Men’s basketball falls to Dayton at packed Smith Center

Since losing to Dayton by 30 points for its tenth straight loss last February, the GW men’s basketball team has added six new players to bolster its frontcourt. But GW’s attempt for retribution Saturday night showed that one thing has remained constant – the Flyers are still bigger, stronger and more experienced than the Colonials.

In a game reminiscent of last season’s home conference losses, the Colonials fell behind early and were forced to play catch-up the rest of the way. With the largest crowd in nearly two years on hand at the Smith Center, the Colonials managed to shoot just 36 percent en route to an 71-61 loss, their fourth in a row.

“Whenever we made a run, they had an answer for it,” GW head coach Karl Hobbs said. “Whenever we made a mistake, they made us pay for it every single time. That’s a veteran basketball team.”

Sophomore T.J. Thompson led the Colonials (6-8, 0-3 Atlantic 10) with a game-high 22 points to go along with five assists, but his teammates offered little help offensively. Limited to 29 minutes by two early fouls, leading scorer Chris Monroe did not score until more than 18 minutes into the game and scored most of his 17 points after Dayton (12-3, 4-0 A-10) led by double digits. The senior also tied a career-worst nine turnovers. The rest of the Colonials totaled just 22 points.

Sophomore Tamal Forchion got his first start of the season after returning from an ankle injury in late November and put up five points and a team-high nine rebounds in 25 minutes. With the start, he replaced freshman Omar Williams, who was limited to just seven minutes with a sore back.

“It’s been mentally and physically tough not to be able to play, but my confidence is coming back,” Forchion said. “I’m not really thinking about the ankle. Before, I’d be a bit hesitant, but now I can put it to the side.”

GW scored six points in the first two minutes of the game but soon became stagnant on offense, suffering scoring droughts of eight minutes and four minutes in the first half. GW shot just 36 percent in the half including three-for-10 from behind the arc.

Hobbs said GW’s offensive struggles were a matter of controlling the tempo of the game.

“Whenever the game got into a bit of a race, it was to our advantage,” he said. “Whenever it got down where we had to run a half-court offense and make decisions with the ball, we came up short.”

The Flyers scored only 12 points in the first nine minutes, allowing GW to stay in the game. But Dayton took its first double-digit lead with a Ramod Marshall three-pointer at the 9:17 mark and went into the locker room ahead 37-26.

Dayton led by as many as 17 in the second half but the Colonials would not let the Flyers run away. GW cut the lead to 10 or less twice late in the game but turnovers finally caught up with them – the Colonials committed 19 in the game, two in the final two minutes by Monroe.

Hobbs credited the crowd of 4,102 for keeping his team in the game.

“They were absolutely fantastic,” he said. “Whenever we were flat, they got real loud. When the referees made calls, they were right on top of it. It was a beautiful crowd, maybe the best one since I’ve been here.”

D.C. native Nate Green led the Flyers with 15 points and Keith Waleskowski had 13 points and 13 rebounds.

“I feel like I’ve been in a fight,” Dayton head coach Oliver Purnell said. “That’s the kind of game it was. GW came out and fought really hard.”

GW plays next at Richmond Tuesday at 7 p.m.

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