A 50.8 percent shooting clip was not enough to elevate men’s basketball over Dayton in the final game of both teams’ regular seasons Saturday.
Three double-digit scoring efforts and a sizable rebounding advantage kept the Colonials (14-17, 7-11 A-10) in the afternoon contest, but a second-half run pushed the Flyers (14-16, 8-10 A-10) into the clear lead and toward their eventual 88–78 victory at home.
“The problem with the game was we didn’t guard consistently enough,” head coach Maurice Joseph said. “We tried to make some corrections in the second half and they shot even better in the second half.”
The loss was just GW’s second in six contests, but dropped the team into a current tie for the No. 12 spot in the Atlantic 10. In the league’s preseason coaches’ poll, the Colonials were chosen to finish the season in 11th place. They finished the season with just one road win in 11 opportunities.
A win would have secured a top-10 spot for GW, stopping them from playing on the opening day of the A-10 tournament. The Flyers entered the day with the same situation and will now wait until Thursday to play their first postseason game.
Dayton took command of the game with 16 minutes left in the contest by combining dominant interior offense with several consecutive defensive stops. The Colonials did not score for more than three minutes of play and were on the wrong end of a 12-0 run that helped push the Flyers to their first double-digit advantage since the opening 10 minutes.
Joseph said the three-minute period was hard to combat because Dayton executed multiple “back-breaking” plays that shifted the momentum during Senior Day on its home court.
“They got into a grove and we just stopped defending,” he said.
Redshirt junior forward Josh Cunningham played an important offensive role during the stretch, easily finding the rim on assisted plays. He finished the outing with 17 points and a game-high 13 rebounds.
Cunningham was aided by the double-digit scoring of four other teammates, including senior guard Darrell Davis – who added a game-high 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting and five three-pointers.
Dayton’s 88 points is the most the Colonials have allowed all season, outpacing GW’s seventh highest scoring output of the year.
For the fifth consecutive game, senior guard Yuta Watanabe led the Colonials in scoring. He contributed 21 points on 8-for-16 shooting, followed by 13 points from sophomore forward Arnaldo Toro and sophomore guard Jair Bolden.
But the GW roster totaled 15 turnovers for the first time in 10 games.
“Our offense was not the issue at all,” Joseph said. “But we have to have guys take care of the ball better, we had a senior with five turnovers, Toro had three, we could go down the line.”
GW’s 30-for-59 shooting clip is just the second time all season the Colonials have lost a game while shooting higher than 50 percent from the field.
Possibly the most influential statistical GW advantage was a 9-rebound lead inside the paint. The Flyers were the first A-10 team to get outrebounded by at least five and still take down the Colonials.
Toro boasted a double-double with a team-high 10 boards, including four on the offensive glass.
The game’s action started with Dayton in command for a majority of the possesions. The Colonials never led in the opening half and trailed by as many as 11 points. The four-possession differential was earned by the Flyers in the opening five minutes after Davis had already recorded nine points of his own.
At three different occasions, GW cut the differential to four points, but Dayton’s hot offense always had a response.
The Colonials earned their first lead of the game when baskets from Watanabe and Toro gave them a one-point cushion in the opening three minutes of the second frame.
After Davis sunk another three-pointer less than 20 seconds later, GW never recaptured the lead.
A majority of the second half was played with the Colonials attempting to catch up with the Flyers’ offensive onslaught. Shots from freshman guard Maceo Jack and Watanabe cut the Dayton lead to seven points in the last minute, but GW was unable to reverse the script or delay the clock for more than one intentional foul.
After brackets are finalized this weekend, the Colonials will return to action in the first round of the A-10 Championship Wednesday.