Senior guard Tony Taylor and junior guard Lasan Kromah were both sitting on the bench as the clock ran out.
They weren’t standing, dejected on the court as their last-ditch efforts at salvaging a game fell short, like the demoralizing loss to Harvard Jan. 14. They weren’t silently watching time close on another crushing loss. The two were laughing, joking and smiling widely as they followed their teammates’ progress up and down the court.
Taylor and Kromah were both sitting on the bench to watch the Colonials (7-11) close out a commanding 83-65 defeat of Richmond. And it felt great.
“We talked about it in the locker room, and we wanted to just get back to having fun. To having fun while we were playing and we wanted to just play loose, and coach really stressed to play loose and not really worry about anything and just go play basketball and have some fun tonight,” Taylor said.
Despite having to sit some of the first half after getting into foul trouble early, Taylor put up 21 points, adding five assists. The standout performance of the night, though, belonged to Kromah, who netted 25 points, tying his career-high – was also set against Richmond – grabbing six rebounds, four steals and dishing out two assists on zero turnovers.
It was a welcome change for Kromah, who played his best game of the season after struggling to find consistent footing as the offensive powerhouse head coach Mike Lonergan knew he had the potential to be. Kromah said he’s been working with GW’s coaches in practice to improve his shot selection, and they began to fall against the Spiders as he relaxed and settled into the Colonials’ offensive rhythm.
“Tonight, I just went with the flow of the offense and got to the open spots, like we went through in practice,” Kromah said. “So I was trying to get open spots and concentrate on knocking the shots down.”
The two guards carried the team offensively, but their influence spread across the roster. GW earned its second-highest field goal percentage of the season, shooting 58.2 percent from the floor, including 69.2-percent shooting on the second half alone. Their 32 field goals tied for most in one game this season, a sign of the team executing its offensive attack to the fullest.
That attack wasn’t exactly easy to mount, Lonergan allowed after the game. Pointing to Richmond’s matchup zone, the head coach said it was often hard to find consistent openings and run plays against the Spiders’ defense. But the Colonials were attentive to the scouting report, Lonergan said, and worked to exploit the few holes in the Richmond zone.
“Lasan did a good job of finding the open areas, and he made all of his good shots tonight, basically,” Lonergan said. “And I thought our guys executed, they’re very well coached and they’re tough to get easy baskets against in transition.”
The Colonials opened play on a 10-4 run, quickly establishing the aggressive, energetic, attacking tone they would set for the rest of the night. After GW kept the lead for most of the half, Richmond pulled ahead momentarily off well-timed free throws with three minutes and 35 seconds to play before the break. But the Colonials didn’t waver, closing the half on a 9-2 run and carrying that energy through the break, never trailing again.
The team looked more confident on the floor, driving and attacking with ease. After completely handing control of the post to Harvard, GW outrebounded Richmond 31-22, including an eight board effort from junior forward David Pellom.
“We practice harder than we play, for the most part. But I thought the Rhode Island game and this game, we had a lot of energy, and it’s what you’ve got to do, especially at home.” Lonergan said. “You’ve got to take advantage of being at home, especially in this league.”
GW supplemented its offensive performance by effectively silencing the Spiders at the other end of the court, holding Richmond to just 18 field goals, a tie for the lowest amount made against the Colonials this season. The Spiders shot 40.9 percent on the night, a tie for the second-lowest shooting percentage against GW this year.
The Colonials were equally aggressive in their defensive play, forcing 13 Spiders turnovers that GW converted into 34 points. Junior forward Dwayne Smith was a particularly commanding force for the Colonials, adding a physical punctuation to the already-dominant offensive numbers. Perhaps most impressively, GW held the A-10’s leading three-point shooting team to 20-percent shooting from the perimeter.
“I think we did a much better job, for whatever reason, executing the scouting report. I thought my assistants did a good job of telling these guys what they were going to do,” Lonergan said. “And these guys, truthfully, were more familiar with Richmond than I am, and I think what we’ve tried to do is meet with our upperclassmen before these games, especially the league games, and try to ask them how they’ve guarded in the past.”
With the victory, the Colonials knotted their Atlantic 10 record at 2-2. It was an important victory, Taylor said, both for the standings and for the team’s morale. GW remains undefeated in A-10 play at home this season, a record Taylor intends on upholding when the Colonials host Charlotte Saturday at 7 p.m.
“It’s great. We needed this win to bounce back from Harvard,” Taylor said. “And also to be back home with the students here was really good.”