Watanabe’s career high leads GW back from second-half deficit

Media Credit: Madeleine Cook | Staff Photographer

Senior guard Yuta Watanabe and sophomore forward Arnaldo Toro stand side by side during men's basketball's Wednesday night game against Morgan State.

After trailing by as many as 10 points in the second half against Morgan State, men’s basketball rode a wave of momentum to its third win of the season Wednesday night.

The Colonials (3-4) scored 19 more points in the second frame than they did in the first and pulled out a 73–66 win over the Bears (4-3).

“I am proud of our effort in the second half, we just have to put that together for 40 minutes and come out like that,” head coach Maurice Joseph said. “I have to react to be able to give that kind of energy and effort.”

At the center of action in the Smith Center was senior guard Yuta Watanabe. He tallied his 1,000th point on his first basket of the contest and went on to finish with a career-high 26 points.

He also led GW on the defensive end, tallying seven rebounds, five steals and three blocks and sparking the Colonials’ improved second half effort on their own side of the floor.

“Coach Mojo told me I am not doing a good job on the defensive end compared to last year. I was really upset,” Watanabe said. “I just wanted to prove that I am still a good defender and I am still the best defender in the league.”

With just less than 12 minutes left on the game clock, sophomore guard Jair Bolden hit two clutch three-point shots that tied the game and gave his team its first lead since halftime.

“I know that my guys, if they see me open, they have the utmost confidence in me to make the shot,” Bolden said. “I know I have their support so it is much easier that way.”

Bolden contributed 13 points in the matchup and sophomore forward Arnaldo Toro scored 12 and grabbed seven boards.

In the first half, the Bears controlled the paint and outrebounded GW 19-11, including nine offensive boards. The Colonials finished with a one-rebound advantage and outscored Morgan State by six points in the paint.

“We are not going to grow when we go to sleep tonight,” Joseph said. “So we have got to gang rebound, we have got to be tougher on the glass and tougher defensively. But I thought we did that in the second half.”

The Colonials found themselves trailing for the first time in the match with 11:38 left in the first half after they had opened the game with a seven-point lead in the first three minutes.

A layup from Morgan State junior guard Martez Cameron gave his team a 13–11 advantage, and both teams went bucket for bucket for the remainder of the half.

Watanabe gave GW a 20-18 lead after intercepting a Bears pass and making a wide-open layup.

With 20 seconds left in the half, the Colonials trailed by three after Bears sophomore guard Stanley Davis drained a three-point shot from 34 feet.

GW couldn’t get a good shot off before time ran out in the first half and were trailing 32–27 heading into the locker room.

After trailing for the first 11 minutes of the second half, the Colonials picked up their momentum behind good shooting and a 10-0 run.

GW grabbed its first lead of the second half after Watanabe made another steal, drove down the court and made a floating layup, sending the Smith Center crowd to its feet. Bolden extended the GW advantage to 53-48 after sinking his second of three shots from behind the arc on the night.

“In the second half, when we have guys like Yuta forcing turnovers and getting offensive rebounds, it sparks the whole team and it is much easier to make shots when there is energy flowing throughout the whole team,” Bolden said.

The Bears got within one point of the lead twice in the remainder of the half, but the Colonials kept Morgan State’s offense at bay to close out the night.

The Colonials return to action Sunday against Temple (3-1) in the BB&T Classic at the Capital One Arena. Tip-off is scheduled for 2:30 p.m.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.