, it was a blowout. For once, GW didn’t need 25 points from SirValiant Brown. And once again, Chris Monroe dominated.
With a convincing 99-75 victory over La Salle (7-11, 1-6 Atlantic 10) Saturday at the Smith Center, the Colonials (8-11, 2-4 A-10) won two in a row for the first time since the BB&T Classic in early December and also crawled over .500 at home in front of 3,291 fans.
The victory was fueled by the kind of team play that until this past week had not been seen consistently in months. Freshman swingman Chris Monroe had a nearly flawless game to add to consistently solid performances he’s turned in during A-10 play.
In a week in which the A-10 declared Monroe was wrongfully ejected from the St. Joseph’s game, the burgeoning star scored 15 points against St. Bonaventure and added 35 points Saturday on 12-of-16 shooting (3-of-5 from three-point range and 8-of-9 from the line). He also had a game-high nine rebounds, dished four assists, grabbed two steals, and had only one turnover.
Chris has been extremely consistent, Coach Tom Penders said. Chris is really, really coming on. As far as I’m concerned, he’s not really a freshman anymore.We have two of the best freshmen in the country, not just the A-10.
His play was aided by stellar games all around from the rest of GW’s guards, plus sophomore forward Jason Smith, who between them accounted for all but seven of the Colonials’ 99 points.
Freshman guard SirValiant Brown scored a career-low 16 points, which lowered his average to 24.7 and second in the nation, but he had a second consecutive good shooting game, going 6-for-13. The 13 shots were a career low, but he compensated with a career- and game-high eight assists compared to zero turnovers. Bernard Barrow (third in the A-10 in assists per game) tallied seven assists, four steals and shot 2-for-2 on three-pointers, while junior guard Mike King shot 9-of-15 for 19 points.
Jason Smith, making his first career start (with both of GW’s centers on the bench), reverted to his problems with foul trouble, but in his 12 minutes, he shot 5-of-8 and scored 12 points, including another three-pointer (he’s now 4-for-6 on threes in the last four games).
The game started with Brown on the bench as punishment for being late to a study hall, thus putting King back in the starting lineup. GW trailed 14-11 with 14 minutes left in the half when the Colonials caught up, pulled ahead and never looked back. The Explorers pulled within 39-35 at one point, but GW finished the first with a 12-2 run to lead by 14, and La Salle never got closer than that.
In the first half, GW shot 6-for-12 on threes en route to the 51-37 lead. At the half, Monroe had 20 points.
GW opened the second-half with a four-guard lineup and saw the lead balloon to as many as 27 before Tom Penders cleared his bench with just under two minutes left.
Since the Dayton game, our guys have really matured in (their focus), Penders said.
We really took what they gave us, Monroe said. We didn’t try to force anything this game.
I didn’t see anyone out there trying to do it by themselves and that shows the team’s maturing, Penders said.
Victor Thomas was the only bright spot for La Salle, as he scored 23 points to become the 10th opposing player to score at least that many on GW this season.
The Colonials had not shot better than 46 percent all season but shot 57 percent Saturday, plus 47 percent on threes and 81 percent on free throws. GW had only seven turnovers and a season-high 25 assists.
They’re explosive, La Salle Coach William Speedy Morris said of the Colonials. They’re gonna win more games.
The Colonials will try to do just that for the third time in a row on the road at Duquesne Wednesday night. At 2-4, GW is only a half game behind second place Virginia Tech in the A-10 West. The firs and second-place teams in each division receive a bye in the Atlantic 10 Tournament in March.
I think the team has a chance to put a little run together, Penders said. It’s hard to set goals other than to play our butt off.We have 10 regular season games and then the A-10 Tournament. So who knows?