Immediately following halftime, senior forward Isaiah Armwood gripped the rim tightly as he slammed the ball home. Freshman forward Kevin Larsen followed with a quick layup, giving GW a quick 4-0 run out of the gates.
It was a glimpse into the spark of energy the Colonials seemed to discover at halftime, one the team would maintain until the final buzzer. But that jolt wasn’t enough to overcome a 15-point halftime deficit, however, and GW (7-8, 1-1) fell to Xavier 71-56.
“For whatever reason, we didn’t have a lot of effort in the first half,” head coach Mike Lonergan said. “I give Xavier a lot of credit. They jumped on us right away.”
The first half was summarized aptly in the battle on the boards. Xavier entered the break with 22 rebounds; GW just six, with only one offensive board. Only three Colonial players tallied a rebound, compared to seven Musketeers – including senior forward Travis Taylor, who single-handedly outrebounded GW with eight.
The Colonials needed to up the ante, and came out tougher in the second half. GW outrebounded Xavier 22-11 in the second, including an 11-2 advantage on the offensive boards.
“You’re kind of embarrassed by your performance as players and a team,” Lonergan said, referring to the first half rebounding. “We knew we could get back in the game, we just had to play a lot harder.”
GW couldn’t seem to establish any sort of inside-out game in the first, and the frustration spread to the team’s shooting. There was a lid on the basket as Colonial after Colonial misfired, exiting the first shooting just 33.3 percent. Despite turning the ball over only four times, GW couldn’t find an offensive rhythm.
But aided by their resurgence on the boards, the Colonials established a heavier attack after the break. GW upped its shooting to 42.4 percent on the second, a slight increase that helped pull the team closer to the Musketeers. Although that wasn’t enough to overcome the halftime deficit, the Colonials continued to control the ball well, committing just nine turnovers in the game.
“I would like to see us get more assists. Our turnovers weren’t bad, but we have to create scoring opportunities for other people,” Lonergan said. “When we did do that in the first half, we made some shots. We were 3-for-5 from three in the first half.”
Senior guard Lasan Kromah paced his team off the bench, adding 12 points, four boards and two assists. But the rest of GW struggled to make an impact, with freshman forward Patricio Garino and freshman guard Joe McDonald – the next-highest scorers – adding nine and eight points, respectively.
“I thought Lasan played pretty good the second half and did a good job defensively in the 1-3-1 up front. He created a little bit of havoc,” Lonergan said. “We just don’t have that consistent guy. They did a good job of taking our inside game away.”
Compounding the cold shooting, the Colonials couldn’t shut Xavier down over the first half of play. The Musketeers were hot-handed en route to 59.3 first-half shooting, as GW struggled to find a defense that would silence Xavier’s attack. Rotating between different approaches, the Colonials were hard-pressed to halt their opponents.
The Musketeers didn’t slow over the second, maintaining a comfortable distance from GW down the stretch. Xavier shot 57.1 percent for the game, tallying three players in double-digits. Particularly potent were freshman guard Semaj Christon, who added 21 points and seven assists, and senior guard Brad Redford, who abused GW’s 1-3-1 to defense from the outside. Redford drained seven treys en route to 21 points on the night and was the only Xavier player able to unlock the Colonials’ otherwise successful zone.
“He was the difference. He kept us single-handedly from getting back into the game,” Lonergan said. “Those were killer threes. They got the crowd into it too.”
The Colonials return home for another tough conference opponent Wednesday, when they host Temple in the Smith Center.