This post was written by contributing sports editor Sean Hurd.
A 20-0 run in the first half helped Kansas State run away from GW on New Year’s Eve, halting the streaking Colonials in a 72-55 rout by forcing turnovers and penetrating their zone defense.
After scoring 15 points in the first four-and-a-half minutes of play, the Colonials would score just 15 points for the rest of the half. Lonergan compared the Wildcats’ first-half comeback to getting “punched in the face.”
“We weren’t getting the ball inside, and it was hard because they were taking us out of our offense,” Lonergan said. “They were loud, they played physical, which wasn’t good for us. Then we got into foul trouble, so it was a lot of things that added up to us struggling to score.
Freshman Jevon Thomas who played his first game of the season against Tulane last Saturday due to NCAA eligibility rules, was a ball hawk for the Wildcats. His pressure on GW ball handlers disrupted the GW offense and led to a handful of forced turnovers.
Lonergan said it was difficult to prepare his defense for Thomas due to the freshman’s short collegiate track record.
“He turned the tables on us and we struggled to even dribble the ball up the court against him,” said Lonergan. “I thought he dominated the game. He got the crowd into the game and completely changed the momentum of the game.”
Even without a basket, Thomas was responsible for forcing the majority of the eight turnovers by sophomore Joe McDonald, uncharacteristic for the point guard who entered the game leading the Atlantic 10 in assist-to-turnover ratio.
McDonald would finish with five points, four rebounds, and just one assist.
After the game, Lonergan said that McDonald struggled and was unable to get the Colonials offense into any of their offensive sets.
“It’s like your quarterback didn’t have a great game,” Lonergan said. “That was the big turning point, the pressure that they put on [Joe]. We just don’t really have another point guard on the team to handle the ball.”
The Colonials would ultimately go cold from the field, unable to score a basket for a seven-minute stretch while the Kansas State offense went on a 20-0 run, led by 14 first half points by senior Shane Southwell. Southwell would finish with both a game high and career high 21 points.
The second half was much of the same for GW. Despite quick baskets from McDonald and sophomore Patricio Garino to start the half, it would take GW nine minutes to score their next field goal, a three-point shot by Maurice Creek with 8:43 remaining in the game.
The Colonials also could not take advantage of their opportunity to get back into Tuesday’s game at the free throw line, having drawn Kansas State into the bonus with just under 12 minutes to play in the game. But despite getting to the line 25 times, the Colonials would only convert 14 attempts and shoot 56 percent from the line in the second half.
It’s one of the glaring problems that has hampered GW all season.
While the GW offense struggled, Kansas State, who has had offensive troubles all season long, shot an impressive 48.3 percent (28-58) from the field. The Wildcats outrebounded the Colonials 37-33 and outscored GW 36-26 in the paint.
Along with Southwell’s 21, Kansas State received strong efforts from junior Thomas Gipson who finished with 12 points and freshman Marcus Foster who finished with 15 points.
GW’s bench also failed to produce. Despite eight points from sophomore Patricio Garino, who Lonergan described as a starter coming off the bench, the rest of the Colonials combined for just one point – a free throw by junior John Kopriva.
“It was my biggest fear going into this game, our lack of bench production,” Lonergan said. “We couldn’t score off the bench or get a rebound, which was more disappointing. We’ve got to figure out a way to get contributions from our bench players whether its defense or scoring. Those guys need to keep working hard and if they get the opportunity they need to produce.”
Sophomore Kethan Savage would finish the game with a team-high 14 points, followed by Creek who scored 13 points and Kevin Larsen who finished with nine. Senior Isaiah Armwood finished with five points and 10 rebounds on 1-7 shooting
GW will look to start 2014 off right when it returns to the Smith Center Jan 3. to face Georgia at 7 p.m.