Interim head coach Maurice Joseph and his team didn’t even bother to watch game tape from Wednesday night’s heartbreaking loss to VCU. Leading up to Saturday’s contest against St. Bonaventure, men’s basketball was focused only on moving forward.
Building off a strong defensive performance against the Rams, the Colonials held the Bonnies to just 29 first-half points, but squandered a 15-point second-half lead to find itself ahead by only one basket with one-minute left to play.
On the next possession, junior guard Yuta Watanabe found an offensive opening, threading the ball to graduate student forward Tyler Cavanaugh for the basket. The assist was Watanabe’s career-high-tying sixth and Cavanaugh’s basket made it a two-possession game.
After a flurry of intentional fouls, the Colonials (13-12, 5-7 A-10) knocked down enough free throws to secure a 76–70 bounce-back victory over St. Bonaventure (15-9, 7-5 A-10) to snap a three-game losing streak.
“Down the stretch, your upperclassmen have to make plays and we knew they were going to make a run because they’re a very good team,” Cavanaugh said. “Yuta made a great pass to me underneath and I was able to finish and we just stuck it out. That was huge.”
GW’s offense was paced and led by career efforts from Cavanaugh and redshirt junior guard Jaren Sina. The duo combined for 55 points on 16-for-29 shooting from the field including 7-for-11 from behind the arc.
Cavanaugh finished with a career-high 33 points to go along with 10 rebounds for his ninth double-double of the year. Sina also had a career-high scoring night with 22 points and a career-tying 7 rebounds.
In similar fashion to their last game against VCU, the Colonials defense dominated the first half, holding the Bonnies to only 28.1 percent from the field and 18.2 percent from three-point range.
“That’s two games in a row where our guys came out with unbelievable focus just following a scouting report, that we did something different that we hadn’t done before in the season,” Joseph said. “That’s a sign of growth man, to do that with four or five freshmen in your rotation is a scary thing.”
St. Bonaventure guards Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley were held mostly in check from the floor on the night, despite their standing as the first and fourth-highest scorers in the Atlantic 10, respectively. The pair combined for just 3-for-21 from the field and 2-for-15 from deep.
“We executed and we defended. Starting with Yuta on one of the best players in the conference – he shut [Adams] down,” Cavanaugh said. “Yuta was great today and I think that energy filtered out throughout the rest of the team.”
After five minutes of a back-and-forth game, the Colonials started to find momentum on the offensive end. They attacked the interior and found themselves on the free throw line several times. Although GW missed three attempts from the charity stripe during the stretch, they were able to build up an 18–11 lead after a 10-2 run in less than three minutes.
“We knew a couple of those guys get in foul trouble fairly frequently so one of the plans was to get the ball in the post and try to play inside-out,” Joseph said.
As GW caught fire, the Bonnies offense began to struggle. Both Sina and Cavanaugh posted double-digit scoring tallies well before the end of the first half. St. Bonaventure only hit four of its first 19 shots and only one of its first eight shots from behind the arc.
After the Colonials had a 12-point lead they allowed the Bonnies to quickly climb back into the game with a six-point run.
Three-pointers from Cavanaugh, redshirt senior guard Matt Hart and freshman center Collin Smith brought the lead to 16 points before a last-second shot from behind the arc by Mobley tightened the difference to 42–29 going into halftime.
At the beginning of the second half, the Colonials were not able to extend their advantage, but did not give up any ground either. After three-pointers from Sina and Cavanaugh and continued strong defense, GW had the held the same 13-point lead with less than 15 minutes to play.
However, the Bonnies still had a run in them and brought the difference back to a two-possession game with just over eight minutes to play. Sina was quick to respond with his fourth three-pointer on the day, making it 58–49.
Cavanaugh kept providing the Colonials with consistent, seemingly unstoppable offense in the paint, but the Bonnies started their comeback one basket or free throw at a time. The effort was fueled by Adams, who was not hitting many shots from the field, but instead found his way to the free throw line nine times in the half where he knocked down all of his shots.
St. Bonaventure, who only led for just over a minute of the game and trailed by as many as 16 points, found themselves down only 64–63 at the final media timeout.
A three by Sina on the very next possession helped GW hold off the final efforts by the Bonnies.
The Colonials return to action on the road when they travel to Davidson on Wednesday. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.