Men’s basketball suffered a loss to Cal State Fullerton Tuesday night to end their two-game road swing in California.
The Colonials (1-3) fell to the Titans (1-2) in a 74-59 loss. Despite a late game surge to pull within seven points with just over three minutes left to play, the Titans finished the game off with an 11-3 scoring run to leave the Colonials winless on the road thus far this season.
Junior guard James Bishop led GW with 19 points and three assists. On the other side of the court, the Titans were paced by senior forward E.J. Anosike, who had a dominant game with 28 points and 11 rebounds on 12-of-16 shooting. Sophomore guard Dante Maddox Jr. also finished with 11 points, five rebounds and three assists while senior guard Damari Milstead amassed 10 points, four rebounds and two assists.
Head coach Jamion Christian said the team just wasn’t able to “slow down” Anosike, whose older brother played for Siena prior to Christian’s coaching position at Siena.
“He’s a great offensive rebounder, and he put together a great night against us.” Christian said. “Our thing is, because we’re great at defending the three, we make people take tough two’s and he was able to make them tonight.”
GW was dominated on the glass all night, with the Titans having a rebounding advantage of 40-28. The Colonials struggled to get consistent scoring from anyone but Bishop, who shot 7-of-21 from the field and 5-of-14 from three point range.
“We have Ricky Lindo, he’s going to lead the A-10 in rebounding this year.” Christian said. “So, he’s always going to get them. We got to get some more rebounds from some other guys. And, one of the contributing factors is that our offense is not scoring enough so we’re having to go back in transition so often.”
GW has struggled to stay out of foul trouble yet again Tuesday as both sophomore guard Joe Bamisile and senior forward Ricky Lindo Jr. found themselves in trouble. Bamisile picked up two first half fouls and Lindo collected three before the break.
The Colonials struggled to reach the foul line, only getting 12 free throws, 11 of which came in the second half, and converted just 8-of-12. Meanwhile, the Titans earned 20 free throws in the game, cashing in on 18 of them. Through four games, GW’s opponents have attempted 108 free throws while the Colonials have attempted just 59.
“I think defensively, we’re not containing the ball enough.” Christian said. “So we’re putting ourselves in a position to foul. And the result of that is that they’re able to get to the free throw line before we are.”
But sophomore center Noel Brown proved to be a bright spot for the Colonials, who was second in scoring with a career high 10 points on 4-of-6 from the floor to go along with three rebounds.
“Tonight it was great to see Noel Brown.” Christian said. “He was stepping up and playing great. I feel like that’s a piece for us, that, as he grows, can be really scary.”
Brown took on a larger role after junior forward Hunter Dean went down with an injury in last Thursday’s 71-64 loss to No. 20 Maryland. Christian said Dean is day-to-day and his status for the Colonials next game is unknown.
Freshman guard Brayon Freeman also ended the night with four points and seven rebounds, driving into the lane to create shots for himself and his teammates off the dribble.
Despite suffering a six minute scoring drought in the latter stage of the first half, GW went into the half trailing 34-30 thanks to a pair of threes by Bishop. The Colonials had held a 17-12 lead earlier in the period with just more than 12 minutes to play but were unable to maintain it.
After a similar back and forth start to the second half, the Titans pushed their lead to 63-40 with 6:49 to go in the game. The Colonials slipped into a scoring drought during this period, not scoring a field goal for over eight and half minutes. During the drought, Cal State Fullerton went on a 20-2 run to seemingly put the game to bed, until Bishop landed a three point bucket with 6:07 left to play.
Part way through the Titans’ run, Christian pulled the starters from the game for nearly two full minutes.
“I wanted to reset them because they’ve got to play well together for us to be a great team.” Christian said. “And the times this year they’ve done that, we’ve been great. But there’s been a long stretch over the last few games where we’re not playing together and you get to a point that you just can’t continue to watch that happen.”
Upon putting the starters back in, the Colonials went on a 16-0 run over 2:54, beginning with Bishop’s three, to claw their way back within seven points with 3:13 left and score of 63-56. The effort was sparked by an aggressive full court press and forced turnovers that allowed GW to score eight points off the fast break.
“I think when they gel together we’ll be a dangerous group.” Christian said. “But if they’re not gelled together, we’re going to be a team that’s beatable. I thought I saw some strides today and I’ve seen some strides in the last few weeks.”
But the Titans were able to hold off the surging Colonials with a few important baskets and 5-of-6 free throw shooting in the last three minutes of the game to get their first win of the season after close losses to Santa Clara and San Jose State.
The Colonials return home to play UMass Lowell Friday night in a 7 p.m. tip-off.