Sophomore guard Nick Griffin hit three consecutive three-pointers in the first half to minimize, if only for a moment, the double-digit lead La Salle held nearly all game.
But down 17 with just over 12 minutes to play in the game, Griffin, the only Colonial who seemed to be on his game Saturday afternoon, air balled his final attempt from beyond the arc, embodying a frazzled road team that would lose to the Explorers 63-50, without ever finding a rhythm offensively.
“[The game] was just disappointing. [La Salle] was well-prepared, their defensive intensity was terrific and they just jumped all over us. We couldn’t even run an offense.” head coach Mike Lonergan said. “They exposed a lot of our weaknesses, but hopefully it’s a one-game thing. The score wasn’t indicative of the beating they put on us.”
Freshman forward Yuta Watanabe led the struggling offense with 12 points off the bench, followed by Griffin and junior guard Patricio Garino who each had nine. Junior forward Kevin Larsen recorded a team-high eight rebounds but had zero points on the day.
“I thought we gave [Kevin] the ball a lot, especially in the first half, and he had zero assists and five turnovers. It was kind of like the Virginia game – he was throwing the ball all over the place,” Lonergan said. “[Kevin] looked like he was tired. He was having trouble even getting up and down the court, his back was hurting a little he said.”
But the 6-foot-10 forward was not the only Colonial performing poorly.
GW’s five starters struggled and looked out of sync from the beginning, combining for just an anemic six points in the first half. The Colonials doubled the Explorers’ turnover total in the first half, racking up 14 giveaways with five coming in the first five minutes of play.
The Colonials would end the day with 20 turnovers to La Salle’s 14, a steep increase from GW’s average of 11.8 per game, with Larsen and junior guards Joe McDonald and Kethan Savage combining for 15.
“Sometimes you can overcome one guy not playing well or two guys, but the halftime turnovers were incredible. You can’t give them that many possessions, especially when we’re trying to score,” Lonergan said.
While GW searched for its game, La Salle had no trouble scoring. Sophomore guards Jordan Price and Cleon Roberts led the game with 20 and 15 points respectively, while Roberts also contributed six rebounds to cushion senior center Steve Zack’s game-leading 11 boards.
La Salle, desperate for its first conference win, would finish the day leading nearly every statistical category including shooting, rebounding, steals, blocks and assists. The Explorers shot 44.7 percent on the game while GW hit only 39.5 percent of its attempts from the field.
“[La Salle] was on us the entire time,” McDonald said. “It took us out of our game and what we really wanted to do and that was wrong on our part. We really should have stuck to our game plan, but you have to give a lot of credit to [La Salle] because they came out strong from the get-go.”
Freshman guard Darian Bryant also sustained an apparent wrist injury, Lonergan said, and did not return to the game.
La Salle’s victory snaps a six-game GW win streak and deals the Colonials their first conference loss and fourth overall loss of the season, with each dropped contest coming on the road.
“We were definitely in bed early. I thought we were prepared mentally, but obviously we weren’t,” Lonergan said. “But I’m not looking at it like we can’t win on the road, that’s for sure.”
The Colonials return to action Thursday night when they battle Richmond at the Smith Center.