Men’s basketball could not find its footing against Princeton Saturday as injuries forced GW to play with a makeshift lineup on the road.
The Colonials (1–7) were without junior forward Arnaldo Toro and redshirt junior guard Armel Potter – who were both sidelined with injuries – against the Tigers (4–2). After keeping the game close in the first half, GW fell away and let Princeton take its third consecutive win 73–52 riding a 40-point showing in the second half.
The Colonials got within three points of the lead in the final frame after trailing by six at halftime, but sloppy play killed GW’s momentum on the court.
“We got to be able to knock down shots, we got to be able to get stops when we need to,” head coach Maurice Joseph said. “I thought we did some really good things today overall but those lulls defensively killed us.”
Four Tigers ended the night in double-digits, led by senior guard Myles Stephens who notched 19 points and 11 rebounds. Princeton’s leading scorer, senior guard Devin Cannady, followed with 16 points and a team-high, three-made three-point shots.
Redshirt junior guard DJ Williams again turned in the best scoring performance for the Colonials, collecting 17 points while grabbing six rebounds. Sophomore guard Maceo Jack led GW under the basket with seven boards to his name.
Potter was initially benched with a left ankle sprain after Wednesday’s game against Vermont.
An athletic department spokesman declined to provide interviews with players postgame, citing a department policy.
As a whole, GW shot 34.5 percent from the field on the night but the Tigers shot a season-high 52.1 percent from the field on 25-for-48 shooting.
GW went with a five-guard lineup against the Tigers without Toro. Freshman Shandon Brown and junior Justin Williams found themselves in the starting lineup for the first time this season against the Tigers.
The Colonials were shaky from the field to open the game. GW’s first three possessions ended in three-point shots, but after DJ Williams sank his only triple of the night to get the Colonials on the board, GW missed its following four three-point attempts.
Princeton junior guard Jose Morales caused trouble for the Colonials in the opening minutes of the game, going 2-for-3 in his first shooting attempts of the night, but back-to-back turnovers by the Tigers kept the game close. Morales ended the night with a season-high 13 points to his name.
Both teams traded baskets before the Colonials broke away on an 8–0 run, sparked by an up-and-under layup by sophomore guard Justin Mazzulla to tie the game 9–9.
DJ Williams intercepted Princeton’s inbound pass and put up an easy bank shot to give GW the 11–9 lead with 14 minutes left in the frame and prompt Princeton to call a timeout.
GW’s scoring run continued after the break when Jack made back-to-back baskets under the rim to cap the 8–0 run.
The Colonials held a 15–9 lead after the scoring onslaught, but the Tigers started putting up a fight. GW went cold as Princeton’s defense shutout the Colonials in six-straight possessions and put GW in foul trouble.
Princeton junior center Richmond Aririguzoh picked up three crucial points to get the Tigers within three of the Colonials’ 15-12 lead. A three-point shot from Cannady, his first points of the night, put Princeton up 16–15 with nine minutes left in the half.
Sophomore guard Terry Nolan Jr. responded with a three of his own to give the Colonials a two-point lead, but Princeton cracked open a 10–0 run and ran away with a 26–18 lead with six and a half minutes left in the frame.
The Tigers led by as much as nine points but the Colonials did not let the Tigers grab a double-digit lead in the first half. A layup by DJ Williams with eight seconds left before half cut Princeton’s lead 33–26 heading into the locker room.
The Colonials felt Toro’s absence and allowed the Tigers to penetrate their defense and pick up 20 points in the paint in the first half. Stephens ended the first 20 minutes of play out-rebounding the floor with five boards to his name.
GW kept it close to open the second half, with DJ Williams picking up a quick two points to open the frame. Princeton’s Aririguzoh answered back with a layup to keep the Tigers’ lead at six.
A pair of free throws by Morales pushed the Tigers’ lead back up 37–28 but the Colonials kept nipping at Princeton’s heels, with intermittent points from DJ Williams, Justin Williams and a three-point shot from Jack keeping GW alive despite the Colonials struggling to match Princeton’s scoring pace.
With 12 minutes left in the frame, a layup from Morales pushed the Tigers’ lead to 10 points for the first time, but a six-point spurt from sophomore forward Javier Langarica put GW within six of the lead 48–42 with less than 10 minutes to play.
A three-point play by Nolan – who picked up 11 points on the night – positioned GW within striking distance of Princeton’s lead 48-45.
But a careless turnover by the Colonials, which resulted in a goaltending call on GW, a technical foul on Langarica and a wide-open three by Cannady gave away crucial points and possessions to the Tigers with eight minutes in the game and killed GW’s momentum, putting Princeton up 55–45.
“We’re banged up and got some missing guys so I’m proud of our guys, the way we fought for the majority of the game,” Joseph said. “We just had that lapse and they took advantage of that lapse.”
The Colonials could not find their footing in the remaining seven minutes of the half and allowed Princeton to go on a 12–3 scoring run to push its lead 67–48 with three minutes before the final buzzer.
Both teams emptied their benches in the remaining minute of the game, and a three-point shot by Princeton senior forward Noah Bramlage and a free throw by Langarica closed out the scoring for both teams.
GW ended the half shooting 29.6 percent on the field while allowing the Tigers to pick up 40 points in the half on 13-for-27 shooting. Princeton narrowly out-rebounded GW 35–31 on the night.
The Colonials return to the Smith Center Wednesday to host Towson. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m.