Trailing by 13 points with 15 minutes and 39 seconds left to play in the second half against Loyola, the men’s basketball team passed the ball around the perimeter, searching for an open look.
Senior guard Tony Taylor grabbed possession, the shot clock ticking down. As Taylor looked for a quality shot, the backboard lit up with a familiar red glow as the clock expired. The Colonials turned the ball back over to Loyola, unable to post any points for the next three and a half minutes.
The failed play was indicative of the Colonials’ recent offensive struggles, shooting just 37.9 percent from the field Wednesday night. Over their last three games, all defeats, the Colonials have been shooting just an average of 38 percent from the floor. After beginning the season 4-1 and shooting nearly 46 percent from the field in their first five games, the Colonials (4-4) have struggled to find a consistent rhythm in recent contests, something head coach Mike Lonergan blames on a lack of offensive execution.
“Our lack of scoring ability worries me,” Lonergan said. “It’s really that the execution isn’t there.”
While the Colonials have found success scoring when running fast-breaks in transition from defense to offense, GW has been stymied by opposing defenses when running their offense in the half court.
A hallmark of the Colonials’ struggles is evident in Taylor’s play. The guard started the season averaging just over 20 points a game in his first three contests, but his offensive production has dropped off as he finds his legs in Lonergan’s system, averaging just 11 points – but five assists – over the past three games.
Taylor has stepped into a more traditional point guard role in Lonegan’s offense, serving as the team’s strongest playmaker and facilitator, taking fewer shots and finding teammates more often in the passing lanes. But the adjustment takes the biggest key out of the team’s offense, the Colonials now lacking a consistent shooter. Taylor’s transition from hot-handed shooter to focused director of GW’s attack seems to be stalling offensive production across the roster, but Lonergan doesn’t see the shift as the problem: He’s looking for his team to put more effort into answering the shooting holes.
“We’re searching for some answers,” Lonergan said. “It’s a long season, so hopefully these guys will stick together and we’ll start doing a better job.”
With the Colonials recent struggles on the offensive end, Lonergan has cited a desire to run more of a fast paced transition offense rather than setting up plays in the half court. But a lack of effective rebounding stalls GW’s approach, limiting it from being effective in transition.
The Colonials have been outrebounded by opponents by 23 boards on the season, and can’t take advantage of their size on the low post. Junior guard Lasan Kromah, not one of the team’s big men, is the team’s top rebounder.
But even more telling, says Lonergan, is the inability of his team to make it to the free throw line. Again, the coach said, it demonstrates a lack of an ability to convert on the low post.
“That’s probably the most telling stat of our season right now, is the lack of free throw attempts,” Lonergan said. “We really tried to stress that the other day, we have three of five starters who don’t have double figure free throw attempts.”
As Lonergan prepared to leave the Smith Center and again hit the road with his team, he was clear about one thing: The key to repairing its offensive woes lies in effort. It’s time, the coach said, for the Colonials to look within and fight to improve their play.
It’s going to take a team effort to rebuild a potent offense, Lonergan said.
“Really, it’s heart and effort,” Lonergan said.