GW’s home opener started with a roar, senior guard Lasan Kromah taking advantage of a Youngstown State turnover to set senior forward Isaiah Armwood up for a rocking alley-oop, bringing the Smith Center crowd to its feet.
But the game dragged through its closing, the last minute seeing the two teams trot up and down the court for 17 total free throws. It was a fitting ending to a night that saw 50 combined fouls as GW and the Penguins traded blows.
Those fouls ultimately made a major difference in the game’s outcome, and the Colonials were unable to capitalize on their time at the charity stripe before falling to Youngstown State 80-73.
“I thought it really hurt us in the first half. [Freshman forward] Patricio’s [Garino] playing great D, and some other guys, and we’re just getting, even in the second half, reaching fouls. For no reason – but I think that’s just a lack of experience,” Lonergan said. “That’s a team that should not be at the foul line 36 times.”
With freshman guard Kethan Savage on the bench – he suffered a concussion in practice this week, and there is no timetable set for his return – it was up to freshman guard Joe McDonald and senior guard Bryan Bynes to take turns running the point and playing off the ball.
At times, rookie jitters got the best of McDonald. It took him until the second half to score, going just 2-for-6 on the game, and he only dished out two assists to the five turnovers he committed. McDonald was hampered by foul trouble throughout the game, and Lonergan was forced to turn to Bynes on many possessions. Though the senior had a few good moments, forcing a five-second violation near midcourt during GW’s comeback bid in the second, he struggled to establish a solid offensive presence, going just 1-for-9 on the night and missing all five of his free throws.
Lonergan downplayed the team’s backcourt struggles, adding that some of McDonald’s turnovers were born of
Freshman guard Joe McDonald cuts to the net, looking for an open pass to a teammate during the home opener against Youngstown State. GW lost to the Penguins, 80-73.other members of the team being unprepared for his passes. But when Bynes is struggling, Lonergan added, he needs McDonald to take more shots, rather than try to create plays for his teammates.
“I thought Bryan played hard, he played good D. I mean, he hasn’t hit shots, really, he’s not a shooter,” Lonergan said. “1-for-9’s tough, and 0-for-5 from the foul line, that’s tough. And I thought Joe played hard – he played pretty good D for the most part.”
Garino was perhaps the brightest spot for GW, and established himself as the most skilled Colonial on the court Saturday. Adding 13 points and pulling down a team-high seven boards, Garino supplemented his output with tremendous hustle. The freshman picked up the slack during many plays, running back to halt a fastbreak after a turnover from one of his teammates, and adding a pair of steals and assists.
Senior Isaiah Armwood paced GW’s scoring, adding 18 points and five boards to the stat sheet. No other Colonial broke double-digits, with Kromah, McDonald and freshman forward Kevin Larsen adding seven apiece for the next-highest point totals.
“I thought we came out ready to play, ran our tip play, got a dunk to start the game, get the students in the game,” Lonergan said. “They were smart, the guy’s a good coach, he went to the zone and the numbers speak for themselves. The poor shooting combined with some really bad turnovers kept us from scoring.”
GW struggled to break through Youngstown State’s zone, Garino agreed, adding that the Colonials had to work to get the into the post on many possessions. Turning it over 14 times, and dishing out just nine assists on the night, the Colonials gave up possession often to the Penguins. Adding to the team’s difficulty was GW’s struggles on in the paint, losing the rebounding battle 43-38.
It was surely a frustrating statistic for a head coach who preaches winning the battle on the boards above almost all else on the court. The Colonials had hoped to establish more of a low-post game this season with the additions of Armwood and Larsen to the roster.
“It was disappointing for me and the rest of the post guys. Our plan was to outrebound them, we talked about it all week, we came out and they outrebounded us,” Armwood said.
Adding to the frustrations was the Penguins’ relative ease at confounding the Colonials’ man-to-man defense. Though the two teams posted similar shooting percentages – 43.9 for Youngstown, 40.4 for GW – the Penguins were able to find greater success from mid- and long-range, dangerous for a Colonial team that continually struggles to establish effective shooting during competition.
“As a team, we’ve got to play better defense,” Armwood said. “We knew they could shoot, we practiced it in practice, we just have to do better as a team and get out there and help our teammates.”
The Penguins sank six treys on the night, managing to make them at key moments when GW was closing in on a one-basket deficit. And the Colonials were unable to guard Youngstown State’s unexpected star, freshman forward Bobby Hain, who was a perfect 6-for-6 at the break and would go on to score 19 points on the night, one of five Penguins to enter double-digits.
GW couldn’t continually, and effectively, apply pressure, getting just three steals and blocks on the night.
“Guys try to make steals, make plays on their own defensive. Try to make great plays and you shouldn’t do that. You should play good team defense,” Lonergan said. “Guys are trying to get steals and do things, and we’re not a good enough team when we have those breakdowns, especially with some of the guys out there that are young. It’s veteran players that are trying to go for the home run, and it’s something we keep emphasizing we have to do a better job on, that we’ve got to get some guys in the lineup that are playing some more fundamentally sound basketball.”