Colonial men pass first-round A-10 test

For at least one night, it was all smiles for the Colonials. The GW men’s basketball team passed its Atlantic 10 Tournament first-round test in convincing fashion Wednesday night clobbering Duquesne 88-65 at Philadelphia’s First Union Spectrum.

GW’s third victory over the Dukes (9-21, ??A-10) this season sets up its third meeting with the tourney’s No. 2 seed Xavier in the quarterfinal round Thursday night at 9 p.m. It also means the Colonials (13-17, ??A-10) are now three wins away from the tourney title and an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.

The Colonials outscored Duquesne 59-35 in the second half using an early 17-0 run to break away from what was a close game. GW sophomore SirValiant Brown (8-of-15) scored a game-high 21 points, including a three-pointer that began the run five minutes into the second half with the Colonials trailing 40-34. Teammates Chris Monroe and Greg Collucci each added 16 points. Collucci hit six of his eight free throws during the run.

GW coach Tom Penders credited Brown for sparking the Colonials.

“Val plays hard and sometimes out of control, but tonight he stepped and showed some real leadership.” Penders said.

The Colonials shot 31-of-62 from the field, including 7-of-16 from three-point range, and dominated the Dukes 45-28 on the boards.

Duquesne’s largest lead of the game, 20-13 with about seven and a half minutes remaining in the half, came when Jamal Hunter (19 points) hit a short jumper. But Brown responded late in the opening half scoring GW’s final seven points, including a three-pointer with six seconds left to close the Colonials’ halftime deficit to 30-29.

Courtney Wallace scored 14 points for the Dukes on 4-of-15 shooting, while Wayne Smith added 13 points.

“The first game in a tournament is always when your nerves show,” Penders said.

GW’s meeting with the Musketeers will mark meeting between the teams in the A-10 tourney since the 1998 championship game that Xavier won. The Colonials lost both contests to Xavier this season, falling 76-74 at the Smith Center Jan 16 and 71-63 in an overtime game at the Cintas Center Feb. 3. Xavier’s David West posted double-doubles, scoring game-highs of 26 points in both matches. The Colonials will need to keep West and the Musketeers away from the free-throw line. Xavier outscored GW 59-17 from the line this season.

The victory over Duquesne was GW’s first tournament win since 1999, when GW beat Dayton in the quarters before losing to tourney winner Rhode Island. Last season, the Colonials earned a first-round bye, but lost to Massachusetts in the quarterfinals.

La Salle ended Fordham’s season with a 86-67 win in the Wednesday’s earlier A-10 action, and Dayton disposed of Rhode Island to the Rams’ dismal season at 7-23. Dayton will face Temple while La Salle battles top-seeded St. Joseph’s, a team the Explorers upset last week. Massachusetts faces St. Bonaventure in Thursday’s opening quarterfinal round.

-Chris Zarconi contributed to this report.

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