Updated: Nov. 14, 2014 at 10:47 p.m.
No sooner had a new banner, this one with “2014” emblazoned under previous NCAA tournament years, been hung from the Smith Center rafters than Patricio Garino was feeding Kethan Savage for a slam dunk in the season opener Friday.
Those were GW’s first official points of the 2014-15 season in the beginning of what would be a 92-40 win over Grambling State, marking the Colonials’ largest margin of victory since 1999.
Just under 20 minutes of game time later, when Tigers guard Chase Cormier missed his second free throw, Garino secured a 16-15 edge in scoring over the Tigers’ entire offense in the first half. GW went on to trounce the Tigers, outscoring them 50-18 in the paint, 22-4 off the fastbreak and 24-1 in points off of turnovers.
“I thought we came out ready to play, and I think our upperclassmen and our juniors in particular were very focused no matter who their opponent is,” head coach Mike Lonergan said. “It was a good game for us, for our freshmen especially, they don’t have to go into Rutgers Sunday as their first game playing major minutes.”
Garino was unstoppable, laying and dunking balls in off the fastbreak and making two three pointers on three attempts. Sixteen of his points came in the first half before he saw limited minutes in the second half of the blowout.
Lonergan put all five freshman in around the four-minute mark and let them play out the remainder of the game. For the record, they outscored the Tigers 9-4, with Paul Jorgensen making an aggressive swipe and several layups off the break and Yuta Watanabe hitting a three.
Darian Bryant held the ball as the crowd stood and the clock wound down to zero with GW’s future on the court. But make no mistake, the present did the winning for the Colonials against the Tigers.
“Darian plays well, he finds a way to get some baskets. Yuta I think had one of his best games,” Lonergan said. “They’re getting used to playing with each other as well.”
Lonergan nearly secured his goal of having four players score in double figures, as Savage added 12 to Garino’s game-leading 21, while Kevin Larsen and Joe McDonald chipped in 15 and 8, respectively. Larsen led the game in rebounding with nine, and GW would beat Grambling State off the glass 49-24.
“[Rebounding] was a big focus because we had a size advantage again like last week,” Larsen said. “So it was like one of the priorities going into the game, dominating on the glass, which has been a big question mark for the whole summer since [Isaiah Armwood] left. So it was a great feeling to show that we can all rebound.”
Though Larsen spent most of his minutes inside, he hit a three pointer after Grambling State missed a free throw with seven minutes to go in the first half, which made it seem unclear if the Tigers would reach double digits in the first frame. GW George walked through the aisles of the Smith Center’s stands with unusual confidence.
While GW got scoring from many places, the Tigers had just two players in double figures. Those players, forwards A’Torri Shine and Richard Freeman, were the only two players to score more than four points with Shine’s 11 and Freeman’s 13.
One of the few dark spots for GW was the team’s fifth starter, forward John Kopriva, who was held without a field goal and scored just one point off four free throw attempts, though Lonergan praised his defense in the game. Kopriva also added three rebounds.
“He’s gotta make his free throws, it’s just a mental thing,” Lonergan said. “He didn’t really have many other opportunities.”
Guard Nick Griffin suited up for GW after missing the Colonials’ exhibition win over Bloomsburg the week before with a minor injury, which Lonergan said at the team’s media day was to his foot.
He was silent in the first half but scored eight points in the second frame, including two of GW’s six three pointers.
Griffin ended the game tied with Watanabe and Jorgensen for the most points off the GW bench, which outscored Grambling State’s supporting cast 35-11.
Lonergan cautioned that the rookies will have to get used to fewer minutes, starting with the team’s first official road game at Rutgers on Sunday at 7 p.m.
This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported the number of points scored by Richard Freeman. He scored 13 points, not 14. We regret this error.