The road to the Atlantic 10 title, naturally, goes through the defending champions.
And while it was a markedly different St. Bonaventure squad that took the floor Wednesday night – missing last season’s offensive firepower Andrew Nicholson, now competing for the Orlando Magic – opening league play by toppling last year’s tournament champions 78-59 was a valuable victory for the Colonials (7-7, 1-0).
It was made a little sweeter, too, with the knowledge that it was a rematch of last year’s A-10 opener, when the Bonnies defeated GW.
“It feels good. To get to sit here and be number one in the league for a few days. It’s good that we came out here with intensity,” senior guard Lasan Kromah said. “We really have a good stepping stone going into A-10 play.”
The story of the Colonials’ first half was their offense, a dizzying series of dominant plays, all highlight-reel worthy, flowing down the court. Freshman forward Patricio Garino nabbed two steals in a row, running it back down the court for easy Colonial buckets. Kromah tirelessly drove into the paint, once tipping in a neat finger roll that frustrated the double team he left in his wake.
The team shot 65.5 percent on the half, including 44 percent from three that saw junior forward Nemanja Mikic sink two, and Garino and fellow freshman Kethan Savage add one apiece. The production would continue into the second, the team ending with a 57.1 total field goal percentage on the game.
It was an all-around solid Colonial performance, their bench tacking 34 points onto the final score. And it was a game that showed GW’s ability to learn and grow as a unit.
The beginning of the night saw an unusual starting lineup for the Colonials: four freshman, including forward Kevin Larsen, guard Joe McDonald, Garino and Savage, join senior forward Isaiah Armwood to begin play.
That starting five gelled well. Armwood posted a team-high 14 rebounds, five blocks and 11 points. Savage and Garino, meanwhile, each contributed 12 points. Kromah came off the bench to add 14.
Though he felt nervous before his first start, Savage said, the rest of the team focused on building him up before the initial whistle.
“It felt great to come out here and make that transition from high school to college. It was a long time coming,” Savage said. “I felt good coming out here and being able to play the way I did.”
Potent, too, was GW’s defense against the Bonnies. Adjustments kept St. Bonaventure guessing, and the Colonials’ approach fresh, throughout the night. The Bonnies shot an even 39 percent Wednesday night, and managed only six assists with their struggling offensive front.
St. Bonaventure’s frustrations were on clear display as the game progressed. Shot clock violations mounted, passes were too hard and volleyed out of bounds, and a particularly hard foul on Garino saddled the Bonnies with a technical.
“It was a physical team. We just had to come together, keep our composure, keep running our stuff,” Kromah said.