Updated Nov. 29 at 9:30 p.m.
Marquette buried GW with three-point baskets Friday, silencing a Colonials team that could not claw back from an early deficit in the semifinals of the Wooden Legacy tournament.
The Colonials ran into a No. 25 Marquette team who had been waiting to get hot this season. And the 76-60 loss for GW had to get Mike Lonergan’s team thinking: “Why now?”
Through their first six games of the season, the Golden Eagles were shooting just 25.5 percent as a team from three. But in the first half of Friday’s game, Marquette (5-2) netted seven three-point field goals on 11 attempts – shooting 63.6 percent.
Marquette also outrebounded GW in the first half by 13, outscored its bench by 22 and held Colonials starters to 6-21 shooting. The result: An inescapable 21-point margin in the first half.
“[Marquette] came out and played really tough and aggressive and we didn’t play tough enough,” head coach Mike Lonergan said. “I don’t know if it was nerves or what it was, but I actually thought we were really looking forward to the game. We came out a little bit tight.”
The Colonials fought back in the second half, outscoring the Golden Eagles 35-30. But the early hole was simply too deep for GW to grab what would have been their first win against a top-25 team since 2005 when they defeated then-No. 21 Maryland.
Marquette was led by senior big man Davante Gardner, who had 20 points and nine rebounds. Senior Jake Thomas propelled the Golden Eagles offense from behind the arc, going 3-5 from three, and scoring 13 total points.
“I think the missed free throws and the poor three point shooting for us hurt us offensively, and then defensively we didn’t play well,” Lonergan said. “I give credit to Gardner he just manhandled us no matter what we tried to do.”
The loss marks GW’s first of the season after starting the year 5-0, their best start since 2005-06. The loss also knocks the Colonials out of contention for a run at the Wooden Legacy Championship, a feat that would have thrown GW into the national spotlight and given the Colonials a chance to establish themselves as a postseason threat.
A lack of offensive production hamstrung GW all game. Senior Nemanja Mikic, for example – who had 16 points in the Colonials’ overtime win over Miami – played just 13 minutes Friday, going 0-4 from the floor and 0-3 from beyond the arc.
As a team, GW would shoot a season low 21.1 percent from three-point range, converting four shots on 19 attempts, well under their season average of eight three-point field goals per game.
For the second game in a row, the Colonials missed the inside presence of sophomore forward Kevin Larsen. Larsen, who struggled against Miami going just 2-7 from the field, went 0-3 from the floor in Friday’s matchup, and racked up four fouls. Larsen was the only GW starter to go scoreless.
“That’s when our lack of depth really hurts us,” Lonergan said. “When a somebody like Kevin Larsen is really struggling doesn’t score a point in 27 minutes, that’s when you need a [John] Kopriva or [Paris] Maragkos that can come in and give us a spark. We just didn’t really get that.”
In spite of the loss, the Colonials did find some bright spots in Friday’s game. For the second straight time, GW held its turnover total to fewer than 10, totaling seven tonight. This came against a particularly aggressive Marquette defense that averaged 14.3 turnovers a game entering Friday’s matchup.
Sophomore Kethan Savage led the way for the Colonials with 16 points, while guards Maurice Creek and Joe McDonald followed behind with 14 and 12, respectively. Creek scored seven of his 14 in the first two minutes of the second half, but struggled to keep his hot hand going the rest of the game.
GW will face off in the fifth-place game Saturday at 4:30 p.m. against the loser of the Creighton-San Diego State matchup.