The hulking, reddish-brown Barclays Center towers over shops on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, N.Y. It’s eye-catching to anyone who travels through that part of the borough.
But just as clear inside the arena was the fact that men’s basketball senior Isaiah Armwood does not want to see his final year of college basketball end without a fight.
Armwood and his frontcourt mate, Atlantic 10 most-improved player Kevin Larsen, made themselves known in the paint and solidified their spots as the best inside tandem in the conference.
Together, they combined for 52 points and 23 rebounds in GW’s two A-10 tournament games against VCU and Massachusetts, serving as the spark to the team’s offense and showing who GW can rely on this weekend.
“When you look at the stronger teams in our conference, like UMass and VCU, it just prepared us to go into games like these because they’re very similar,” Armwood said Tuesday. “They’ve got very good guards and very good big men, so it definitely helped us.”
Head coach Mike Lonergan will likely look to get the pair the ball more in NCAA Tournament games, as their numbers – along with GW’s control of the game – significantly dropped in the second half as opponents made smart defensive adjustments.
The Colonials also got hope last weekend from their Serbian senior.
After two straight seasons of declining three-point percentages and four straight games to end the regular season in which he hit just one field goal, many fans were ready to let Nemanja Mikic fade away from their basketball memories.
But he wasn’t.
Instead, the senior forward hit rewind, dropping 26 points over the two games on a combined 7-for-12 shooting from beyond the arc.
Mikic was glowing with confidence, fist pumping after every made basket and calling for the ball on what seemed to be every possession – a performance he’ll look to duplicate off the bench this weekend.
“Hopefully he’ll make shots, because it definitely makes us a better team,” Lonergan said after his team’s loss to VCU. “By him coming in and scoring two days in a row, that allows us to compete with some of the top teams in our league and nationally.”
With the impending matchup against No. 8-seeded Memphis, Lonergan and the Colonials know how to prepare for March Madness matchups after facing strong press defenses and penetrating offenses from the Rams and Minutemen.
After falling to VCU, the Colonials said they would make adjustments in their zone defense – tightening up the holes for open shooters. The Rams sank 10 three-point shots in the semifinals.
“We played a lot of 1-3-1 today and they kind of exposed some things in it. Hopefully we can learn from that and gain confidence from each of our losses and wins and just move forward,” Mikic said after the team’s loss to VCU.
But there was some negative news last weekend that didn’t have a silver lining to be found. Most noticeably, the image of sophomore Kethan Savage limping back to the locker room after playing just one minute on Saturday.
All season, coaches remained optimistic that the guard would return and elevate the team after he broke his foot in mid-January.
That moment was supposed to come in the NCAA Tournament. But after making an awkward cut in a return that came perhaps a week too soon, his reappearance is doubtful. Lonergan said Tuesday that he was planning not to have the sophomore – the team’s second-leading scorer.
“I’m not gonna lie, we’re not the same team without him. We really are not,” Lonergan said Tuesday. “We have a lot of weaknesses, lack of depth and different things. So I wish he was playing, but it’s a part of the game – injuries – and we’ll need some other people to step up.”