Men’s basketball comes out on top in offensive slugfest

Media Credit: Sam Frey | Hatchet Photographer

Freshman guard Justin Mazzulla dribbles down the court past a Temple defender Sunday at the BB&T Classic.

Men’s basketball played nearly the first 10 minutes of its Sunday afternoon game against Temple without making a shot inside the three-point arc – but the Colonials led almost the entire time.

Instead, GW got off to a hot start from distance – sinking six consecutive threes in the opening nine minutes – and continued its offensive success on its way to a victory at the BB&T Classic in the Capital One Arena.

The Colonials (4-4) shot 60.0 percent from the field and defeated Temple (4-2) 71–67, despite the Owls going on two large second-half runs and tying the game up twice in the second half. The win is GW’s second straight and moves the team back to .500 on the year.

“We learned that when we play hard we can beat any level no matter who they are or how talented they are,” senior guard Yuta Watanabe said. “We learned a lot today and this was a huge win for us.”

The early spark led GW to a 40–25 lead in the half – its fewest points allowed and largest advantage of first halves all season. When the Colonials are leading at halftime, they are now 3-0 on the year.

Although the Colonials shot a season-high 56.3 percent from behind the arc – compared to 36.4 percent from the Owls – they established more of an inside presence as the game progressed. The two sides tied with 28 total points in the paint on the afternoon.

GW was led in scoring by Watanabe and sophomore guard Jair Bolden, who each scored 17 points on 50 percent shooting or better. Sophomore forward Arnaldo Toro and graduate student forward Patrick Steeves both scored 10 points and Toro led the team with seven rebounds.

“We adjusted well and we knocked down shots so it’s not so much anything I did personally or our staff did, just credit these guys for making shots,” head coach Maurice Joseph said. “We executed and we shared the ball and that’s the main thing.”

The Owls brought the game in contention with a 14-3 run that finished with GW leading by six points with 11 minutes to play.

The Colonials fought back to lead by 11 points less than two minutes later, but Temple’s offensive prowess continued. Owls free throws and consecutive three pointers highlighted a 10-0 run that sliced GW’s advantage to one point with eight minutes on the clock.

“We knew they were going to come out in the second half and be aggressive,” Joseph said. “We stuck together when we needed it most and I’m really proud of our guys because it’s easy for a young team to fold.”

Temple never led in the second half, but on its final possession the team had an opportunity to tie the game up. The Owls missed a potentially game-tying three-point shot, but they had another chance after it was rebounded by Bolden. The attempt was no good as the clock ticked under one second.

The Colonials got ahead early behind three-pointers from Bolden, Toro and freshman guard Terry Nolan Jr., but the Owls remained close in the opening minutes. By the second media timeout, the Owls cut GW’s lead to just two points despite efficient shooting from the Colonials.

The two teams continued to trade baskets, but freshman guard Justin Mazzulla and Watanabe cleared out enough space in the paint to finish layups and give GW a seven-point advantage with nine minutes remaining in the half.

Two baskets from Steeves began a 6-0 run that gave the Colonials its first double-digit advantage of the game at 32–21.

On the last possession before the break, Steeves drove to the hoop and banked in a one-handed buzzer-beating floater to give GW a 40–25 lead after 20 minutes of action.

Steeves finished a righty hook on the first possession of the second half, but the Owls quickly gained the momentum. Temple made a three-point shot and two breakaway dunks to cut the differential to 10 points with 15 minutes to play.

The Owls continued to shoot well, but free throws from Toro and an acrobatic layup by Mazzulla halted their run.

The two sides traded baskets and Watanabe scored four straight points to give GW a 57–46 lead with just less than 10 minutes left in the game.

Temple’s runs were not enough to slow the Colonials offense. After the game was tied at 61 apiece, Steeves and Watanabe both sunk shots to regain the lead.

With under a minute to play, GW’s lead was cut to two points after Owls free throws. Bolden responded with a free throw of his own and Temple did not finish its final opportunity, fouling Nolan to end the game.

The Colonials return to action at the Smith Center Wednesday when they take on Princeton (2-5) at 7 p.m.

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