Men’s basketball wins first road game of the season at Massachusetts

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo by Ethan Stoler | Contributing Photo Editor

Graduate student forward Patrick Steeves looks to pass the ball during a men's basketball game against VCU last month.

The last time men’s basketball won away from D.C. was in the second round of the 2017 Atlantic Tournament – more than 11 months ago.

But Wednesday night, the Colonials picked up their fourth conference win roughly 400 miles northeast of Foggy Bottom.

GW (11-15, 4-9 A-10) defeated Massachusetts (12-14, 4-9 A-10) 83–72 behind a commanding advantage from the field. The Colonials shot over 50 percent for the third time in Atlantic 10 play and held the Minutemen to a 39.3 percent clip – the second-lowest percentage they’ve allowed in the past 12 games.

“Not getting a conference road win would have been shameful,” graduate student forward Patrick Steeves said. “So we got it out of the way and now we can just focus on winning every game.”

The victory moved GW out of sole possession of last place in the Atlantic 10 and tied their conference record with Massachusetts, La Salle and Fordham. The Colonials have now won two of their last three games for the first time since November.

GW led for more than 35 minutes of the contest after an early offensive spark. The Colonials have been largely successful when starting games off hot – going 4-0 in games where they score 40 points or more in the first half and 3-0 in games where they led by at least 10 points at the break.

“That is another step in this young team’s development, we haven’t had many opportunities to play with a 20-point lead,” head coach Maurice Joseph said. “It is a lot easier to play hard when you’re down three as opposed to up 20.”

Offensively, GW was led by Steeves, who finished with a team-high 16 points on 8-for-10 shooting from the field. He also grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds that tied his most ever and earned him his first double-double of the year.

But Steeves was far from alone on the GW side of the scoreboard. The Colonials boasted five players who scored more than 10 points on the night.

Their offense came largely from the interior as the Minutemen had a hard time stopping players from getting to the rim. GW outscored Massachusetts 44-26 in the paint and only made three from behind the arc – all from the hands of senior guard Yuta Watanabe.

“Against a team like UMass, they don’t really have guys to stop us inside so they have to collapse,” Steeves said. “If guys are ready to shoot, we can kick it out. It is nice when things are clicking and guys are making shots.”

The advantage inside the key also led to a sizable rebounding advantage for the Colonials and additional possessions on the offensive end. GW’s 17 offensive boards led to 21 second-chance points.

Despite the offensive prowess, members of the team said the biggest difference between the wins now and earlier losing streaks is the team’s execution on defense. The Colonials limited Massachusetts to just 25 first-half points and forced the home squad to take a number of contested shots.

The Minutemen were led by sophomore guard Luwane Pipkins and senior guard C.J. Anderson, who scored 20 and 21 points, respectively. But Joseph said his coaching staff was satisfied with the defensive effort on Pipkins – forcing him to take 21 shots and miss two-thirds of them.

“We knew he was going to get a bunch of shots, he was going to shoot the ball, he was going to score,” Joseph said. “He got his 20 points, but we made him work for them.”

The remainder of the Minutemen starters shot a combined 5-for-21 from the floor and failed to spread the floor out enough for Pipkins and Anderson to operate most effectively.

The Colonials led by as many as 23 points with just under 12 minutes to play in the game, but could not hold on to what would have been their largest victory of the year. Instead, Massachusetts pressured GW’s players enough to cut the lead to as little as 10 points.

“We made some boneheaded plays at the end of the game where we took untimely shots,” Joseph said. “Our defense was kind of shaky and we let their pressure bother us.”

The Minutemen started the contest with a 3–0 lead, but once a free throw from sophomore forward Arnaldo Toro swished through the net – to tie the contest at three – they never led for the rest of the night.

GW took its first big lead after a 10-1 run was sparked by two baskets from Watanabe and an and-one finish from graduate student forward Bo Zeigler. The Colonials continued to feed the inside and build of their lead as the first half progressed. Zeigler tipped in a miss with only seconds left before halftime, sending GW into the locker room leading 43–25 – its largest midway advantage of the season.

Little changed for the first 12 minutes of the second half. Massachusetts started making a higher percentage of its shots, but the Colonials held onto their 20-point advantage without much sign of slowing.

The Minutemen slowly chipped away at the lead and found a rhythm in the final minutes, but Joseph stuck with his normal rotation late in the game to hold off the effort.

The Colonials return to action Saturday for a 4 p.m. matchup against VCU (15-11, 7-6 A-10) at the Smith Center.

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