After trailing for about 11 minutes to kick off the second half, men’s basketball battled back to take the lead over Fordham Wednesday. But the squad couldn’t hold on for long, scoring just four more points throughout the remaining five minutes and allowing Fordham to tack on 20.
The Colonials (12-18, 6-11 A-10) succumbed to the series sweep against the Rams (8-21, 2-15 A-10) in their last home game of the season and on senior night 63–52. The Rams, ranked No. 13 in the Atlantic 10, collected both of their wins against GW, besting it by five-points Jan. 22.
Head coach Jamion Christian said the team did not effectively answer Fordham’s defensive pressure, part of a “disappointing” season-long struggle to respond.
“Remaining in character means doing what you do best, and we just struggled with that and that’s been disappointing,” Christian said. “If you’re a great three-point shooter, your opponent is going to want you to drive the ball. So when you’re driving the ball in there, you’re doing what your opponent wants you to do, and we want to be in control of what we do.”
Freshman forward Jamison Battle and junior guard Maceo Jack led the league in three-point field goals per game, notching an average of 2.8 and 2.7 triples, respectively.
As a team, the Colonials connected on 5-of-23 attempts from behind the arc. Fordham shot its three-ball sparingly and at a more efficient clip, hitting 4-of-12 from deep. Battle and Jack led the charge from three-point territory for the team, combining for four buckets on 16 attempts from beyond the arc.
“We were able to generate good looks for them,” Christian said. “They’re a really good defensive team. At their place we didn’t generate any of those kinds of looks for our guys. Sometimes you have nights where they don’t go in and that sort of happened and that was really the story of it tonight.”
Before the game began, GW honored five players who will be graduating in the spring, including senior forward duo Luke Sasser and Arnaldo Toro and three guards – senior Adam Mitola, senior Justin Williams and redshirt senior Armel Potter.
The first seven points for the Colonials all came from the hands of seniors. Toro started the scoring for GW, netting a jumper from the elbow. Mitola tacked on a catch-and-shoot three, swishing it through the net to give the Colonials a three-point advantage.
Potter tossed a laser to freshman guard Jameer Nelson Jr., who finished the play with a slam. The duo elevated GW over Fordham, giving the squad an edge.
On the next offensive possession, Nelson had his pocket picked by freshman guard Kyle Rose. Rose dished to freshman forward Joel Soriano, who finished the play at the rim with a slam. Soriano scored 14 points and ripped 15 boards for his fourth consecutive double-double.
Junior forward Ace Stallings tried to chip away at the lead but missed a reverse layup. Jack procured a steal on the defensive end and Stallings finished at the rim to pull the Colonials within one possession.
GW bounced back to secure a two-point lead heading into the final frame. But two back-to-back jumpers pushed the Rams back in front.
Throughout the first and second half, the Colonials employed a full-court press to pester Fordham as it brought the ball up the floor.
“I love press and I hate backing off,” Christian said. “I feel like we really need to speed these guys up and try to make them take some opportunities and take some chances. Us being more healthy and having more guys back, there’s some more depth so we can get back to playing a little bit more in the full floor.”
Battle and freshman forward Chase Paar worked to even the score, hitting a jumper and two shots from the charity stripe, respectively. Nearly two scoreless minutes elapsed in a defensive battle for an edge. A layup from freshman guard Chris Austin, his only points of the night, broke the stalemate and started a push that gave Fordham a two-possession advantage.
After back-and-forth buckets, Battle sparked an 11-point GW run carried by six points – four of which came from the charity stripe – from Potter. Potter led the team in scoring, notching 16 points, five rebounds and five assists in his final regular-season appearance in the Smith Center. The Colonials led by five points with less than six minutes to play.
Fordham went to work, chipping away at the deficit with a nine-point run of its own. Sophomore guard Jalen Cobb netted all six of his points in that stretch to turn the tide for Fordham.
The Rams tacked on another seven-point run to take an eight-point advantage over GW. A pair of free throws from Potter, who finished the night a perfect 6-of-6 from the charity stripe, was the Colonial final points. Fordham ended the game outscoring the Colonials 20-4.
“Look at themselves in the mirror and just understand that we’re a really good team when we remain in character and do the stuff that we’re capable of doing, but if we’re going to bail out and just go individual for a little bit, that’s just not the way we’re built,” Christian said. “We’re not going to have a lot of success like that.”
The Colonials hit the road for their final game of the regular season against AP No. 3 Dayton. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m.
Belle Long contributed reporting.