Freshman guard Shawn Walker Jr. took full advantage of a Rhode Island turnover midway through the second half, netting both a layup and his first career double-digit performance Saturday.
Walker Jr.’s 14 points and five assists were a bright spot in a 31-point GW loss. The Colonials (10-14, 4-7 A-10) fell to the Rams (18-5, 10-1 A-10), sustaining their third consecutive 20-point plus loss in an 82–51 defeat.
“That ball is such an energy source for our team and the team that has control of that ball has the best opportunity to use it to win the game,” head coach Jamion Christian said. “We’re just giving it up to the other team a little bit too much now, and in ways that are not aggressive.”
GW endured its worst offensive performance of the season, shooting at a 16-of-55 clip with a season-low 29.1 field goal percentage. The Rams neutralized the Colonials’ three-point game, and the squad sunk just 2-of-23 attempts.
“I thought we had some good looks early that we didn’t take and when you’re playing a good defensive team, you’ve got to be aggressive on the looks that you get, and I just didn’t feel like we did that early enough in the first half,” Christian said.
The team felt the absence of redshirt senior guard Armel Potter, who was sidelined with a lower body injury he sustained in a game against Davidson Jan. 29. Prior to his injury, Potter was one of the team’s key ball handlers, dishing out 110 assists on the season.
“I think since Armel’s been out, we’ve been averaging about 18 turnovers per game,” Christian said. “We’ve got to get back to really taking care of the ball and showing that level of toughness.”
Christian started four freshmen – forwards Jamison Battle and Chase Paar and guards Jameer Nelson Jr. and Walker Jr. The quartet tallied 40 points on the night, good for 78.4 percent of the team’s total offense. Junior guard Maceo Jack, who snatched a team-leading four steals, rounded out the Colonials’ starting five.
The squad fell behind early in the first half. Barring a free throw from Walker Jr., the Rams held GW scoreless during the first three minutes of play until a layup from Paar ended the drought.
Battle nabbed a missed Rhode Island attempt, and Nelson Jr. hit a jumper to continue Paar’s momentum. But the two triples from junior guard Fatts Russell began and capped a 10-point Rhode Island push that worked the lead up to 11 points.
Russell took a floor-leading 24 points against the Colonials on 8-of-19 shooting from the field and 6-of-10 attempts from deep. Christian said going up against elite players gives his team the opportunity to improve their “defensive understanding.”
“He’s a really good player,” Christian said. “He averages 20 a game all year, so he got four points over his average. Do we make him work the way we want it to? I don’t think we did there in the first half, but I thought we did pretty good in the second half, trying to push him to spots on the floor.”
Junior forward Ace Stallings threw the ball to Walker Jr., who kicked off a 9-0 GW run that pulled the squad within two points of the lead. But a 17-point Rhode Island slant widened the gap between the Rams and the Colonials.
Battle hit a buzzer-beating three to send the squad to the locker room down 41–25. The Colonials’ shooters went cold, going 9-of-28 from the floor and 2-of-12 from beyond the arc.
GW’s scoring woes continued in the second half, mustering a 28.6 field goal percentage and missing all 11 attempts from three-point range.
The team turned the ball over five times in the first four minutes of the half, allowing the Rams to go on a 16-5 run and increase the gap. The Colonials were unable to capitalize on chances from the floor, with Battle and senior guard Adam Mitola missing back-to-back three pointers.
Rhode Island stayed relentless throughout the half, dropping 21 points in the final 10 minutes of play. GW hit a jumper from sophomore forward Mezie Offurum, but the Rams walked away with an 82–51 victory.
GW now has a week off from competition with Saturday’s game in the books. Christian said he wants his players to focus on watching film, evaluating their performances and getting rest before A-10 play resumes.
“Every game we’ve done something else at a really, really bad level, so I think we just have to get great balance, but I know we will and we’ve done that all year long,” Christian said. “We’ve had great responses all year long, so it’s about getting them fresh, taking a deep breath and addressing the areas where we need to improve at.”
After the week off, the Colonials will hit the road against local rival George Mason. Tipoff is slated for 4:30 p.m.