At multiple opportune occasions in the second half, sophomore forward Arnaldo Toro found himself in the right place and sunk shots that GW needed to stay in the game against Kansas State Friday night.
Toro led the Colonials with a career-high 21 points on 8-of-15 shooting to go along with nine rebounds in 37 minutes of action.
His efforts – and GW’s 39-25 rebounding advantage – helped the Colonials pull within four points in the final two minutes of the game. But the more experienced Wildcats (5-1) never trailed after the first minute of the game and made end-of-game free throws to defeat GW (2-4) 67–59 at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
“These are the type of experiences that you have to go through and become callused a little bit in order to come out on top,” head coach Maurice Joseph said. “We just have a bunch of guys who have never been in these situations.”
GW’s rebounding advantage was particularly important because of the second chance opportunities that it granted the Colonials. They shot 40.7 percent from the field compared to 46.7 for Kansas State, but 16 offensive rebounds on the night allowed GW to get five more shots off, including some open opportunities.
Senior guard Yuta Watanabe and sophomore guard Jair Bolden – who lead GW in points per game – played prominent roles against the Wildcats, but struggled to find a rhythm offensively. The pair combined to shoot 5-for-25 from the field and 2-for-10 from behind the arc on the night.
Graduate student forward Patrick Steeves was the only Colonials player, other than Toro, that finished in double-digits. He recorded 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting and was the only GW starter without a turnover.
The loss was GW’s third consecutive as the Colonials remain winless away from the Smith Center. They were 6-12 away from home last year and will have only one more contest outside of D.C. before the start of Atlantic 10 play.
“Winning is hard,” Joseph said. “You have got to make winning plays every single possession on both ends of the ball if you want to come out on top.”
GW’s 12 turnovers is lower than the team’s average tally, but Kansas State was able to take advantage at a couple key moments and get openings in transition. The Colonials only forced five turnovers and blocked zero shots, both well below their average for the year.
GW scored the game’s first point on a free throw from Steeves, but the Wildcats were quick to turn it around and grab a 9–3 advantage in the opening five minutes.
The Colonials were finding open shots around the perimeter and Toro knocked down a couple jumpers off screen and rolls, but GW did not hit enough of its attempts to keep up with Kansas State early in the contest.
The Wildcats took a 28–14 advantage after going on a 10-0 run that included consecutive three-point baskets.
Kansas State led by as many as 14 points in the first half before the Colonials defense stepped up. GW did not allow the Wildcats to score any points for a more than five-minute stretch.
Freshman guard Maceo Jack sunk a three for his first career basket with 20 seconds left in the half before Kansas State free throws made it a 38–29 game at the break.
A three-point jumper from Toro to start the second half cut into the Kansas State advantage and a two-pointer from Watanabe made it a four-point game just three minutes after the break.
Kansas State pulled away in the next five minutes with a 7-0 run that gave the Wildcats a 50–39 cushion heading into the under-12-minute timeout.
Similar to Thursday’s loss against Xavier, the Colonials made their biggest run midway through the second half. A lefty hook from Steeves started a 15-2 run that included baskets from four different players and was capped off by an and-one finish from Toro.
GW trailed by just two points with five minutes to play, but after Kansas State free throws, the Colonials never got back to that point and failed to make any of their baskets in the final 2:45.
The Colonials return to action at home Wednesday when they host Morgan State (3-2) at 7 p.m.