With four and a half minutes left in Saturday’s men’s basketball game against Harvard, Patrick Steeves received a pass from sophomore guard Jair Bolden and finished an emphatic dunk.
It was his final points of the game and possibly his only highlight play, but the former Crimson forward – who transferred to GW last year as a graduate student – had already left his mark on the game.
He shot 8-for-14 and tallied a game-high 19 points – 13 of which came in the opening 10 minutes as he sparked the Colonials to an early double-digit lead and eventually a victory over his former team.
GW (7-6) defeated Harvard (5-7) 58–48 to close out its non-conference slate with a winning record and two consecutive victories.
“You always want to go into conference play with some kind of positive momentum, where your team is feeling good about itself,” head coach Maurice Joseph said. “We have that right now, which is great.”
Steeves’ performance comes just three days after he scored a season-high 23 points in a win over New Hampshire. He now averages 10.9 points per game and has led the Colonials in scoring on four different occasions.
After a 77–74 victory over the Crimson last year, Steeves has now gotten the better hand over Harvard in both of his seasons at GW.
“I love everybody on that team and on that staff, but when we are out there and battling we want the dub,” Steeves said. “In my career we’ve got two of them, so I love that.”
Aside from his scoring, Steeves also tallied a game-high nine rebounds, four assists and two steals. Despite his stand-out stat line, he said his energy was his most important asset Saturday.
“I was getting fired up when guys were taking charges,” Steeves said. “In the A-10, I am going to have to bring that every time, not just when we play my alma mater.”
Bolden and freshman guard Terry Nolan Jr. also played big roles offensively, securing 14 and 10 points respectively and combining for five of GW’s six three-pointers.
Senior guard Yuta Watanabe – who leads the Colonials in scoring – shot just 2-for-10 from the field, but Bolden said the other starting guards were ready to take over the scoring load.
“That’s what our team is all about,” Bolden said. “If someone is having a bad night we don’t even dwell on it because we know someone else will step up.”
Harvard was without its top scorer – sophomore guard Bryce Aiken – due to a knee injury, and the Crimson offense struggled in his absence. They are the first team all year GW has been able to hold under 50 points and 30 percent shooting.
Harvard’s 28.1 percent field goal percentage was its worst mark of the year as the Crimson made three fewer shots than their next worst offensive performance.
“Overall we did the best job we have done all year of just being solid defensively and hunkering down,” Joseph said.
Nolan started GW’s day off with a corner three and a breakaway dunk, and GW’s defense did not allow the Crimson to make a basket for nearly the first six minutes.
Steeves led the Colonials to a 15–6 lead after almost eight minutes and a seven-point stretch from Bolden extended GW’s advantage to 12 with five minutes to play, but Harvard’s three-point shooting kept them in the contest.
Joseph said GW’s hot start was an important step forward because the Colonials have often fallen behind early in games. In their six losses, the Colonials have averaged more points than their opponent in the second half.
“We saw the lack of effort in certain instances that was unacceptable and some guys got challenged,” Joseph said. “Overall, the message resonated. Now we’ve got to continue to do that.”
The Colonials did not convert on any baskets for the final five minutes of the first half and entered into the break with a 30–24 lead after two Harvard shots from behind the arc found their mark.
To start the second half, GW ended a slow stretch of traded baskets with a 10-0 run capped off by distance shots from Nolan and Watanabe.
After the run, the Colonials led by 15, but the Crimson slowly chipped the lead down to single-digits. A three from Bolden and strong defense allowed GW to close out the contest without contention.
With seven days before conference action begins, the Colonials’ seven wins leaves them tied for fourth in the Atlantic 10. They concluded their out-of-conference slate one game behind last season’s results, but Joseph said he is optimistic based on the improvements he has seen.
“We knew we were going to take some bumps and bruises from some pretty good teams, but the goal was to grow, and win or lose continue to progress and continue to get better,” Joseph said. “We have gotten better in a lot of areas, especially defensively.”
The Colonials return to action for their first A-10 game against Saint Joseph’s next Saturday. Tip-off at the Smith Center is scheduled for 4 p.m.