Updated: Jan. 25, 2017 at 11:11 p.m.
FAIRFAX, VA. — Maurice Joseph’s Colonials marched across the Potomac Wednesday night with a purpose.
The interim head coach’s team – which had lost three of its last five entering the contest – was determined to halt a hot George Mason squad – 12-3 across its last 15 – in hostile territory.
And with Revolutionary Rivalry history on its side, men’s basketball (11-9, 3-4 A-10) did just that. An offensive barrage, which saw 10 different players reach the score sheet, carried GW to a convincing, 87-68 conference win and its highest single-game point total of the year.
The team’s second consecutive victory marked its first road win since Dec. 7 at Temple, and improved its all-time record against the local foe to 17-2.
“I am very proud of the maturity we showed [today],” Joseph said. “We took a step forward in that capacity, they made two runs [in the second half] and we handled them both. We stayed poised, we hit some shots and we slowed the pace down.”
Graduate student forward Tyler Cavanaugh and sophomore guard Jordan Roland both led with a game-high 20 points. The pair combined for eight of GW’s 11 three-pointers on the night, up agains the second-best three-point field goal defense in the A-10.
Roland especially impressed on the floor, going a near-perfect 7-for-8 from the field and 5-for-6 from deep. The guard had scored just seven points or fewer in his previous four games.
“My teammates were just finding me for open shots, I put a lot of work into it and I have confidence, but when you get open ones it is a lot easier to make them,” Roland said. “It feels good to be able to contribute again, to win games.”
Graduate student combo guard Patrick Steeves also had one of his best games in a Colonials uniform since arriving in Foggy Bottom.
The 6-foot-8-inch Harvard transfer has missed eight games this season due to a knee injury, and saw limited minutes in GW’s last four contests, but posted a season-high 11 points, two blocks, six rebounds and added two assists in 26 minutes Wednesday.
Joseph said it was his intention to use Steeves a fair amount against the Patriots due to their personnel and defensive game.
“[Steeves] played really well,” Roland said. “He had two big blocks. He’s pretty bouncy so I wasn’t really surprised by that.”
Cavanaugh, who had been in a slump as of late – averaging 10 points per game across his last three games compared to his 15.8 on the season – got the visitors started offensively, and battled foul trouble all game.
The team’s leading scorer netted seven of GW’s first 10 points to kickstart the offense that went only 34.4 percent from the field, but 4-for-8 from long range and 9-for-9 at the free throw line.
A balanced attack had five different Colonials finish the frame with five points or more, while one of GW’s most stout defense halves all year held the Patriots to 32.3 percent from the field, 0-for-5 from deep and helped the visitors capture a 35-24 halftime edge.
“I was ecstatic about [our first-half performance,” Joseph said “It proved a point that even if we don’t shoot the ball well, if we guard we will be in good shape…Had they shot 50 or 60 percent like teams have been shooting against us we would have been in trouble. We didn’t shoot the ball well but we guarded and we were still up by 11.”
George Mason embarked on a 7-0 early in the second half to cut GW’s lead to six points but the Colonials quickly rallied back.
The Patriots would come close to a comeback once more midway through the frame, down just 56-50, but a three-pointer from Roland began a 9-0 GW run that would put them away for good.
The Colonials never looked back, capturing their largest lead of the night with 4:25 remaining – ahead by 22.
Junior guard Yuta Watanabe – who started for the second straight game alongside Cavanaugh, redshirt junior guard Jaren Sina, and freshmen Arnaldo Toro and Jair Bolden – rounded out the double-figure scorers with 12 on the night.
GW would finish the game shooting 44.3 percent from the field and a sturdy 22-for-29 from the free throw line with 19 assists – one shy of matching a season-high 20 – and 10 turnovers.
The Colonials return home Saturday to take on the last-place Saint Louis at 4 p.m.