Men’s basketball outscored Virginia – the No. 5 team in the nation – during the final 20 minutes of play Sunday but could not pick up its first win of the season in Charlottesville, Va.
The Colonials’ (0-3) 40 second-half points were not enough to make up for their 17-point first-half performance that left them trailing the Virginia 42–17 at the half. The Cavaliers (2-0) never trailed in the contest and took home the 76–57 victory.
“As disappointed as I am that we lost a game today, I am going to take a lot of positives home today and we are going to build off of this,” head coach Maurice Joseph said. “We have got a lot of young guys in that locker room.”
Virginia was driven by 20-point performances from junior guards Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy. The team as a whole shot 54.5 percent from the field on the night and 8-for 19 from beyond the arc.
Redshirt junior guard DJ Williams had a solid performance in the second frame after being held to just two points in the first half. He totaled 17 points and five rebounds on 6-for-10 shooting.
The Colonials also had their best offensive rebounding night of the season thus far, matching Virginia with six offensive rebounds a piece. But GW lost the overall battle under the glass 32-25.
“Overall, our effort in there was just better,” Joseph said. “That’s why a tremendous offensive rebounding team only came up with six. We missed a lot of shots today, so to lose under the glass by seven compared to what it’s been, there’s been a shift in attention to detail and toughness on the glass.”
Jerome – the Cavaliers’ point guard – got the scoring started with a three-point shot, his first of four on the night. Virginia led 5-0 in the first frame before Williams sunk the Colonials basket with a jump shot in the paint to put GW within three.
But Virginia answered back with an 11-point run and led GW 16-2 with 11 minutes left in the frame.
A layup by sophomore guard Justin Mazzulla, a pair of made free throws by freshman forward Mezie Offurum and a layup by freshman forward Marcus Littles made up a GW 6-0 run to close in on Virginia’s 21–10 lead, but the Cavaliers responded again with 12 unanswered points to pull further ahead.
The Colonials struggled to penetrate Virginia’s defense and were forced to take outside shots. GW went 1-for-9 from beyond the arc with redshirt junior guard Armel Potter owning GW’s only made three in the first half.
The Colonials headed into the locker room shooting 22.7 percent and scoring just 17 points – their lowest opening 20-minute total since their 72–45 loss to Davidson in January.
Joseph said their first half challenges came in-part because Virginia’s physicality made it difficult for the Colonials to realistically simulate their defense in practice.
“You can’t simulate that because you just don’t have the sheer size that they have in practice,” Joseph said. “But you can prepare your guys for how hard they are going to play and how physical they are going to be and talk about it and look at it in film.”
The Colonials came out of the locker room hot, with Williams and sophomore guard Terry Nolan Jr. opening the play by sinking back-to-back three-point shots on the tail end of an eight-point scoring run.
Joseph said it was a deliberate decision to run the offense more toward Williams’ strengths in the second half. The newly-eligible transfer scored seven of GW’s opening 10 points in the second half.
“We ran more stuff for him to get downhill, to get him in spots,” Joseph said. “He also got some in transition. Overall his aggressiveness just got better, we did make a decision to go to him a little bit more and run some more stuff for him to get.”
GW picked up five three-point shots in the second half after going 1-for-9 in the first.
“We adjusted what we were running a little bit more to take advantage of their sinking gaps and I thought our guys did a good job executing,” Joseph said. “We finished with 6-for-18, for us I’ll take that against a talented defensive team.”
The Colonials continued to pick up points in chunks in the second half, but Virginia’s lead was too large to overcome. GW scored six fast points after junior forward Arnaldo Toro twice kicked the ball out from the paint to sophomore guard Maceo Jack, who drained his shots from beyond the arc with 13 minutes left in the game.
But another 10-point run by Virginia with nine minutes left solidified the Cavaliers’ win.
“We finally made some shots and if we just do that in the first half, put two and two together, I think we can be a great team,” Williams said.
Joseph said his squad’s fight against one of the top programs in the nation was a positive step forward for the Colonials.
“Our guys didn’t shy away and that, more than anything, makes me proud,” Joseph said.
The Colonials return to action Saturday at noon when they face off against Michigan in Uncasville, Conn. to compete in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament.