Men’s basketball used its defense to pull out the win over Howard Friday night.
The Colonials (3–8) showcased a lackluster offense that ended the night shooting 36.4 percent from the field, but the team’s defense was able to hold the Bison (6–4) to 24 points below their 88.0 point per game average heading into the contest to secure the 70–64 win.
“When those types of games occur, we have to make sure we get stops and we get rebounds and we execute and we pick and choose our spots to run in transition,” head coach Maurice Joseph said. “For the most part, we did that pretty well.”
The Colonials limited Howard to 30.8 percent shooting from the floor and kept the Bison’s top-scorers, sophomore guard RJ Cole, junior guard Charles Williams and redshirt junior guard Chad Lott, to well below their scoring average, allowing them to pick up 15, 12 and seven points, respectively.
Despite the tough shooting night, four Colonials managed to shoulder double-digit scoring, led by redshirt junior guard DJ Williams with 18 points and sophomore guard Terry Nolan Jr. with 17 points and nine rebounds to his name. Both Nolan and sophomore guard Justin Mazzulla – who came away with 14 points of his own – dished out four assists on the night.
But both teams found themselves in foul trouble, and the game ended with a season-high 47 fouls called between both teams. Three Colonials – Nolan, freshman forward Marcus Littles and freshman forward Mezie Offurum – picked up four fouls each in the outing.
“It was a rock fight at times, but there are going to be games like that,” Joseph said.
The first half was plagued with turnovers and soft fouls from both teams. Neither team could find its footing on the shooting end to start the match and it took the Colonials 10 minutes to break the double-digit scoring mark.
The Bison struck first with a layup, but a 7–0 run between Williams and Nolan pushed the Colonials out to a five-point lead in the opening three minutes of play, but Howard went on an 8–2 run of its own to pull ahead 10–9 with 12 minutes left in play.
GW put a lid on Howard’s run and held the Bison scoreless for two minutes of play. A dunk from Nolan put GW ahead 11–10 with about 10 minutes left in the half. But the Bison responded with a dunk of their own to get the lead back, before Littles came off the bench to contribute three fast points and give GW’s lead some distance.
But the play started getting sloppy for both teams in the back end of the frame. At one point, the Bison swiped the ball from GW on their defensive side, but ended up passing the ball straight back to the Colonials on the fast break.
As time wound down in the first frame, the Colonials started finding a rhythm on the court, and posted a 9–2 run capped by a three-point shot from sophomore guard Maceo Jack to go up 23–16 with fewer than five minutes in the half.
The Bison got within five points of GW’s lead twice in the final minutes of the half, but a buzzer-beating three-point shot from Williams gave GW its first double-digit lead of the night heading into the locker room up 32–22.
GW was shooting 35.3 percent from the field at the break, but held Howard to 23.5 percent shooting in the half and kept the Bison 0-for-7 from the three-point line.
The Colonials opened the second frame with a turnover, but a second-chance jumper from Mazzulla and a three-point shot from Jack helped grow GW’s lead. Both teams went point-for-point to keep GW ahead 39–28 in the opening three minutes of play.
Shooting stalled for both teams until GW fouled Howard’s Williams on a three-point shot to cut the lead to nine points, and he later drained the team’s first three-point shot of the night to put Howard within five points of the lead.
A three-point shot by Nolan extended GW’s lead 46–38, but a combination of missed free throws by the Colonials and a 5–0 run from the Bison put Howard within three points of GW’s lead.
A rare three-point shot by the Bison put them within reaching distance of the lead 48–46, but the Colonials were able to string together a solid scoring stretch to grow their lead to nine points again.
“We focused in,” Mazzulla said. “We weren’t tentative on defense and we had trust in each other.”
With about two minutes left in play, Howard hit a crucial three-point shot against to put themselves three points away from GW’s lead 65–62, but Mazzulla converted from the charity stripe to make it a two-possession game with 45 seconds left.
On GW’s final scoring play of the game, Nolan shook himself free from Howard’s defense and received the ball on an inbound pass from Mazzulla feet away from the three-point line. As the game clock wound down, Nolan put the ball on the floor, dribbled twice as he challenged his defender and then launched the deep three to solidify GW’s win with 11 seconds left in the match.
“I looked at coach Mojo with three seconds, with the ref counting to go get the ball and from there I was just locked in and determined to go ice the game,” Nolan said.
The Colonials return to action Dec. 22 when they take on Harvard on the road. Tipoff is slated for 2 p.m.