Men’s basketball found itself trailing VCU by just four points Wednesday night with 20 minutes left to play.
The Colonials (7–15, 3–6 A-10) were down 34–30 at halftime after shooting 9-for-25 from the field and even allowing the Rams (16–6, 7–2 A-10) to make 14 baskets on the half. But GW was holding its own against VCU’s assertive defense, committing just five turnovers and collecting 10 points from the charity stripe.
With just a small point margin to fill, GW came out slower in the second half and a series of turnovers in the opening two minutes of play stymied the Colonials’ efforts and kept them scoreless for more than six consecutive minutes. The Rams’ four-point lead slowly grew into a 10-point lead that GW never recovered from, and VCU left the Smith Center with a 60–50 victory.
“They press the whole game, that’s definitely what they do,” sophomore guard Maceo Jack said. “And it helps intimidate people and I think it intimidated us in the second half.”
Neither side boasted great offensive performances in the second half – the Rams outscored GW 26–20 in the frame on 9-for-30 shooting – but the Colonials were handicapped from the beginning by four turnovers in the opening two minutes. GW limited VCU to 0-for-10 shooting from the perimeter but committed 12 turnovers in the second half alone.
“The game plan worked in terms of taking things away that we needed to take away, for the most part,” head coach Maurice Joseph said. “But we just were shaky with the ball to come out.”
The Colonials were led for the second game in a row by redshirt junior guard DJ Williams, who put up 16 points, fueled by 3-for-5 three-point shooting, in the losing effort. Jack chipped in 14 points – eight of which came from the charity stripe – and a team-leading six rebounds.
Rams junior guard De’Riante Jenkins led his squad with 14 points on 6-for-10 shooting while redshirt junior guard Marcus Evans tallied 10 points and four assists. VCU’s sophomore forward Marcus Santos-Silva ended the night with a double-double – 10 points and 11 rebounds.
GW’s 34.1 shooting percentage on the night marks the teams worst shooting performance since the Colonials shot 32.2 percent from the field in their 20-point loss to Richmond Jan. 12.
“I can’t really tell you why we came out the way we did in the second half,” Joseph said. “The message was to come out with force in the second half.”
The Rams took control of the game in the opening minutes, jumping out to a 6–3 lead less than three minutes into the game. The Colonials kept the Rams within six points through the first 12 minutes of play thanks to key free throws by Jack.
A three-point shot by VCU grew the Rams’ lead 22–16 with 8:43 to play in the first half, but GW responded with an 8–0 run fueled by Williams and Jack to take the lead 24–22 with 6:30 left in the frame. The Rams picked up four quick unanswered points until both teams went on a run trading baskets.
A pair of free throws by redshirt junior guard Armel Potter put GW up 30–28, but the Rams closed out the half putting up six unanswered points to lead 34–30 at the break.
GW opened the second half of play with a turnover, which set the tone for the rest of the night. The Colonials went three minutes into the second half before taking a shot and kept nearly seven minutes scoreless until a layup by Jack broke GW’s scoring drought with the Rams up 42–32.
“When I called my timeout to settle us down, it seemed like we came out of the gates a little rattled,” Joseph said. “And we never really recovered from that for whatever reason.”
The Colonials never regained a lead after the slow start and while the Rams were also struggling to put up shots, they picked up 14 of their 26 second-half points off GW turnovers or second-chances off offensive rebounds.
A 6–2 run powered by Potter and Williams put GW within four points of VCU 52–48 with 1:55 left before the final buzzer, but VCU closed out the game on an 8–2 scoring run. A pair of free throws by Evans with 20 seconds left in the game solidified VCU’s win.
The Colonials hit the road Saturday to face off against Richmond. Tipoff is slated for 6 p.m.