Men’s basketball suffered its second loss of the year at the hands of a buzzer beater from American.
The Colonials (1-2) trailed the Eagles (1-2), for most of the contest but snapped back, trading the lead eight times throughout the second half. The team resurged in the second frame, but GW was unable to prevent American from scoring a last second jumper to seal the deal, 67–65.
Similar to their game against Towson last week, turnovers continued to plague the Colonials. GW fumbled the ball 17 times, nine of which came from the hands of freshman point guard Jameer Nelson Jr. American capitalized on the fumbles, scoring 18 points off turnovers to win a game decided by two points.
“We just have to keep getting better at it, growing at it and I know when we’re able to do that, we’ll be pretty tough to beat,” Christian said. “Thirteen turnovers in the first half, I want to say last year we didn’t turnover 13 times in a couple games. So we’ve got a lot of room to grow there, but we’ve certainly shown that we can do it.”
Offensively, the Colonials fared better in the second half than the first, shooting 32 percent from the floor in the first and at a .530 clip in the second. GW scored 39 of its 65 points in the second half.
Senior forward Arnaldo Toro played one of the strongest games of his career. He was the most formidable player on the court on both sides of the ball, ending the night with 24 rebounds and 20 points.
His rebounding effort ties Yinka Dare’s 24 rebound performance for the all-time Atlantic 10 record for rebounds in a single game. Dare, a center, played two seasons for the Colonials, leaving after his sophomore year in 1993-94 to pursue a career in the NBA.
A cold opening from beyond the arc stifled the Colonials’ offense in the first half. GW went 0-8 from the three point line to start the game, limiting its offensive output to only six points in the first 10 minutes of play.
Freshman forward Jamison Battle finally managed to break the streak by sinking a three-pointer with nine minutes left in the first half. After he scored, the Colonials managed to take the lead for a brief moment off a deep shot from junior guard Justin Mazzulla.
Mazzulla and Toro provided the bulk of GW’s offense in the first period, combining for 17 points of the Colonials’ 26 points. Toro was one point away from securing a double-double in the first half, adding 14 rebounds to his nine point effort.
The Colonials dominated the boards in the first half, heading into the locker room with almost as many offensive rebounds (9) as American had defensive rebounds (10). The squad’s offensive rebounding provided them with another scoring source, notching 18 second chance points on 15 offensive rebounds throughout the game.
“It’s definitely an area I’m really encouraged about because I think if you’re a really good rebounding team, with the way we can defend, it gives you a chance to really get some stops and climb back in the game,” Christian said. “That was a key to us tonight.”
But American’s offense continued to outpace the Colonials in the first half, and the Eagles held a healthy seven-point lead over GW at the buzzer.
The Colonials entered the second half with renewed vigor. Toro strong armed a layup and sophomore forward Mezie Offurum quickly followed with a fast break to cut American’s lead to two.
“I thought our reset at the half was excellent,” Christian said. “I thought we really came out and responded well with the real tough punch there.”
The two teams stayed neck and neck, trading points with every possession. Battle sunk a three-pointer, which the Eagles immediately answered with a triple of their own. Toro nabbed an offensive rebound and converted it for a layup, and the Colonials quickly evened the score at 48–48 with a shot from Nelson Jr.
Another three-pointer from Battle gave the Colonials the lead with nine minutes left in the game. The two teams traded the lead three times in the next three minutes until another shot from behind the arc from Battle gave GW a four point advantage, its largest lead of the game.
With six minutes to go, Toro whiffed on two free throws and a jumper from American tied things up at 56–56. The two teams continued to keep pace with each other, eventually leaving the score tied again at 65–65.
The last 30 seconds of the game were a drawn-out affair— featuring three timeouts and multiple substitutions by both teams. In the final possession, American senior guard Sa’eed Nelson hit a jump shot that beat the final buzzer to win his team the game.
“He’s a great player,” Toro said. “He just made a tough shot over a great defender. It just didn’t go our way the last play. That’s going to happen. We just need to bounce back.”
The Colonials are back in action Saturday to close out their homestand against Morgan State. Tip off is slated for 1 p.m.