In the final 40 seconds of play Wednesday, men’s basketball trailed Fordham by one point until sophomore guard James Bishop tossed the ball to sophomore forward Jamison Battle, who swished a triple through the net.
Battle lifted the No. 11 Colonials (5-11, 3-1 A-10) ahead by two, and junior forward Ricky Lindo Jr. sealed the deal with two shots from the charity stripe to eliminate the No. 14 Rams (2-12, 2-11 A-10) from the first round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament. The 53–49 win was the first A-10 tournament victory for head coach Jamion Christian at GW and every student-athlete on the roster.
“Everybody wasn’t here last year, except for [Jamison] and Chase, so it’s big for us,” Lindo Jr. said. “My first tournament win, and it’s my third year in college, so it’s big for everybody. We’ve just got to keep it going.”
Lindo Jr. and Battle ushered in the majority of GW’s offensive production. Lindo Jr. paced the team with a career-high 21 points, tacking on 14 rebounds and three steals. Battle notched 17 points on 7-of-15 shooting, including three triples. The rest of the roster combined for 15 points.
Fordham entered the game fresh off a two-week athletic department-wide COVID-19 pause and last competed Feb. 17. Against the Colonials, sophomore guard Chris Austin led the Rams with a dozen points, and sophomore forward Joel Soriano and junior guard Jalen Cobb rounded out the team’s double-digit scorers with 10 points apiece.
Both teams fired at nearly identical clips from the field and beyond the arc as each squad connected on 20 field goals and six shots from deep. GW decided the game at the free throw line. Fordham hit 3-of-6, while GW found the four points it needed to pull out a win, nailing 7-of-10 at the charity stripe.
The Colonials avenged a 20-point loss that sent them packing after the first round of the tournament last year.
Both offenses struggled to find the hoop right out of the gate. Two minutes elapsed before sophomore forward Chase Paar hit a jumper from the elbow and put GW on the board. Over the next two and a half minutes, the Colonials worked the lead up to 8–0 as Fordham started the game shooting 0-of-5 from the three-point line.
Redshirt senior forward Chuba Ohams, who was expected to miss the remainder of the season with a knee injury, checked into the game and announced his return with a slam.
After a Battle triple propelled the team to an 11-point edge, Fordham strung together a four-point tilt. Bishop and Lindo Jr. worked to keep the advantage in the double digits as the Rams began to find their footing.
With seven minutes left in the frame, GW looked like it had control of the game, leading 25–10. But Fordham’s defense held steady, and its offense began to pick up steam. The Rams pieced together a 15-3 spurt, holding the Colonials to just one field goal in the final seven minutes of the first half.
Lindo Jr. tallied 50 percent of his team’s points in the first 20 minutes, and the squad entered the locker room with a slight 28–25 edge.
Battle dominated his team’s offense in the second half. He netted 12 of the Colonials’ 25 points in the frame.
“He’s been there before,” Christian said. “We want to make sure we just kept him involved. We kept finding a way to get him touches because I just trusted his decision-making he was going to make today.”
The big man hammered a shot from distance to give GW a two-possession advantage, but Fordham answered with four straight points. Battle scored the next bucket, slamming a dunk through the iron on a pass inside from Bishop.
The Rams answered again with two straight baskets to grab the lead, starting a race for the top that saw 10 lead changes and two ties as both teams jockeyed for position. Battle willed GW back in front with back-to-back jumpers.
Knotted at 39 with 11 minutes on the clock, Lindo Jr. went to work in the paint, ripping an offensive board and sinking the putback. The next two minutes descended into a three-point shootout as Fordham hit a shot from the perimeter to take the lead.
Freshman guard Tyler Brlesford launched a ball from beyond the arc that slid through the net, and the Rams hit another triple on the next possession. But the Colonials’ defense stopped Fordham when it mattered, holding the Rams scoreless in the final three minutes of the game while tacking on six points.
The squad outlasted the Rams and prevented a repeat of last season with a 53–49 win.
“Basketball is a game of runs, so I told the guys going into the second half of the end of the game, after Ricky got the technical free throws, that this is where we probably make our run,” Battle said. “It wasn’t a big run, but it got the job done.”
The Colonials play again Thursday against George Mason for the second round of the A-10 tournament. The two teams met last week when the No. 6-seeded Patriots earned a 63–58 victory. Tipoff is slated for 5:30 p.m.