Men’s basketball ends season with loss to Temple in NIT second round

Senior John Kopriva struggles for the ball between two Temple defenders. Kopriva played his final game for the men's basketball team Sunday as No. 5 seed GW fell to No. 1 seed Temple in the second round of the NIT. Dan Rich | Hatchet Photographer
Senior John Kopriva struggles for the ball between two Temple defenders. Kopriva played his final game for the men’s basketball team Sunday as No. 5 seed GW fell to No. 1 seed Temple in the second round of the NIT. Dan Rich | Hatchet Photographer
PHILADELPHIA – They teased, they beckoned and they hinted at a comeback. But it’s over.

Men’s basketball’s season ended Sunday in a 90-77 loss to Temple in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament.

The Colonials finished the season 22-13 overall and 1-1 as a No. 5 seed in the tournament on the No. 1 seed Owls’ home court.

“I’m disappointed because today was like our season,” head coach Mike Lonergan said. “Kethan really played well offensively today. Kevin played pretty well, and then a couple other guys had really rough games, so consistency has been the thing. We’ve lacked consistency in our season.”

At first, it looked like they would go easily. Temple (25-10, 2-0 NIT) shot out to a 9-0 lead and was quickly ahead by 15 at 20-5. Jesse Morgan, who finished the game 7-12 with 20 points, was outpacing the entire GW offense when Temple made it 22-9.

The Colonials started to chip away. GW cut the lead to eight after a 5-0 run with a three from Joe McDonald followed by a strong move to the basket for Kethan Savage, who finished the game with 25 points followed by Kevin Larsen’s 19.

“I’m definitely disappointed,” Savage said. “I was really excited coming into the game because I thought definitely everybody was ready to play.”

GW also forced a pair of rare turnovers in the stretch from the Owls, who rank ninth in Division I for the least giveaways at 9.8 per game, though the turnover margin ended even with eight for each team.

Temple was still up by 12 with 1:20 left until the break, but in the final minute of the half, Savage shot down a triple from an empty corner. The Colonials pressured Morgan into a bad three-point attempt on the other end and Savage swept up the rebound. Then Yuta Watanabe got his first points of the game from the field with GW’s second three-pointer in a row, and the Colonials had cut the lead to six with 22 seconds before halftime.

But then Savage fouled Temple’s Quenton DeCosey shooting a three-pointer, and DeCosey hit 2-3 from the line to put the lead back at eight going into the half.

Considering where GW had come back from, it was the type of momentum-stealer that caused Lonergan to tag it “the worst play of the game.” But in the beginning of the second half, GW started to look like a team playing to extend its season.

Freshman Yuta Watanabe scored 15 points in GW's 90-77 loss to Temple on Sunday. Dan Rich | Hatchet Photographer
Freshman Yuta Watanabe scored 15 points in GW’s 90-77 loss to Temple on Sunday. Dan Rich | Hatchet Photographer

Watanabe hit a three, then a layup for five points in the first minute and a half of the second half. Larsen pulled the Colonials within three at 40-37, the closest GW had been since the opening of the game, with a pair of makes from the free-throw line.

But that was Temple’s wake-up call. The Owls made back-to-back buckets and midway through the half were back hovering around a 10-point lead. One game after Will Cummings scored a season-high 30 points against Bucknell in Temple’s NIT first-round win, he led the team again with 21 points, including an 8-8 mark at the free-throw line.

“When we’re trying to play a containment defense and takeaway Cummings’ penetration and they just killed us off the boards, that wears you down,” Lonergan said.

Time after time, the Colonials looked like they were getting back in the game. Savage, Watanabe and Larsen made three straight three-point plays for the Colonials, but Devin Coleman, working off the bench, came in with an answer to each one of them.

Coleman’s tip-in, strong defensive rebound and layup put Temple back up by 12 with 7:49 to go. The Owls controlled the rebounding margin 38-26 and 14-8 off the offensive glass.

“We had some pretty good defensive stops, you think about two of our guys that usually rebound, Yuta had one and Joe had one,” Lonergan said. “Those guys are getting four to eight rebounds each, so it’s hard to overcome.”

And with five minutes left, they were back up by 15. Coleman had played 11 minutes and had 11 points. Temple brought the lead to 18 until Larsen hit his second three of the night, bringing senior John Kopriva to his feet on the bench.

It would be Kopriva’s final game as a Colonial, but the lead was too much to overcome.

The women’s basketball team’s coaching staff, having also felt the sting of a disappointing postseason exit on Friday in the NCAA Tournament’s first round, made the trip to Philadelphia. Though they were denied a celebration for the second time, this season marked the second straight year that both GW basketball teams have reached the postseason.

“I’m happy with what they did, but they had some goals when they came in that we haven’t reached those goals yet so this offseason is huge for us,” Lonergan said. “I’m excited about the future, I feel bad for John Kopriva but I am happy we only lose one senior.”

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