When Seton Hall’s freshman forward Angel Delgado missed a pair of free throws with the Pirates up 56-54 and five seconds to go, GW had a chance to get the 14th tie of the game.
Junior Kethan Savage took the second rebound and drove hard to the basket with time winding down. But before he could get to the rim, freshman Isaiah Whitehead slid in front of Savage and the referee called the GW junior guard for a charge.
Seton Hall (5-0) would go on to sink the next two free throws and edge GW (3-2) 58-54 to hand the Colonials their second loss of the season.
“I wanted the ball in my hands,” Savage said. “I wanted to try to make plays for my team. It didn’t always have to be me scoring. I thought I saw a lane to the basket, but it closed up on me, and I kept going and ran the guy over, so it was a poor decision on my part.”
While Savage was not able to take the game to overtime, he did dominate offensively for GW, scoring a game-high 19 points while playing all but two minutes of the game. Savage was followed by junior Patricio Garino, who tallied 10 points. The Colonials ended the game shooting over 40 percent, while the Pirates shot just under 39 percent.
Though his teammates excelled, junior forward Kevin Larsen, who had a season-high 16 points against Longwood, struggled to find the basket all game. The big man only scored three points, with his first basket coming with just 2:06 left to play.
“[Larsen’s] passing the ball. Whether he’s lost confidence, whether he’s not in shape, I’m not sure, but we got him the ball and he’s supposed to try to score,” head coach Mike Lonergan said. “We’re not going to win games if he’s one for seven with zero assists and four turnovers, but hopefully he’ll bounce back.”
At the half, GW held a 17-11 rebounding edge and was a perfect 6-6 from the free throw line, but turnovers plagued the team early. The Colonials racked up 12 turnovers in the first and finished with a season-high 18, while Seton Hall gave the ball away just 14 times.
But Savage kept GW alive, leading the scoring early for the Colonials by knocking down 12 of his team’s 23 first-half points. While Larsen could not find the scoreboard, he led the team with four rebounds in the first frame and finished the game leading GW in rebounding with eight.
Seton Hall junior guard Sterling Gibbs, who was averaging 22 points coming into the contest, was held to just 11 points on the day, but three more Pirates players – Delgado, Whitehead and senior Brandon Mobley – finished in double figures to round out their offense.
Despite finishing with a slight 33-31 rebounding edge, Lonergan thought his team was out-muscled and could have done a better job at shutting down Delgado, who tallied a game-high 10 rebounds. GW and Seton Hall each had 14 offensive rebounds, though Lonergan expected to win that battle.
“Where they really hurt us was the offensive boards. We talked about [Delgado] forever, and he went 10-10, so that’s most disappointing to me,” Lonergan said. “We usually play physical, and we weren’t a physical team today at all. They out-toughed us.”
GW’s three-point defense was able to hold the Pirates to just 14.3 percent from beyond the arc, a significant drop off from their 46.7 percent coming into the game. But 20 personal fouls by GW allowed Seton Hall to score 18 points on 24 attempts from the line.
The Colonials’ bench was able to compensate for some of the offense lost to a struggling Larsen, with freshmen Yuta Watanabe and sophomore Nick Griffin draining the team’s only two three pointers of the game. But eight total points off the bench was not enough to make up for a lacking inside presence.
“We’ve got to score more points. We missed a lot of opportunities inside,” Lonergan said. “You’ve got to go up and dunk the ball and make the shot. You can’t go up there soft and get blocked.”
Heading back to the nation’s capital, Lonergan said he will look to his juniors to steer the team back in the right direction.
“Our juniors have got to get together and show a little bit of leadership, and they’ve got to respond to this kind of loss. Our freshmen aren’t ready,” Lonergan said. “They did a good job today, but they’re not ready to put up statistics for us, so we need all those juniors to really come through for us.”
The Colonials return to the Smith Center on Thursday to take on UMBC at 7 p.m.