Puzzling turnover totals and an incomplete effort on defense: two reasons GW fell to Davidson 77-66 Saturday night in a game that epitomized the team’s Atlantic 10 struggles.
After finishing 10-3 in non-conference play, the Colonials have lost half of their 16 A-10 games thus far, and seven of their last nine since a win over Duquesne on Jan. 24. The same problems GW faced at Davidson permeate throughout their losses.
Despite a season-high 20 points from Joe McDonald, GW doomed itself Saturday by accumulating 13 turnovers to the Wildcats’ four, with the junior point guard contributing zero.
“When your point guard doesn’t turn the ball over at all, you shouldn’t have 13 turnovers,” head coach Mike Lonergan said. “We don’t really have a guy that’s a lockdown defender anymore and they only had four turnovers. We had 13. That’s a huge discrepancy.”
Junior guard Patricio Garino, a once-savvy ball handler, played a large role in that discrepancy. Tying a game-high four turnovers against Davidson, Garino also leads his team in giveaways.
In spite of being the team’s top scorer, averaging 12.4 points per game, Garino has struggled with passing as of late and it showed against the Wildcats. In GW’s eight A-10 losses the junior has averaged 3.1 turnovers a game, 0.5 more than his 2.6 season average.
Junior forward Kevin Larsen shared the top turnover spot with Garino in the 11-point loss in which Lonergan described GW turnovers as “brutal.” The big man is only averaging 2.2 turnovers per game on the season, but racked up 26 giveaways in the team’s eight conference losses, an average of 3.2 per game.
But smarter passing is only half of the equation, as GW was able to muster 18 total assists in Saturday’s loss after all.
While the Colonials’ once stifling defense showed itself in spurts Saturday, it could not compete for a full game against another offensive powerhouse.
“Obviously we didn’t get enough stops…we’ve got to be better defensively,” McDonald said following the loss. “[We need to start] playing the full 40 minutes, especially on the defensive end, we should never take breaks on that side.”
Throughout the team’s recent stretch Lonergan has also reiterated the fact that his team fails to play a complete game defensively. In an all too familiar trend, the Colonials were strong in the first half on the road, holding the Wildcats to 34.6 percent shooting from the field.
But as Davidson began rolling, GW could not keep up. The Wildcats improved to 48.3 percent in the field in the second half to pull ahead for a victory Saturday. In five of the team’s eight A-10 losses, GW has allowed its opponent to shoot better in the second half than in the first.
“I think it starts with all of us. Even us older guys make mistakes too and we’ve just got to know that you’ve got to play the whole 40 minutes,” McDonald said. “A lot of those three pointers came on fast breaks, and we weren’t getting back. [The difference maker is] just the will to win and get back on D, the will to play defense and that goes for all of us.”
With two games left in the regular season, GW is a more-than-doubtful pick for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. But, like when the Colonials went on a 10-0 run after Davidson pulled ahead by 16 points, they are not giving up just yet.
“I knew [Davidson] was going to be tough and I thought our guys did a good job of hanging in there because it’s hard to overcome those runs,” Lonergan said. “Nobody is giving up on the season.”