Offense powers men’s basketball to win over Army

Midway through the second half of GW’s game against Army Sunday night, junior guard Matt Hart got a breakaway off a steal by junior forward Tyler Cavanaugh. The 6-foot-1-inch Hart sprinted down the court as he’d done twice before in the game, but when he reached the basket, he indulged for a moment, foregoing the easy layup for a two-handed slam dunk.

Senior point guard Joe McDonald goes up at the rim in GW's 92-81 win over Army Sunday night. McDonald was 6-6 from the free throw line. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor
Senior point guard Joe McDonald goes up at the rim in GW’s 92-81 win over Army Sunday night. McDonald was 6-6 from the free throw line. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

At the time, the Colonials were answering a 18‒5 Army run that had pulled the Black Knights out of an 11-point halftime deficit and into the momentary lead. But behind Hart’s career-high 17 points, 21 from senior Kevin Larsen and another 18 from senior Patricio Garino, the Colonials came away with the 92‒81 win.

“I think we realized we needed to get going,” Hart said. “I personally think I told the guys, you know we’ve got to pick it up a little bit and we just sparked. We got a few easy buckets and I think that always helps, to see the ball go through the net, and we just played our game, both offensively and defensively.”

With Garino cutting to the basket and Larsen owning the low post, the Colonials (4‒0) outscored Army (3‒1) 40‒20 in the paint and outrebounded the Black Knights 40‒33. Cavanaugh approached a double-double with 11 points and 9 rebounds.

Not thrown by Army’s aggressive full-court press, the Colonials executed their offense in the half court smoothly.

In the first half, they began feeding the ball inside – Larsen had 10 points within the first 10 minutes – and finished with Hart hitting a series of pull up jumpers, including a long three, and getting to the free throw line where he was 4‒4 in the game. Hart had 11 of his points by halftime, when the Colonials led 46‒35.

GW’s defense, especially in transition, was unflummoxed by Army’s running and gunning in the first half. Army swingman Kyle Wilson, who entered the game hitting 60 percent of his shots, was 2‒8 from the field at the break.

But Wilson finished 5‒15 for 16 points after getting going in the second half, as did forward Tanner Plomb who scored 17 of his game-high 27 points after halftime. GW’s defense dropped off as it has before this season, and allowed the Black Knights to match the Colonials with 46 second-half points.

“I think we get complacent,” Larsen said. “It’s not so much at the offensive end. It’s more the defensive end. Like three games now we’ve let teams go off in the second half and it’s definitely something we’ve got to work on.”

The Black Knights came out of the break and went on a 15‒3 run, capped by a three from Plomb, which gave Army the lead at 50‒49 for the first time in the game. It was the seventh of 12 threes Army would hit in the game, on 28 attempts.

At that time, things weren’t falling for the Colonials. Garino executed a move to the basket, but his layup attempt whizzed around the rim and stuttered against the backboard before falling away to the side.

If Army had been shooting better than 33.3 percent from the line at the time, things would have been a lot worse for GW. The Black Knights shot 46.2 percent for the game to GW’s 50.8, but went just 9-for-20 from the free throw line while GW hit 26 of 33, allowing the Colonials to pull away as shots began to fall again.

“We’ve just got to get more consistent,” head coach Mike Lonergan said. “South Florida and tonight, I thought we had chances to put the other team away. Like I said, I’m happy we won but I would like to see us put our foot on the pedal and end it and with our experience I think we should be able to do that.”

Sophomore forward Matt Cimino did not dress for the game and was wearing a boot on his right foot. Lonergan said that Cimino is day to day with a minor foot injury and could be back for the Colonials’ Tuesday morning matchup with Gardner-Webb.

Tipoff against the Runnin’ Bulldogs is set for 11 a.m. on Tuesday from the Smith Center.

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