Riding a three game losing streak, men’s basketball traveled to Cambridge, Mass. to take on Harvard for its first true road game of the season Tuesday night.
Despite missing their second-leading scorer in junior forward Yuta Watanabe – out of the line up with a calf injury – the Colonials (4-3) came away with a 77–74 victory over the Crimson (1-4).
Graduate student forward Tyler Cavanaugh finished with a team-high 20 points and added seven rebounds, while redshirt junior guard Jaren Sina put up a 19-point performance – a career-high at GW – on 12-of-12 shooting from the line.
“Jaren and Tyler did a great job leading,” interim head coach Maurice Joseph said. “Obviously playing without Yuta is going to hurt us. Our guys are going to have to look to contribute and fill the gaps, fill that void by committee and I think we did that tonight. I am proud of our guys and how we battled.”
The young GW frontcourt had another strong showing in the three-point win. Freshman forward Arnaldo Toro, who got the start Tuesday alongside Cavanaugh, Sina, sophomore guard Jordan Roland and freshman center Collin Smith, contributed a game-high 10 rebounds. He and freshman forward Kevin Marfo combined for 17 points and held the Crimson to 24 points in the paint, compared to 34 against Penn State. Sophomore forward Collin Goss also posted a career-high five points.
The GW bigs, in general, had a good day on the offensive glass. The Colonials grabbed 15 offensive boards which led to a sizeable 12-point advantage in second-chance points.
The Colonials, who usually deploy a man-to-man defense, jumped into a two-three zone to start the game and stayed in it for the majority of the contest.
“I think we had some really good moments in [the 2-3 zone], Joseph said. “I thought that we did a good job for the most part, we still have to get back to the film.”
Harvard got on the board early, taking a 13–7 lead after scoring on five of six consecutive possessions. The Crimson were able to hold on to the lead for more than nine minutes, but GW was continuously chipping away and entered the locker room at halftime with a 37–33 advantage.
Sina and Cavanaugh got the offense rolling in the second half. GW started the frame with a 9-0 run and appeared to be in complete command.
Trailing by 13 with 16:43 on the clock, Harvard called a timeout and turned the game around. The Crimson offense turned up the heat and went on a 25-12 run capped by a shot from behind the arc from freshman guard Bryce Aiken, who co-led his team with 17 points along with first-year forward Seth Towns.
GW only made one more field goal in the game, but was able to pull out the four-point victory by finishing 15-for-18 from the line in the final five minutes.
“We are slowly but surely starting to mature. We are still a very young team, we made some very young mistakes today. I made some coaching mistakes today,” Joseph said. “Overall we all have to get better and we all have to do it collectively. That’s what I have been preaching and the fact that we withstood that run was impressive because at any level it is tough to get wins on the road.”
Next up, the Colonials host USF on Saturday at 2 p.m. before taking on Florida State at the Verizon Center Sunday in the BB&T Classic.
Watanabe – who is averaging 13.4 points and 5.2 rebounds – will likely be out for both games. Joseph said the forward’s timetable to return is “about three weeks.”