GW got exactly what it needed out of Wednesday’s game against Duquesne: a bounce-back win.
And unlike many of the team’s games this season, there was no last second possession or chance at a buzzer beater that would decide the game. This one was decided from the very start, as GW coasted to hand the Dukes their tenth straight loss, 79-57. It was a dominant victory that sets up arguably the team’s biggest home game in over a decade when Butler heads to the Smith Center Saturday.
Finding the offensive rhythm they have been searching for all season, the Colonials got out to a hot start in the first half. Guards were open along the perimeter to knock down threes, lanes were open for the drive or drop off, and the floor was spread out to run and get in transition.
“We got off to a real good start offensively,” head coach Mike Lonergan said. “We shot 54 percent in the first half, but for the first five minutes we probably shot 80 percent.”
It wasn’t quite 80 percent, but the Colonials did go 5-for-11 from behind the arc in the first half, led by 3-of-4 shooting from senior guard Lasan Kromah. For the game, GW shot 50.8 percent from the field, making use of the offensive flow created by the team’s 20 assists.
The strong bench play from Kromah helped spark the team’s offense and seemed to be contagious to the other Colonials waiting on the sideline. GW’s bench outscored the Dukes’ 28-8 in the first half, and went on to extend that margin to 40-18 by game’s end.
“I think we tired them out with our bench,” Lonergan said. “We played a lot of guys and got a lot of production.”
Perhaps GW’s strongest
performance of the night, though, came from in the paint. Having started four different centers this year, Duquesne has struggled to find a consistent inside presence, and the Colonials took advantage of that hole.
Using both senior forward Isaiah Armwood and freshman Kevin Larsen, the Colonials completely controlled the inside on both ends of the court. For the game, GW outscored the Dukes 44-14 in the paint, outrebounded them 47-27, and led 14-6 on second chance point opportunities.
“So that was definitely our game plan, to get the ball inside,” Lonergan said. “And then to take the threes away from them because they’re guard oriented.”
Armwood would go on to post a double-double for the Colonials, scoring 14 points and adding 13 boards to the stat sheet. GW didn’t need any dramatic shots from the senior forward, but his sixth double-double of the season was a valuable contribution to the stat sheet.
Down 10 points at the half, Duquesne needed to make some adjustments, and it did – switching out of its man-to-man defense in favor of a 2-3 zone. For the time being, GW’s offense was stalled, unable to get inside and doing nothing more than swinging the ball along the perimeter.
As Lonergan said though, the Colonials’ consistent production off the bench and hard defense on the opposite end ultimately left the Dukes winded, and that spilled over to their defense as well.
Soon, GW’s 10 point halftime lead was up to 20, and soon, GW was on its way to a smooth road win – its third straight when away from the Smith Center.
Leading the way for the Colonials was the hot-shooting Kromah, who had a game high 19 points while grabbing six boards. Kromah took advantage of the help-side-oriented Dukes defense and hit the open shots when he had them. Despite spending tonight, and much of the season, coming off the bench, Kromah has begun to embrace his role as a sixth man.
“The main goal for the team is just to win games no matter who starts,” Kromah said. “You know it’s about who finishes the game. And I come in and try to produce as much as possible to help my team win.”
If there had to be one criticism of GW’s performance it would be their free throw shooting. The team took a step back at the line tonight, going 8-for-18 from the charity stripe – much like it did in contests earlier in the season.
Still, the bounce-back win signifies something important for the Colonials: They’re getting tougher. Even more, it gives the team valuable momentum coming of a loss to La Salle and heading into Saturday’s contest against No. 14 Butler.