Lonergan looking for culture shift

Men’s basketball head coach Mike Lonergan’s team has a chance to tie its league record at 2-2 Wednesday night, when Richmond heads to the Smith Center.

After a GW victory in its first conference home game against Rhode Island Jan. 11, a win Lonergan calls “really important,” the chance for the Colonials to pull even in their A-10 record is crucial, the coach said Monday morning.

And while Lonergan’s communicating that to his players, he also has an idea of what the program’s priorities need to be in order to turn its play around.

“We’ve got to play with much greater intensity. We’ve got to increase the talent level, and, for this year, my staff and myself have to do a better job of figuring out what our strengths are as a team. We’re a poor shooting team right now, but more disappointing is we’re a poor defensive team,” Lonergan said. “We have to try to get a culture where defense and rebounds are very important.”

The team needs to take advantage of being at home to strengthen that side of its play, Lonergan added, especially after an effort against Harvard Jan. 14 that saw crucial failures across the court, particularly in the first half of the game.

The team needs more consistency, Lonergan said. The lack of continually strong play is evident in games, where the Colonials have established a pattern of struggling to string two complete halves together. While most glaring against the Crimson, in which GW shot just 13 percent in the first half before improving to 40 percent from the floor in the second, it’s been an unwelcome trend for the Colonials throughout the season. GW routinely struggles before the break, and despite improving its play after halftime, can’t overcome the difference (down 20 to Harvard entering the second) in the remaining 20 minutes of the game.

The breakdowns are individual, Lonergan said, but spread across the court and throughout the roster.

“We have three or four guys doing a great job, but then we have a letdown from individual players,” Lonergan said.

The inconsistency spreads to specific players, Lonergan added. He highlighted junior guard Lasan Kromah as an example, juxtaposing Kromah’s strong performances earlier in the season with his recent struggles. Part of that could be due to Kromah sitting out last season, Lonergan allowed, but he underlined that the team needs the guard to finish strong.

Another player Lonergan wants to see become a more consistent force is junior forward David Pellom, who started against Harvard, but will be pulled from the starting lineup against Richmond.

“Dave’s not going to start in our next game. Starting is a privilege, and it’s not all basketball related and he did not have a good game against Harvard. He had some moments with the referees, running his mouth a little,” Longeran said. “He did a great job against Rhode Island, but he’s going to start when he shows the maturity level to be a starter. He’ll be in and out of the starting lineup. He’s come a long way with his maturity level, but he has a long way to go.”

After the loss to the Crimson, senior guard Tony Taylor said the team’s captains would host a players-only meeting to address turning the season – and GW’s play – around. While Lonergan said he wasn’t aware of the content of the meeting, he was pleased with its intent – saying it showed the sort of leadership he’s pushed Taylor and the other seniors to exhibit this season.

“I didn’t know anything about that, and I think that’s great, if they want to have a players-only meeting. It shows me they care, and I’m fine with that. But I tell the players all the time, talk is cheap, and we have to start getting better on the court,” Lonergan said. “ I know [the seniors] all want to win, and maybe they can reach some of the guys on the team I’ve had trouble getting to play to their full potential.”

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