When the Colonials took to the court Saturday, one less player suited up with them on the hardwood.
That missing player was senior guard Bryan Bynes, who, after fracturing his right tibial plateau during Wednesday’s winning effort against Fordham, was declared out of commission for the rest of the season.
Bynes’ teammates knew his absence would hurt, but until Saint Joseph’s won the opening tip Saturday, the true consequences of his injury had not yet hit home.
The Colonials (12-13, 6-6 A-10) looking to pick up even more conference ground against the Hawks in Hagan Arena, but after allowing a 20-2 run to open the game, GW’s defense was unable to lock down its opponent’s aggressive offensive attack. Though the Colonials fought back to come within seven points in the end of the second half, the Hawks’ transition game proved much too dominant to overcome. As the final buzzer sounded, GW retreated to its locker room and the scoreboard overhead showed 71-59 in favor of its opponent.
Head coach Mike Lonergan knew readjusting after Bynes’ injury would present some challenges, but he didn’t expect his team – the same team that brought No. 14 Butler down to the wire – to surrender that easily.
“It was definitely disappointing to be down 20-2 at the start of the game,” Lonergan said. “We just weren’t ready to play today.”
Saint Joseph’s wasted no time settling in during the opening few minutes. From the moment the team won the tip until the end of the first half, it was all Hawks, all the time. Defensively, Saint Joseph’s gave GW no room to spare, pressuring the ball hard and taking advantage of any pass that was anything less than perfect. Its smothering defense allowed it to get out ahead of Colonials defenders in transition on almost every play.
Two-on-ones became almost redundant at one point. So too were the emphatic dunks that followed.
Shooting-wise, GW couldn’t string anything together to counterbalance the potency of the Hawks’ domination on the other end. The Colonials shot only 39.3 percent from the field in the first half, and poor passing and free throw shooting only aggravated the struggle. Though they would hit 10 of 13 free throws in the second half, GW’s players missed five of nine in the first, an effort reminiscent of the troubles the team had from the charity stripe against Fordham. By the end of the half, the Hawks accumulated a comfortable 11-point advantage.
“We weren’t getting back on defense enough,” senior guard Lasan Kromah said. “We just need to go back to GW, look at film and correct it.”
As the second half got underway, Lonergan implemented a series of adjustments – including a mix-up of defensive looks that highlighted a full-court press. But the Hawks routinely broke free from the pressure, sending the ball up the court to flanking teammates before they finished each play with either an easy layup or a trip to the stripe for two shots.
The Colonials, led by the energetic effort of freshman forward and guard Patricio Garino, did claw their way back into the game by the latter part of the second half. Garino, who had 10 points in the game, consistently worked to find open looks on the perimeter, in addition to going after every loose ball he could find. His four-of-nine shooting performance helped GW come within seven points with under six minutes to play, but it ultimately wasn’t enough.
The Hawks tore open the lead in the final five minutes, hitting two uncontested three pointers and yet another unguarded dunk. Ultimately, Saint Joseph’s lead was back up to 11, where it was at half and remained at the final buzzer.
“We fought back and got it to eight and seven [points] a couple times, but then made some very costly turnovers,” Lonergan said. “We can’t do that against a team on the road.”
The loss of Bynes, Garino said, is a devastating one. Not only does it necessitate significantly more from the rest of the team, but it also means the Colonials will have to finish up their regular season without one of their hardest working players.
“It’s big. We really need him,” Garino said. “He was cutting down on turnovers – he was playing hard defense. I mean, it’s a big loss for us.”
Lonergan said he understood the implications of the loss, but also that unforeseen consequences, namely untimely injuries, happen.
“Bryan is not coming back, so we have to make up for that loss,” Lonergan said. “We have to play better. We have to start making free throws and holding onto the basketball. We need someone to step that can score a basket when we really need one.”