Ben Krimmel, a senior majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist.
RICHMOND, Va. — As the time expired in Richmond, the Colonials bench was an island of happiness among a sea of glum faces. From my spot in the Robins Center, I am quite sure I saw even head coach Mike Lonergan crack a wide smile after GW clinched their first 20-win season since 2007.
For Lonergan and the Colonials, it was a night of exorcising late-game demons.
After a miserable performance in the closing minutes against Massachusetts last weekend, GW struck a balanced attack and found go-to scorers that eluded them in recent losses.
In the final five minutes of play Saturday, GW converted none of their seven field goal attempts, made just half of their six free throws and turned the ball over twice in a six-point defeat. No player could create space on the floor, and a string of missed shots ended the Colonials’ unbeaten home streak.
The trip to Richmond – a two-hour drive down I-95 – provided an opportunity for an about-face.
Against the Spiders, GW went 4-for-6 from the field (1-for-2 from behind the arc), 6-for-7 from the line and didn’t turn it over. The go-to scorers were guards Joe McDonald and Maurice Creek, who combined for all but two of the Colonials’ final 16 points.
Creek – who was dropped from the Colonials’ starting lineup in favor of freshman Nick Griffin — may not have been the guy GW wants to start games, but he is the guy GW needs to finish games.
With the Spiders defense handling much of the Colonials’ off-the-ball motion and set plays that are standard in Lonergan’s offense, Creek and McDonald were able to break down their defenders and score on the drive.
GW has struggled to find a basket when the set play fails to generate an open look. And until Kethan Savage returns from injury, it will be up to the five players who closed out Richmond — Kevin Larsen, Isaiah Armwood, Patricio Garino, McDonald, and Creek — to close out regular season games.
Despite Creek starting from the bench, the normal reserves have shown no signs that they are able to contribute on offense. Griffin and three other back-ups contributed eight points in 31 minutes Tuesday. It was worse against UMass, when five players off the bench totaled three points over 30 minutes.
But the Colonials remain unfazed by mounting pressure.
“The mentality of the team hasn’t changed,” Armwood said after the game Tuesday. “We all want to do well at the end of the season, going into the A-10 tournament, and we wanna keep playing in the NCAA Tournament. That’s everyone’s goal.”
GW can take a giant step towards making that goal a reality with a good performance against No. 10 in the nation Saint Louis on Saturday.
In a season of defying expectations and making a mockery of pundits’ prognostications (including this one), there’s no reason why GW can’t close the month of February with a victory and strut into March the most confident team in the conference.