With four minutes left in Sunday’s matchup with Rhode Island, men’s basketball trailed by five points. Freshman center Noel Brown dished the ball to sophomore forward Jamison Battle, who nailed the triple from the wing and started a 15-2 run that handed men’s basketball its first win in seven weeks.
After a 35-day COVID-19 pause that caused them to miss eight straight games, the Colonials (4-9, 3-3 A-10) toppled the Rams (10-13, 7-9 A-10) 78–70. GW outrebounded, outscored and dished out more assists than the visiting team.
“It was good to be back,” junior forward Ricky Lindo Jr. said. “We’ve all been anxious to get back on the court and compete again, so I think to start off with a win is really big for us, especially moving forward with two regular season games left and then the tournament.”
The effort was led by sophomore guard James Bishop, who notched a career-high 28 points. Battle followed closely behind with 26 points. The duo went a combined 7-of-13 from three-point territory. Lindo Jr. joined in with 11 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and three steals. The trio shot more than 60 percent from the floor, respectively.
“Picking my spots, knowing when to shoot, knowing when to pass, trying to get the defense on their toes so they have to worry about me passing or shooting,” Bishop said. “And then we’ve got great players. With a great shooter like [Jamison] and cutters like Ricky, it kind of brings you open shots, too.”
On the Rams’ side, freshman guard Ishmael Leggett netted a team-high 16 points. Senior guard Fatts Russell fell one rebound short of a triple double, dishing 10 assists, ripping nine boards and netting 14 points. Sophomore center Makhel Mitchell recorded 14 points, and senior guard Jeremy Sheppard rounded out the double-digit scorers with 10 points.
The Colonials used just eight players and played without forwards graduate student Matt Moyer and sophomore Chase Paar, who average a combined 15.4 rebounds per game. But the squad kept the Rams off the boards, holding them below their 39 rebounds per game average and narrowly outrebounding them 34-32.
“It was just trying to be more physical and exert our will,” Battle said. “They’re a very physical team, probably one of the most physical in the A-10, and I think it was [about] just going out and being tough and knowing that we are a physical team as well.”
The squad’s assist-to-turnover ratio tallied 1.8 after the team handed out 18 assists and turned the ball over just 10 times.
Sophomore forward Hunter Dean nabbed a steal and gave the Colonials their first offensive possession of the game. Lindo Jr. capitalized, netting a layup to put GW on the board. Battle followed up with a jumper to boost the lead to four.
Bishop, Battle and Lindo Jr. combined to keep the two-possession lead after Rhode Island worked a bucket inside.
A five-point burst from the Rams brought them within one point of the lead, which sparked a 9-2 GW tilt that provided an eight-point cushion. Freshman guard Tyler Brelsford and Brown joined in on the action, scoring a combined five points during the run.
A three-pointer from Russell spun the advantage into Rhode Island’s hands, but a buzzer-beating shot from beyond the arc from Battle edged the Colonials ahead 37–35 heading into the final 20 minutes.
GW fired at a 53.6 percent clip outside the gate, and Rhode Island completed 43.3 percent from the field. The squad also notched one more bucket from distance.
Bishop started the half with a jumper, but the next three minutes belonged to the Rams. Rhode Island scored 12 straight points to build its own eight-point lead. Brown’s layup broke the streak, but the squad played back-and-forth catchup for the following four minutes.
A seven-point spurt gave GW a one-point lead, but Rhode Island responded with a six-point march to take another two-possession advantage. At the five minute mark, Bishop nailed a three, only to have Leggett respond with a trey of his own.
On the next possession, Battle sunk an attempt from deep to bring GW within two, and Brown went to work on the inside. He muscled his way to the rim, the whistle blew for a foul and the bucket fell, knotting the game at 68. He nailed the shot from the charity stripe to complete the three-point play and put GW ahead 69–68.
Bishop and Battle extended the lead to eight – five of which came from the free throw line. Rhode Island was held without a field goal for almost four and a half minutes before Russell completed a layup with 18 seconds to play.
Graduate student guard Brandon Leftwich scored his first points of the season, hitting two free throws and closing the book on GW’s first game in five weeks. The Colonials closed out their home campaign with a 78–70 victory, shooting 50.9 percent from the field and 42.1 percent from behind the arc.
“It’s all gas, no breaks, the rest of the way,” head coach Jamion Christian said. “We’re saying this is a sprint to the end. We’ve got two more games in regular season play, and it’s a sprint to get to the tournament, and a sprint once you get there.”
The squad is back in action Wednesday to take on George Mason at Eaglebank Arena. Tipoff is slated for 6 p.m.