Men’s basketball surges back in second half to beat La Salle

Media Credit: Madeleine Cook | Senior Staff Photographer

Junior guard Justin Williams looks for a teammate to pass the ball to during a men's basketball game against Richmond Saturday.

Men’s basketball entered the locker room at halftime Wednesday after recording the fewest first-half points the team had scored in more than a year.

GW (6-11, 2-2 A-10) was losing to La Salle 23-14 – the Colonials’ lowest first-half point total since the team’s 13-point first half against Saint Louis on March 9, 2017 – and had just four made shots during the first 20 minutes of play.

But the Colonials flipped the switch on offense in the second half, swapping difficult jump shots for drives to the rim. They racked up 45 points in the second half and squeaked out a 59–56 victory over the Explorers (3-13, 1-3 A-10) on the road.

“We knew we had to get our feet in the paint and get to the rim and kick out for open three’s rather than some of the contested ones we were getting,” head coach Maurice Joseph said. “And our guys did a great job of responding and adjusting and I thought we did a hell of a job across the board.”

GW ended the night shooting 43.4 percent after going just 4-for-25 from the field in the first half and 2-for-12 from beyond the arc. The Colonials were completely shut out inside the paint in the first 20 minutes of play, but turned the game around in the second half as they drove to the basket with purpose and picked up 26 points on the interior.

“Coaches said that we were passing too much and they said we were going up soft,” sophomore guard Terry Nolan Jr. said. “So second half we stayed with it, went up tougher, went off two feet and we finished.”

Redshirt junior guard DJ Williams turned in a 14-point performance to lead the floor while Nolan picked up a double-double with 10 rebounds and 12 points. Eleven points from sophomore guard Justin Mazzulla and 10 points from sophomore guard Maceo Jack rounded out GW’s double-digit scorers.

The Explorers were led by junior guard Isiah Deas with 11 points and five rebounds, while freshman forward Jared Kimbrough grabbed nine rebounds on the night. As a team, the Explorers were held to 34.4 percent shooting by GW.

Neither side had a first half to remember, but an early lead from the Explorers gave them the advantage throughout the first 20 minutes despite La Salle also missing open looks.

Kimbrough blocked a layup attempt from Nolan to start the game and the Explorers dominated the Colonials in the first five minutes. GW turned over the ball four times as the Explorers hopped out to a 7-0 lead while holding GW to 0-for-4 shooting.

GW missed a three-point shot, a jumper and its first three layups before a midrange shot from redshirt junior guard Armel Potter – who came off the bench – put the Colonials on the board with 14:25 left to play.

A three-point shot from freshman guard Jack Clark put the Explorers up 11-2 with about 14 minutes left in the half.

But both teams were eventually plagued by scoring droughts, going minutes at a time before picking up points. GW picked up five points from Williams and Mazzulla to close in on La Salle 11–7 with 11:33 before half, but were held scoreless until the 8:50 mark as the Explorers grew their lead 17–7 with 9:31 left in the half.

The Explorers led by as many as 12 points before Williams picked up three free throws and the Colonials entered halftime trailing by nine.

After a challenging first half, the Colonials came out of the locker room looking like a new team, with Williams handling the ball at the point. GW made more field goals in the opening three minutes of play than in the entire first half – sparking an 11-2 run and pulling within two points of the lead with 17:02 to play.

“We came out second half more energy, played harder and we got out to that big run that we had,” Nolan said.

The Colonials continued to put on the pressure, but La Salle managed to keep the game out of GW’s reach for the majority of the second half.

With the score 46–45 in La Salle’s favor and the ball in their hand, the Colonials were poised to take their first lead of the night, but a moving screen by junior guard Justin Williams ended GW’s possession before the team could get a shot off with 6:42 left to play.

The lead continued to elude the Colonials throughout the half until Jack sank a three-point shot with 2:05 left in the game to take GW’s first lead of the night 55–53.

A completed and-1 by Kimbrough with 95 seconds left in the game put La Salle up 56–55, but a layup by Potter and a pair of free throws from Nolan sealed GW’s victory.

The Colonials return to the Smith Center Sunday to host Duquesne at 4 p.m.

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