Updated Nov. 28 at 7:28 p.m.
Every team – like every Thanksgiving dinner – needs something that can bring it all together. Something, or someone, that can enhance the flavors of each dish.
In GW’s Thanksgiving feast of a win over Miami Thursday, Joe McDonald was the team’s gravy. Although he didn’t light up the stat sheet – scoring 10 points, while dishing out three assists – his composed play down the stretch propelled GW to its biggest win so far this season, and its first 5-0 start since 2005-06.
“That was the kind of game we definitely would have lost last year, head coach Mike Lonergan said. “But now we have enough fire power and enough experience that we’re able to make some plays late in the game.”
With his team down 59-57 and the shot clock down to four, McDonald sent the Wooden Legacy first-round game to overtime with a soft running lay up off the glass. “I just tried to make a play, and their freshman guards were small and we had talked about taking advantage of that, so I just tried to give it a chance,” McDonald said.
At the start of overtime, McDonald sank a rare three. On the team’s very next possession, he added an assist inside to a wide-open Isaiah Armwood for a dunk.
The series of plays helped the Colonials turn around from what could have been an ugly loss. Heading into overtime, GW had everything going against them.
The Colonials hadn’t played in an overtime game all season, while Miami had already been in two. Armwood, whose foul trouble in the second half allowed Miami to climb back from a 12-point deficit, was just one foul away from fouling out. And with the exception of McDonald’s game-tying layup, Miami still held all the momentum.
“We didn’t do a good job rebounding. They had 12 offensive rebounds…they hit a three and Nemanja landed on the guy and they had the four-point play,” Lonergan said. “That quickly can change a ten point lead. So it was probably us struggling to score and us giving them some momentum-building plays.”
But the Colonials, who many still considered underdogs going into the game, showed their growth from last year. They outscored the Hurricanes 12-4 in the extra period, going 5-6 from the field.
Miami was led by senior guard Garrius Adams, who had a game-high 17 points, and all but stole the game away from GW with his play in the second half. Senior guard Rion Brown followed closely behind, scoring 16 points and grabbing nine boards.
But it wasn’t just the McDonald show. GW counted a deep cast of players who came up big Thursday.
Graduate student Maurice Creek, who was visibly frustrated all game and shooting just 5-15 from the field, let out all his frustration in one shot. His desperation three in overtime as the shot clock expired that found the back of the net. He would finish with 15 points.
Sophomore Kethan Savage all but sealed the deal for GW with a steal and a slam that extended the overtime lead to 10. Savage finished with 11 points on the night, but his biggest impact came on defense. He and McDonald pestered the Miami backcourt, forcing a combined four turnovers.
Stepping up big for Lonergan was senior forward Nemanja Mikic. With Creek struggling to find his stroke from long range, Mikic surprised the Canes defense, knocking down 4-5 threes and scoring a team-high 16 points. Miami wasn’t going to let Mikic surprise them in overtime, but doing so opened the door for McDonald and Armwood to find the basket.
Armwood, who remained aggressive in the paint besides the foul trouble, would finish with his 11th career double-double, scoring 12 points and bringing down 11 boards.
The Colonials will play No. 25 Marquette Friday at 3:30 p.m. on ESPN 2.