Men’s basketball returns to action with exhibition win over Bloomsburg

Media Credit: The Smith Center scoreboard will be replaced before the 2019-20 season.

Junior guard Kethan Savage rocked the Smith Center with a dunk in the opening seconds of play Saturday, marking the start of an 89-47 trouncing of Bloomsburg (Division II) in GW’s only preseason exhibition match.

Despite committing 21 turnovers, the Colonials shot 66 percent from the field compared to the Huskies’ 24.2 and out rebounded Bloomsburg 51-27 en route to the 42-point victory.

“I thought we got a lot out of the game [and] did some good things. It was definitely sloppy, we had 21 turnovers, but I thought we were ready to play,” head coach Mike Lonergan said. “We played a lot of guys and it definitely added to why it was sloppy, but I’m happy because no one got hurt and we got to get our freshmen a lot of minutes.”

Junior guard Patricio Garino led the Colonials with a team-high 16 points, followed by junior forward Kevin Larsen and freshman guard Darian Bryant who each totaled 13 points on the day.

Larsen led the way with 11 points in the first half, in which the Colonials shot 62.5 percent from the field and outscored Bloomsburg 46-22.

The second frame was nearly identical, with GW outscoring the Huskies 43-25 and shooting 71.4 percent from the field.

Freshman forward Yuta Watanabe makes his first basket in the Smith Center in an exhibition match against Bloomsburg on Saturday afternoon. Watanabe totalled 8 rebounds and 12 points in his debut for the Colonials. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor
Freshman forward Yuta Watanabe makes his first basket in the Smith Center in an exhibition match against Bloomsburg on Saturday. Watanabe totalled eight rebounds and 12 points in his debut for the Colonials. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor

The team’s five freshmen came out strong, contributing a combined total of 37 points, led by Bryant and freshmen Yuta Watanabe, who totaled 12 points and led the team defensively with three blocks.

“I think individually [the freshmen] did some good things. I thought Yuta played very very well… he’s got long arms and he’s a very good defender,” Lonergan said. “He’s really talented. I think as these guys get used to playing with Yuta and he gets used to playing with them, he’s going to be a lot better a few months down the road.”

Senior forward John Kopriva led the first half with six total rebounds, also scoring a total of 11 points, which he will need to continue to do for the Colonials to find success this season. Kopriva also showed off a jumper he and Lonergan said was improved and shot 5-6 from the field.

Kopriva was able to find space when Larsen drew the majority of attention in the post. Freshman Matt Cimino, however, was the team’s leading rebounder, battling his way through the paint for 10 rebounds, including four off the offensive boards.

Free throws, an area of concern for the Colonials last season, did not see much improvement Saturday, as GW only shot 60.7 percent from the line. Lonergan attributed some of the misses to early season jitters, but said that accuracy at the line is still a work in progress for his squad.

“I think some of our freshmen were nervous and missing some free throws there, but I think we’ve improved at least in practice and the drills we’re doing… but today, definitely it’s a disappointing number, especially being at home,” Lonergan said.

Junior guard Patricio Garino goes up to net in an exhibition match against Bloomburg on Saturday afternoon. Garino scored 16 points as the Colonials topped the Huskies 89-47. Dan Rich | Hatchet Photographer
Junior guard Patricio Garino goes up to net in an exhibition match against Bloomburg on Saturday. Garino scored 16 points as the Colonials topped the Huskies 89-47. Dan Rich | Hatchet Photographer

Overall, players said the rout left them feeling positive going into the regular season after waiting to get back on the court together in competition.

“It feels good honestly to play the whole team at the same time in one game,” Garino said. “I can’t wait honestly. I think we have a great team and now all the freshman have a little feeling about the game, and now I think they’re going to be a little less nervous.”

Still, not everyone got in on the fun: Junior Ryan McCoy and sophomore Nick Griffin did not dress for the game due to minor injuries, though Lonergan said both would be evaluated and could practice this week. He said they could possibly play in the season opener against Grambling State, but that it would depend on their availability for practice and if they could get enough time to tune up before getting into a game.

With or without them, the Colonials will try to carry over their dominance and work out some of the kinks and turnovers before getting back on the court when it counts. They will play their first regular season game against Grambling State next Friday at 7 p.m. in the Smith Center.

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