History nearly repeated itself for men’s basketball Saturday afternoon in its loss to VCU.
After 20 minutes of play, the Colonials (8-19, 4-10 A-10) went into the locker room boasting a 55.2 field goal percentage (16-for-29) in addition to a 6-for-8 performance from the perimeter.
The Rams (21-6, 12-2 A-10) had two fewer field goals than the Colonials at the half (14-for-27 from the field) but were 9-for-10 from the free throw line, the only differentiator that put VCU up 43–40 in the first half.
But the Colonials came out ice-cold from halftime while the Rams charged out of the gate on a 21-2 run, holding the Colonials scoreless for nearly 10 minutes and five made baskets in the second half to drop GW to 85–57.
“We drove the ball in the first half and got wide open looks for others and we stopped that in the second half, kind of similar to the first game we played them,” head coach Maurice Joseph said. “We didn’t do a good enough job of driving for others and playing for others.”
The game was strikingly similar to the last time the two teams met when the Colonials were down by four points after the opening 20 minutes of play but succumbed to the Rams following a six-minute scoring drought in the second half.
The loss also marks GW’s worst defeat since South Carolina buried the Colonials in a 35-point hole in November.
“We just weren’t playing tough,” sophomore guard Maceo Jack said. “We got flustered under pressure again just like the last game.”
Jack collected 12 points in the game and contributed four rebounds as GW’s second-highest scorer. Redshirt junior guard DJ Williams boosted the Colonials with a 22-point performance and led the team with seven rebounds.
Sophomore guard Terry Nolan Jr. was not available for the second consecutive game due to a violation of team rules, according to an athletic department spokesman.
VCU redshirt junior guard Marcus Evans was a terror for the Colonials to contain, putting up a season-high 25 points on 6-for-10 shooting while sophomore forward Marcus Santos-Silva tacked on 14 points and seven rebounds.
The Rams, notorious for their high-pressure defense, cashed in on 15 GW turnovers for 17 points.
“That was the biggest key was everyone was getting shots, everyone was touching it and in the second half we weren’t doing that,” Jack said. “We were trying to be more individual and that was our downfall in the second half.”
The Colonials found themselves up 11–7 in the opening five minutes of play against the Rams thanks to hot three-point shooting from Jack, but VCU’s defense was making life difficult for the Colonials. Even though GW was 4-for-5 from the court and 3-for-4 from the perimeter, the Rams forced three GW turnovers in the opening span.
But the Colonials started to cool off after the 15:30 mark, going 1-for-7 from the field while allowing the Rams to go on a 10-2 run to grab the lead 17–13 with 11:27 left in the half. The Rams were shutting out the Colonials from the paint, with only two of their points coming from inside the key.
A pair of threes for the Colonials courtesy of redshirt junior guard Armel Potter and sophomore guard Justin Mazzulla nudged GW ahead 19–17 with 27 seconds before the halfway mark in the frame.
The Rams grabbed another small lead following a 7-0 run spurred by back-to-back baskets by junior guard De’Riante Jenkins to put VCU ahead 26–21 with 7:23 when Evans came alive for the Rams.
Both teams traded baskets for the remainder of the half, with Evans collecting all 13 points for the Rams in the final 5:16 of play to end the half with a team-leading 15 points on 5-for-8 shooting.
GW closed out the frame with a buzzer-beating putback layup by Williams to inch GW closer to the Rams 43-40. Williams led the floor with 18 points on 8-for-11 shooting. Jack was also in double-digits for GW, shooting 3-for-4 from the floor for 10 points and two rebounds.
The Colonials struggled coming out of the gate to keep up the momentum they built on offense in the first half, which Joseph said was not a product of VCU buckling down on defense.
“They didn’t change much, I didn’t notice too many changes,” Joseph said. “They did the run and jump and they put their guy under pressure exactly the same.”
The Colonials quickly found themselves in foul trouble to start the half, picking up three fouls in the opening two minutes of play that resulted in the Rams going 4-for-4 from the charity stripe.
GW went 0-for-5 in the opening four minutes of the second half while the Rams sped out to an 8-0 run, punctuated by a dunk from a VCU dunk with 16:12 left on the clock to extend VCU’s lead to the then-largest of the night 51–40.
The Colonials did not get back onto the scoreboard until Mazzulla made a layup with 9:49 to go before the final whistle, but GW was already facing a 61–42 deficit.
The final blow for GW came after a six-point run by the Rams with less than seven minutes to play ballooned VCU’s lead to 27 points 75–48.
“That hat was the only kind of big run they went on to start the second half, the only time we didn’t really punch back,” Joseph said. “We knew they would have one run, that’s what they do. They play off spurts and runs and we just didn’t do a good enough job playing for others.”
The Colonials return to action 7 p.m. Wednesday against Rhode Island on the road.