Coming off its first road victory of the season at Saint Joseph’s, men’s basketball seemed to have hit its stride leading Dayton by 22 points at home in the first half Wednesday night.
But the high-fives and high spirits would be short-lived as GW (5–10, 1–1 A-10) saw its lead evaporate due to sloppy ball-handling and ice-cold shooting, a duo that spelled doom in a 72–66 loss to the Flyers (10–5, 2–0 A-10).
The loss dropped the Colonials’ home record to 4–5 and marked the second time this season GW has blown a 22-point lead at home – in the Colonials’ season-opening loss to Stony Brook, GW opened the game with a 22–0 lead. The Colonials led the Flyers 28–6 with 12:32 before halftime, but could not keep up their scoring momentum in the second half.
“We came out, we knocked down shots in the first half, but what we can’t do is bank on that to happen the rest of the game,” head coach Maurice Joseph said. “We can’t stop defending, we can’t stop executing the game plan, we can’t turn the ball over, we can’t start playing poorly in the second half and doing some of the things that we talked about not doing going into the game and expect to win.”
After shooting 50.0 percent from the field in the first half, including 8-for-16 shooting from beyond the arc, the Colonials shot 26.5 percent in the second half on a 9-for-34 clip. GW ended the evening shooting 37.5 percent from the field.
Ball movement, which led to 11 assists on 15 field goals in the first half, was nonexistent after the break, and GW had just three assists in the final 20 minutes.
“They came out more aggressive in the second half, they had more energy than us and we kind of had complacency,” redshirt junior guard DJ Williams said. “It’s just a learning point for us. These past couple games, we’ve grown and got better, and we’ve got to learn from this.”
Dayton sophomore guard Jordan Davis, who came into the game having made just 21.9 percent of his three-pointers on the season, went 7-for-12 from long distance to go along with three steals en route to a career-high 25 points for the Flyers.
Although the Colonials’ defense clamped down on Atlantic 10 Preseason All-Conference First Team selection redshirt senior forward Josh Cunningham and reigning A-10 Player of the Week redshirt freshman forward Obi Toppin – a pair who had just 10 points on 2-of-6 shooting – they had no answers for Davis in the second half. The Irmo, S.C. native connected on six triples and poured in 20 points after the break.
Williams led the Colonials with a career-high 20 points, five rebounds and three assists on 9-of-17 shooting from the field. A trio of sophomores – guard Maceo Jack, forward Javier Langarica and guard Justin Mazzulla – rounded out the Colonials in double figures with 13, 12 and 11 points, respectively. Sophomore guard Terry Nolan Jr. had an unusually quiet night, going 2-for-10 from the floor in 38 minutes of action.
GW got off to a blazing start and led 18–4 with 15:55 left to play. The Colonials shot a perfect 6-for-6 from the field in the first four minutes, with Mazzulla looking sharp on both ends, collecting a steal, drawing a charge and picking up eight points right out of the gate.
Led by the sophomore class, GW kept its foot on the gas pedal. Jack knocked down two triples and a layup for eight points of his own as the Colonials opened up a 33–11 lead with 11:06 to play in the first half.
Dayton switched to a more aggressive defense and began to climb back into the game. Pushing the pace off with missed long-range shots, the Flyers closed the gap to just 10 points heading into the break. Still, a 16–8 advantage on the glass helped the Colonials maintain a 40–30 lead into the locker room.
Out of the break, the Colonials threatened to pull away once again, as Williams, Jack and Langarica scored in the paint on three consecutive possessions to grow GW’s lead to 16 points.
But Davis and junior guard Trey Landers got the hot hand for the Flyers, combining for 15 of the Flyers’ following 18 points and cutting GW’s lead to just nine points 56–47 with about eight minutes left in the half.
The Colonials remained silent as the Flyers crept closer and closer to their lead. A three by Davis gave Dayton its first lead of the game, 57–56, with 9:50 remaining in the contest. The Colonials appeared to run out of gas as Dayton held GW without a field goal until Jack broke the drought with a layup with 1:59 to go to make the score 66–61.
“They started denying passing lanes a little bit, they started icing ball screens, so instead of us getting the ball moving from side to side, they kept it on one side of the floor,” Joseph said. “And then they just hunkered down and built up their walls on the weak side, and their walls are big on the weak side.”
Dayton went 6-for-8 from the free-throw line in the final minute to secure the victory.
The Colonials will host the Richmond Spiders Saturday. Tipoff is set for 4 p.m.