Men’s basketball kicked off Atlantic 10 play with a loss to St. Bonaventure Sunday.
Despite holding a lead at halftime, the Colonials (6-8, 0-1 A-10) missed a chance to return their record to .500 against the Bonnies (9-5, 1-0 A-10) and dropped the game 71–66. Three freshmen – forward Jamison Battle, guard Jameer Nelson Jr. and forward Chase Paar – started for the Colonials.
Paar and sophomore guard Amir Harris received their first starts of the season. Head coach Jamion Christian said he’s still playing around with his lineup and wanted the young starting five to add a spark to the team’s recent slow starts.
“There’s 200 minutes in a game, so we’re just trying to find what works the best,” Christian said. “We’ve started really slow the last few games, so we wanted to do something so we weren’t playing from behind. I thought everybody contributed well.”
Battle was GW’s top performer, setting a new career high in points and leading the roster with 20 points on the day. Six rebounds and two assists rounded out his performance.
GW did not relinquish its first conference game easily, remaining within 10 points of the Bonnies and trading the lead 14 times throughout the contest.
The Colonials connected on 13-of-29 from the floor, shooting at a 44.8 percent clip. Defensively, GW limited St. Bonaventure to 43.5 percent from the field and 12.5 percent from deep, well below its season average of 34 percent from beyond the arc.
Junior guard Maceo Jack put GW on the board first with a layup. Harris tacked on another two points with a layup of his own and the Colonials jumped out to a four-point lead. Jack, Harris and redshirt guard Armel Potter ended the game with 11 points, respectively.
The two teams exchanged blow after blow in the first half, trading the lead seven times. A nine-point run boosted the Bonnies to a six-point lead with nine minutes to play in the half. GW went on an eight-point run dominated by a five-point spurt from Harris in the final five minutes to take a 30–28 lead going into halftime.
In the second half, the Colonials connected on 38.5 percent of their attempts from the field while the Bonnies jumped to a 59.3 shooting percentage, netting 16-of-27 from the floor. GW was unable to neutralize St. Bonaventure’s two biggest scoring threats – sophomore guard Kyle Lofton and sophomore forward and center Osun Osunniyi – who combined for 37 of the Bonnies’ total points.
“We really let their two best guys really dominate the second half,” Christian said. “We have to grow in those areas and we have to take those two best guys out and make it tough for those guys to score.”
Christian emphasized the production of his second wave of substitutions, including Potter and senior forward Arnaldo Toro, who collectively took 17 points. Toro nabbed six rebounds and Potter dished out eight assists.
“We wanted to play in waves, and I thought that first group did a really good job. But I thought the second group was even better, with Armel and Toro,” Christian said. “Those guys really played well for us and we were really able to have a good first half.”
GW’s lead dissipated less than two minutes into the second half, with back-to-back three pointers from the Bonnies that set the tone for the final frame. Battle sunk a three 30 seconds later to pull the Colonials within one and then hit a jumper to take back the lead.
Three more lead changes ensued before St. Bonaventure pulled ahead for the rest of the game. With less than seven minutes to play and the Bonnies’ leading by one, Osunniyi netted five to pad the lead. But another jumper from Battle kept the game within two possessions.
Christian said the team moved the ball well, stayed connected and played “lights out” defense in the first frame. He added that the squad did not compete at the same level in the second half as it did in the first 20 minutes.
“When we’re really good defensively, it’s really tough for people to score on us and we just didn’t do as good of a job there in the second half,” Christian said.
At the 2:20 mark, the Bonnies held their largest lead of the game at nine points. Free throw shooting kept the Colonials in the mix as Battle and Potter both hit four shots from the charity stripe. After missing its lone attempt in the first half, the Colonials shot 78.6 percent from the free throw line.
With 25 seconds remaining, senior guard Adam Mitola notched his first three of the season to cut the lead down to five. But the Colonials couldn’t overcome the Bonnies and lost their A-10 opener 71–66.
The Colonials are back in action Wednesday to take on reigning A-10 champion Saint Louis. Tipoff is slated for 8 p.m.