Exhibit A: What we learned watching men’s basketball against Gannon

Media Credit: Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

Senior forward Kevin Larsen goes to the basket in the Colonials' win over Gannon (Division II) in exhibition play Saturday. Five Colonials scored in double-figures during the game.

Exhibition games don’t count for a reason – it’s hard to say what a 45 point win over a Division II school really means, if anything. Really, exhibition is just that: a chance to look at some of the lineups and strategies GW may employ during the regular season.

With that in mind, here are five takeaways from the Colonials’ 92‒47 win over Gannon Saturday in exhibition play.

Yuta Watanabe will stay at the two
Yuta Watanabe had a nice game, leading all scorers with 15 points and tying Kevin Larsen with six rebounds.

With Watanabe’s size and diverse set of skills it’s tempting to slide him into different positions in order to have the best players on the floor in more situations, but for a player with Watanabe’s ceiling it has looked best to maximize his talents by playing him where he’s most comfortable.

Watanabe looked stronger and more confident around the rim, but committed sloppy turnovers when he was asked to bring the ball up the court. Watanabe was originally used in the four spot for GW but has moved into the two spot where he will stay, for the most part.

“He’s been playing the two since last January and that’s what he is,” head coach Mike Lonergan said. “He’s not like a ball-handling two-guard. I wanted him to handle the ball tonight in practice and I told him that he didn’t show me that he could handle the ball in transition, he had some silly turnovers. But can play the two and once in awhile he’ll play the four, but truthfully Patricio will probably play more four than Yuta just because of his strength and his defensive abilities.”

A four-guard lineup may be the best sub package

GW’s backup guards, Alex Mitola, Paul Jorgensen, Jordan Roland and Matt Hart, combined for 42 of the team’s 48 bench points, and outrebounded the team’s backup forwards 10‒6, making it clearer that the Colonials will be better off going small in sub packages unless Matt Cimino, Anthony Swan or Collin Goss make a significant leap.

“We’ve got to work on our depth and we’ll have some smaller lineups,” Lonergan said. “If we put some bigs out there and they’re not really rebounding we’re better off having guards that can score.”

Mitola scored 13 points, including a trio of three-pointers, and played well at both guard spots. Lonergan said he’s been especially impressed by how quickly Mitola has learned the playbook, which has allowed him to play the one at times.

“I knew about a week into practice that he was going to help us, but I think he’s going to help us even more than I thought,” Lonergan said.

GW will press more this year
Lonergan broke out full court pressure on a few occasions early in the game, before the fouls started racking up.

The aggressive defense looked good, particularly from the long-armed Watanabe and Patricio Garino, and contributed to the 29 Gannon turnovers, 18 of which came in the first half.

Lonergan said that the plan will be to press after made free throws, as long as foul trouble isn’t a concern. He said that he’ll be more likely to use it when the starting lineup is in the game, and if he’s playing with a smaller, more guard-heavy lineup, the team will be more likely to play an extended version of its 1-3-1.

Jordan Roland making a name for himself
If Roland is competing with redshirt junior Hart for playing time, he made a statement on Saturday.

Roland scored 10 points, showcasing his scoring talent with a couple nice moves to the basket off breakaways. Lonergan said he thinks Roland is athletic enough to go for a dunk in similar situations, and maybe get to the free throw line if his shot is blocked – but the completeness of his game was more impressive. Roland added an assist, a rebound and two steals and committed no turnovers and only two fouls in 18 minutes.

Roland was known for his prolific scoring in high school, where he was protected on defense to keep him out of foul trouble. But Lonergan said he knew that Roland was a good defender from his AAU days and that he will use him, as he did Saturday, and in the Buff & Blue Scrimmage a week before, at the top of GW’s 1-3-1 defense at times.

“He’s got long arms,” Lonergan said. “He doesn’t look like he’s got long arms so when we put him at the top of the 1-3-1 last week in the scrimmage he just makes a lot of things happen. So we’re going to mix that up with Yuta. We can do a lot of things with Jordan.”

Starters dominated
OK, fine. The starting five, McDonald, Garino, Watanabe, Cavanaugh and Larsen, are the hardest to judge against inferior competition, playing far fewer minutes than they will normally and with less on the line than the bench who are players fighting for minutes. Still, they looked composed, and they dominated. Maybe that’s something.

With all five starters in the game, the Colonials opened up play with a 10‒0 run. They played all together again for the first few minutes of the second half, save one 25-second patch when Jorgensen came in for McDonald, and rattled off another 11‒2 stretch before Garino was taken out for Jorgensen.

McDonald scored seven of GW’s points during that stretch, getting open in transition to collect a pass from Kevin Larsen that turned into a layup, and hitting a gorgeous pull-up three to cap the run. McDonald has played through bumps and bruises so often but, finally healthy, he was able to create with both his athleticism and his IQ.

Next time, they play for keeps. The regular season begins Friday at 7 p.m. against Lafayette in the Smith Center.

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