Men’s basketball opened the 2020-21 season with a win over Saint Francis Tuesday night at the Smith Center.
The Colonials (1-0) pulled out a narrow 75-72 win over the Red Flash (0-1) as senior forward Ricky Lindo Jr. came up with a defensive rebound and a steal in the final five seconds to seal the game. Lindo Jr. would finish the game with 17 points, nine rebounds, six blocks and three steals in a strong individual performance.
“Good teams find a way to win,” head coach Jamion Christian said. “And I think we have a really good team in that locker room. I thought we showed some flashes tonight that were amazing, really exciting basketball there. I thought we showed our inexperience amongst ourselves a bit tonight. And I think that’s going to happen here early in the year.”
Graduate student guard Brendan Adams led the team in scoring with 22 points while sophomore guard Joe Bamisile followed closely behind with 20 points of his own. Bamisile also notched five rebounds, three blocks and two steals.
GW sank 24-of-62 attempts from the floor and fired at a .375 clip from beyond the arc. Saint Francis followed closely behind hitting 37.7 percent from the field, but converted just 1-of-9 from beyond the arc. Christian said the team prides themselves on their 3-point defense.
“That’s a major point for us is that we got to make these guys finish over top of us,” Christian said. “Now we got to get better defensively doing that. But we want to make sure we use our size and our athleticism and I thought we executed the game plan really well. That first half was outstanding. The second half, not so much.”
The Colonials jumped out to an early 11–6 lead in the first five minutes of the first half as three different players scored points inside the paint. A layup from the Red Flash’s redshirt senior forward Mark Flagg snapped a 6-point scoring streak for the Colonials, but GW constructed another run beginning with a triple and trio of free throw conversions by Adams.
A fastbreak dunk by Lindo Jr. concluded his half with 12 points, but Flagg finished a layup with two seconds left to leave the Colonials ahead 39-26 at the sound of the buzzer. Though Preseason All-Atlantic 10 Second Team selection junior guard James Bishop was just 1-of-8 from the field and 1-of-5 from deep in the first half, the Colonials still held a 13 point lead at the break.
“We really finished out the first half pretty well,” Christian said. “But again, it was just coming out of the gate in the second half that we didn’t respond well. And we’ve got to address that. Because that’s been going on for about three years now. So that’s on me, I’m basically the only one still here.”
The Red Flash opened the second half with a 6-0 scoring run to cut the deficit to 7. GW ran into foul trouble early, as junior forward Hunter Dean and sophomore center Noel Brown both picked up their third fouls in the first 39 seconds of the second half.
“I feel like the biggest thing for us is composure,” Bamisile said. “And I don’t think as a team we’re going to play less tough because they’re calling fouls. We got to set the standard.”
Adams hit a 3-pointer to end Saint Francis’ run and put GW back up by ten at 42-32. However, Lindo also got into foul trouble after picking up his third foul with 16 minutes remaining in the second half.
After playing only eight minutes in the first half, Bamisile exploded in the second half, scoring 9 points inside the opening six minutes. With just under 12 minutes remaining, GW led 57-49 but Flagg started to get some help from senior forward Myles Thompson, who finished with 9 points on the night.
Saint Francis cut GW’s lead to just 1 point at 57-56 following a 10-2 scoring run. After Bishop committed a foul on a fast break, the Colonials bench received a technical foul and the momentum began to shift toward the visiting team.
But GW rattled off 12 unanswered points in the middle of the second half, highlighted by two Bamisile blocks within the span of a minute with 8:49 left. The first of those extra possessions resulted in an Adams dunk, the second resulted in a corner three by Bamisile himself.
In the final minutes of the game, the Red Flash cut the lead to 71-66 behind two baskets from Flagg and one apiece from redshirt senior guard Rhamir Dixon-Conover and sophomore guard Maxwell Land.
With more than a minute left in the game and GW hanging onto a 72-70 lead, an Adams charge broke the momentum of a 12-1 run by the Red Flash over a 4 minute period. Saint Francis extended their run to 14-2, cutting the Colonial lead to within one yet again at 73-72 with 46 seconds left to play.
With 5.4 seconds left in the game, Lindo came up with a powerful block on Dixon-Conover to preserve the lead for the Colonials, although the Red Flash maintained possession and took the inbound from under the basket following a timeout.
“There was no fear in that huddle,” Christian said. “Everyone was locked into what we needed to do. Everyone had confidence, you could feel that they were going to get that job done.”
Lindo went down the floor and hit both of his free throws to make the score 75-72 and push him to 17 points on the night. On the ensuing inbound, Lindo intercepted the pass and let the final three seconds expire before tossing the ball to the center of the court in celebration.
“It’s all about toughness, when it comes down to time like that,” Adams said.
The Colonials’ will hit the road Thursday to visit College Park as they take on No. 21 Maryland. Tipoff is set for 6:30 p.m.