Men’s basketball held 2018-19 Atlantic 10 Champion Saint Louis under its scoring average, but GW fell short of the comeback victory Wednesday.
The Billikens (13-3, 2-1 A-10) overcame the Colonials (6-9, 0-2 A-10) 63–58, dropping their second Atlantic 10 game. Head coach Jamion Christian said that despite the loss, his team showed a toughness and connectivity indicative of champion-caliber teams.
“We just really crawled back in there and we didn’t do it by making hero plays,” Christian said. “We did it by playing together and being connected. That’s what championship level teams do. That’s what great teams do. When things get tough, they don’t separate, they come closer together, and we did that tonight.”
Second chance points proved to be the difference-maker in the matchup. Saint Louis netted 15 points from comeback opportunities, and the Colonials scored just five. Christian said the team’s defense was strong, but a few lapses on the boards gave Saint Louis the opportunity to score.
“We missed one or two box-outs at a time, and that’s allowed those guys to get in front of them and rebound the ball there,” Christian said. “But I’m really pleased with our defense. We just have to continue to get better at it.”
For the second consecutive game, freshman forward Jamison Battle led the team in scoring. The big man netted 18 points and collected 10 rebounds to record his second double-double of the season. After remaining scoreless in the first frame, redshirt senior Armel Potter heated up in the second half and finished the night with 17 points and a team-leading two steals.
Junior forward Hasahn French put the Billikens on the board first, netting two free throws. French, junior guard and forward Javonte Perkins and junior guard Jordan Goodwin rounded out the double-digit scorers for the Billikens, with Goodwin notching a floor-leading 20 points.
Trips to the charity stripe were a common occurrence in the contest, with Saint Louis and GW taking 35 and 22 attempts, respectively.
Christian said the stop-and-go flow of the game benefitted GW because the squad sinks its free throws at a .737 clip, more consistently than Saint Louis’ .570 percentage. The Colonials shot 72.7 percent in the matchup while the Billikens sunk 60 percent.
“They made a couple more than they usually make I believe, but that’s where you want it at and we got there a lot more,” Christian said. “Our free throw rate is pretty high and we didn’t shoot as well as we usually did from the free throw line, but we still shot a pretty good percentage.”
Back-to-back triples from freshman guard Jameer Nelson Jr. and Battle gave GW the lead. But a 17-0 Saint Louis run buried the Colonials and gave the Billikens a lead it never relinquished. During the Colonials’ scoring drought, Saint Louis netted four three-pointers and took a 16-point lead.
The Colonials responded with 12 consecutive points in the paint to cut the lead down to 10 heading into the half. GW held an advantage in the paint throughout the game, sinking 28 points and holding the Billikens to 24 points from down low.
Saint Louis opened the second half with four points to build the lead to 14, but a layup from senior forward Arnaldo Toro started an 11-4 run that chopped the lead in half and brought the team within seven.
Action behind the arc was minimal throughout the contest – GW only attempted 16 shots from deep and sunk just four. The squad averages 23.9 attempted shots from beyond the arc and connects on 32.3 percent of them. Saint Louis shot 44.4 percent from deep in the first half, going 4-of-9, but it missed all three of its second frame attempts.
Perkins tipped in a rebound and capped a six-point Saint Louis run with ten minutes left to play. Battle sunk a jumper and then nailed three free throws to pull the team within three possessions. He shot a perfect 7-of-7 from the charity stripe and holds a season average of .913.
In a duel from the free throw line, freshman forward Chase Paar hit two free throws before collecting his fifth foul and making his way to the bench. He earned his second consecutive start of the season, grabbing four boards and netting six points in 11 minutes on the court.
Potter netted the final six points for the Colonials, but his second half effort wasn’t enough to complete the comeback. Saint Louis bested GW 63–58.
The Colonials are back in action Saturday to take on Duquesne. Tipoff is slated for 4 p.m.