Men’s basketball owned a four-point halftime lead, tied its season-high field goal percentage and recorded its second-lowest number of turnovers, but still left the Ryan Center Tuesday night empty-handed.
Rhode Island senior Hassan Martin (23) and junior Jared Terrell (17) combined for 40 points to help the Rams (14-7, 6-3 A-10) outscore GW (12-10, 4-5 A-10) by 16 in the second half, and deal the Colonials their first loss in more than two weeks.
Despite shooting 49.1 percent from the floor, the Colonials were outdone by a Rhode Island offense that powered its way past a flat visiting defense to a 54.7 percent clip and an impressive 18-for-20 mark from the free throw line.
“I thought we did some really good things, but we didn’t defend the way we needed to,” interim head coach Maurice Joseph said. “This is a tough team on the road who we had on the ropes, but again, teams are going to make runs at home and that’s what [Rhode Island] did.”
Graduate student forward Tyler Cavanaugh – who led GW with 21 points, five rebounds and four assists – got the Colonials going early by putting up their first seven points of the game, sparking a fierce first-half offense.
Cavanaugh would finish the frame with 11 points, but got little help his fellow starters. Redshirt junior Jaren Sina, junior Yuta Watanabe – who committed five of GW’s nine total turnovers – and freshmen Jair Bolden and Arnaldo Toro combined for just 9 in the half before and 24 on the night. Entering Wednesday’s contest, GW was 3-0 on the season with that starting five.
Instead, GW’s bench chipped in 19 points in the opening period – which saw five lead changes – with big contributions coming from sophomore guard Jordan Roland (7) and redshirt senior Matt Hart (6).
Although the Rams didn’t do much worse at 53.8, the Colonials were a dominant 57.7 percent from the floor and won the boards 13-11 in the first half to take a 39-35 lead into the break.
“Our contributions off the bench were huge” Joseph said. “Guys made some big shots. Matt Hart came off the bench, had a great contribution, [freshman forward Kevin] Marfo came in and gave us some great minutes – we did enough to put ourselves in a good position… I’m really pleased by how we played, not just at half, but for about 34-35 minutes of this game.”
GW sustained its momentum – and maintained its lead – for the better part of the second half. Sina and Toro got going to combine for 15 points in the frame, and the bench finished the night with 25 to keep the visitors afloat while the Rams kept pounding inside.
Martin continued to get to the rim at will, and a balanced team effort led by senior forward Kuran Iverson (12) in the second half led to 30 points in the paint on the night to GW’s 26. Rhode Island would go on to shoot 55.6 percent from the field in the final period.
“The defensive plan was to keep [Rhode Island] out of the paint and to keep Martin away from his left hand,” Joseph said. “Obviously we didn’t do – never mind a good job – we didn’t do a job at all of that. He went to his left hand constantly and just shot jump hooks and was really good from the field today, shooting 10-14, so he had a monster game.”
Foul trouble only exacerbated the Rams’ offensive barrage. Perhaps the most detrimental mistake came midway through the second half when Joseph was called for a technical just after a three-pointer from Sina out GW ahead 60-55.
The Rams sunk both ensuing free throws and Iverson followed with a three to tie the game at 60 with 8:08 remaining.
“We made shots, but we fouled a lot,” Joseph said. “Obviously my technical foul was at a rough stretch and that’s a play that I can’t have for our team. That’s tough to get back – they went on a 5-0 run in that little stretch there. That stretch, mixed with our fouling and a couple shaky plays there where we got our shot blocked, that’s tough to make up.”
Joseph’s squad finished the night with 15 personal fouls and sent the Rams to the foul line 20 times. Rhode Island, the second-worst free-throw shooting team in the A-10, missed just two shots from the stripe to secure the 12-point victory.
The Colonials’ next stop on a short two-game road stint is Richmond. GW takes on the Spiders, who won 77-70 at the Smith center on Jan. 8, on Saturday at 2:30 p.m.