Before the public was let into the Smith Center Sunday for the No. 10 Colonials’ game against Richmond, junior Danilo (J.R.) Pinnock was already moving. He danced around the perimeter, took one dribble and a shot, and made a few drives to the hoop.
Pinnock’s jump shot, much improved from last year, helped him get 16 points on 7-for-10 shooting in GW’s 80-55 win over Richmond Sunday afternoon in front of a sold-out Smith Center.
Pinnock is admittedly a workaholic, remaining in the Smith Center until 2 a.m. on some nights. His work is now paying dividends.
For coach Karl Hobbs and his staff, tweaking the swingman’s jump shot has been a spot of concentration this season.
“That’s our hobby,” Pinnock said of his jumper. “We put in a lot of work on my jump shot and it’s now starting to pay off. We go through certain drills and certain things, short shot, one dribble. That’s really my game and I love to shoot already so it’s not hard to work on.”
Pinnock’s intensity and hustle has been one of GW’s (18-1, 8-0 Atlantic 10) catalysts in its 10-game winning tear. The forward is averaging 2.5 steals a game, including four against the Spiders Sunday.
He humbly brushed off the notion that his athleticism was too much for the Spiders, and said Richmond’s (11-10, 4-4 A-10) slow style of play held him back.
“At the beginning of the game, I was a little timid to jump out into the lane because of how they play,” Pinnock said. “Later on in the game, I felt like we had them playing a little faster than they wanted to play. I got lucky a couple times. I never felt like I was faster or anything like that. I just got lucky and they threw the ball to me.”
Pinnock’s defensive prowess, combined with the aggressive play of junior Carl Elliott and freshman Montrell McDonald, suffocated the slow-playing team. Richmond head coach Chris Mooney, a Princeton graduate, implemented the notoriously slow and deliberate Princeton offense in Richmond. It has yet to take hold.
The Colonials took advantage of the immaturity of the squad’s play and scored 80 points, 26 points above Richmond’s average opponent total.
The Spiders shot 37.9 percent from the floor, and Hobbs credited the intense defensive pressure for Richmond’s lack of scoring and GW’s heavy point total.
“We just wanted to make sure that we kept great pressure on them,” Hobbs said. “We made sure we put them in situations that they had to make plays. We did not allow them to get into any sort of rhythm. It played a major role in why they shot the percentage they shot.”
The Spiders’ only option was the three-pointer, of which they attempted 21 and hit seven. Mooney attributed that to GW’s defense.
With the win, the Colonials have defeated two consecutive teams that they lost to last year.
On Thursday against Xavier, a three-pointer with 36 seconds remaining by sophomore Maureece Rice and four free throws in the last 11 seconds by Elliott erased a 10-point halftime deficit to top the Musketeers 89-85 at the Cintas Center in front of 10,250 boisterous fans.
The much-lauded GW backcourt was integral in the victory, only turning the ball over three times. Rice matched a career-high 21 points, including three three-pointers. Elliott dropped 15 points and grabbed a career-high 10 rebounds.
Pinnock dished out a career-high six assists and scored seven points.
Despite the second-best start in school history, Hobbs still has concerns with his team.
“I think we still have a way to go,” Hobbs said Sunday after beating Richmond. “I want to get to the point where we’re playing at the level we need to play at. Because very shortly it’s going to come down to one game, one play and that’s my focus. We need to be at the level where its one play and your season is over.”
“Teams are funny,” Hobbs said of mid-season progression. “Sometimes you take two steps forward and take a step back. And you take four steps ahead and two steps back. I am trying to get to the point where we are not taking any steps back in any area.”
For the GW men’s basketball team’s 10th straight win Sunday, it felt like home sweet home. Senior Pops Mensah-Bonsu and Pinnock had 16 points each, and Mike Hall had 15 Sunday afternoon.
The Colonials caused 22 turnovers on 14 steals and only gave the ball up nine times.
Richmond got 15 points from Kevin Steenberge and 12 from Jermaine Bucknor. Gaston Moliva had 10 points and three blocks.
GW returns to the floor Wednesday against Dayton at the Smith Center at 7 p.m.