After weathering an overtime, defensive slugfest against Massachusetts Wednesday, men’s basketball will live to see another day in the Atlantic 10 Championship.
The No. 12 Colonials made just two buckets in extra time and turned in their second-worst shooting night of the year against the No. 13 Minutemen. But GW’s defense smothered Massachusetts down the stretch, holding the Minutemen scoreless for minutes at a time to take a 68–64 overtime win in Brooklyn, N.Y.
The win buys the Colonials another game in the A-10 Championship and ends Massachusetts’ run at the crown.
The first eight minutes of play had the Minutemen hopping out to a 25–11 lead, but after that point, both teams were left to trade baskets and churned out less than stellar offensive showings.
GW turned in its second-worst shooting night of the year, shooting 31.3 percent from the field on a 20-for-64 clip against the Minutemen.
But the Colonials’ defense held the Minutemen to 35.9 percent shooting from the field on the day – the best mark the Colonials have held an opponent to in 11 games, when GW held Fordham to the same percentage on Jan. 30.
“We went down double-digits, we didn’t waiver,” head coach Maurice Joseph said. “We continued to guard. We did a great job just weathering the storm.”
Despite lackluster shooting, GW won the battle on the glass and outrebounded the Minutemen 50–45 to match the team’s season high. Five Colonials ended the game with five rebounds or more, with sophomore forward Javier Langarica grabbing a team-high 11 rebounds in the effort.
“We had multiple guys come in and impact the glass, and that’s what we needed,” Joseph said. “We needed a collective effort on the glass and we did that because Lord knows you can’t try to keep [fifth-year center Rashaan] Holloway off the glass by yourself.”
Holloway grabbed a floor-high 12 rebounds on the day along with 11 points. But GW’s defense neutralized him when it mattered, forcing Holloway to foul out with 1:31 left in overtime.
“We were scratching and clawing and hanging off his jersey and doing everything we could and he still got 12,” Joseph said. “So I credit that kid.”
While the Colonials had a poor shooting night as a whole, sophomore guard Terry Nolan Jr. pulled together a strong showing from the field. Nolan, who took the court for the first time after a two-game hiatus due to a foot injury, led the team with 20 points on a 6-for-8 showing from the field.
“I was battling a foot injury, which I still am today,” Nolan said. “But I just couldn’t miss this game. I couldn’t let my team down so I’m just happy we got the win today.”
The Colonials quickly found themselves in a hole in the first eight minutes of play after allowing the Minutemen to sink five three-point shots. The Colonials trailed the Minutemen for the entire first 20 minutes of play.
But after Massachusetts’ hot 8-for-11 showing to open the game, the Minutemen struggled to get shots off against GW’s defense. The Colonials held Massachusetts scoreless in the final four minutes of the half as GW clawed its way back from a 13-point deficit.
“We switched to a man-defense and I was able to push them over the three-point line,” sophomore guard Maceo Jack said. “And then we did a really good job of locking in on that and pushing them off that line and therefore their shots weren’t falling.”
The rest of the half was a slow burn on offense for the Colonials. GW struggled to break the 40.0 percent shooting mark, heading into the locker room 10-for-30 from the floor in the half. But GW outscored the Minutemen 18–6 in the final eight minutes of the half to get within one point of the Minutemen 30–29.
A Hail Mary, buzzer-beating shot from 5 feet beyond the halfcourt by Jack was waved off – but helped tip the game’s momentum in GW’s favor, he said.
“We’ve struggled coming out in the start of the second half so that definitely gave us a push in order to come out aggressive and come out strong and come out with some force,” Jack said.
A jumper by Nolan with 17:25 left in the second half gave the Colonials their first lead of the day 33–32 but the Minutemen answered back with a free throw and a jumper to reclaim the game. The Colonials and the Minutemen passed the lead back and forth throughout the half, but neither team pulled ahead by more than five points.
A 7–2 run by the Minutemen helped the team pull ahead by six points 53–47 with 5:55 left in regulation before threes from Nolan and Jack tied the game at 54 points each. Massachusetts nailed a layup to reclaim the lead 56–54 before a layup by junior guard Justin Williams with less than two minutes to play sent the match into overtime.
In extra time, Nolan wasted no time shifting the power to the Colonials and nailed a three-point shot after less than a minute to put GW up 59–56 and force Massachusetts to play catch-up.
GW struggled to sink buckets after Nolan’s shot but picked up seven points from the charity stripe to bolster the team’s scoring and push the Colonials ahead for the final buzzer. The Colonials outscored the Minutemen 12–8 in overtime to take the win.
The Colonials return to action Thursday at 2:30 p.m. against No. 5 George Mason.