Men’s basketball falls in A-10 opener

Media Credit: File Photo by Auden Yurman | Assistant Photo Editor

Head Coach Jamion Christian said the team’s 26-day “COVID pause” was not to blame for the Colonials' struggles in their A-10 opener.

Despite heading into the conference schedule with a two-game win streak, men’s basketball opened Atlantic 10 play with a loss to Dayton Saturday afternoon.

The 83-58 Colonials loss (4-9, 0-1 A-10) was the first game since their Dec. 13 win over Radford due to pandemic-induced disruptions within the program. The Flyers (9-6, 1-1 A-10) had come off a narrow loss to VCU last Wednesday night but redeemed themselves in their play against GW.

The Colonials came out flat against a Dayton team that has racked up impressive wins against Miami, Belmont, Virginia Tech and most notably No. 6 Kansas.

“I thought we would come out with a lot more fire and grit,” Head Coach Jamion Christian said. “I was disappointed to see some of the early season things that kind of plagued us a bit today, but a lot of credit goes to a good Dayton team.”

Sophomore guard Joe Bamisile starred once more for the Colonials with a career-high 25 points along with six rebounds, four steals and three assists. But the rest of his teammates struggled to score as only four Colonials made it on the scoresheet.

Christian said Bamisile has been an asset to the team as he works to build the program and is receptive to his coaching style.

“He’s willing to take coaching at the highest level,” Christian said. “After every game he almost demands that we watch the entire game with him so he can grade what he’s doing and what he can do better.”

Freshman guard Brayon Freeman also showed out, scoring a career-high 17 points to go along with five assists, two steals and a rebound. Freeman showed off his three-point shooting ability, going 5-of-9 from behind the arc to nearly match his six total three pointers for the season prior to the game.

Christian said Freeman has been “one of the few guys” that can play with any combination of players on the roster because of his “dominant style of play.”

“He’s just consistently become a bright spot as he’s learned how to practice and what you need to do on a day-to-day basis,” Christian said. “He always brings that competitive spirit and competitive fire. It’s been great to have a guy that you can trust in and believe in every day you step out there on the floor that’s gonna go and attack.”

Despite some offensive production, GW had no answer on the defensive side for Dayton down low, with the Flyers scoring 56 points in the paint compared to just 22 for the Colonials. Freshman forward DaRon Holmes II gave GW issues all afternoon, scoring 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting to go along with seven rebounds and two blocks.

The Colonials’ big men struggled on both ends of the floor, and in the second half Christian opted to play junior forward Qwanzi Samuels on the floor instead of junior forward Hunter Dean and sophomore center Noel Brown. Samuels finished with 18 minutes of playtime compared to Dean and Brown’s combined minutes of 12.

Christian said he was “disappointed” the team wasn’t able to execute a game plan that “gave Dayton trouble.”

“We’re one of the best defensive teams in the league so far in the early part of the year,” Christian said. “We lead with our defense. We’re not a great offensive team at this point in the year, we haven’t been but we have been a very elite defensive team, in terms of how we’ve been able to defend the three, how we’ve been able to defend at the rim. Really the only thing we’ve been trying to correct is our rebounding.”

Currently, GW is ranked 161st in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency this season according to TeamRankings.com.

Junior guard James Bishop had a relatively quiet performance, finishing with 12 points, all of which came in the second half. Bishop was 0-of-5 from the field and 0-of-5 from deep at halftime. He found some rhythm in the second half, going 5-of-11 from the field, though it was not enough to give the Colonials a win.

“I thought he had really good looks,” Christian said. “I didn’t think he forced his shot tonight. He would have had a great night tonight, I think he finished with 12, if he makes two or three more threes that feels like a pretty good night. It’s more timeliness. We need those guys to make plays for us at the right time.”

The Flyers brought out a full court press early in the game to prevent GW from shedding a near month’s worth of rust, and it proved effective. At halftime, the Colonials had committed more turnovers than they had made baskets.

Freeman and Bamisile were the only players who could produce anything offensively, combining for 21 of the Colonials’ 23 points in the opening stanza.

On the other end of the floor, freshman guard Malachi Smith dominated, scoring all 13 of his points in the first half while also racking up six assists, six rebounds and three steals. Dayton went into the break with a 38-23 lead.

Smith was one of five Flyers to finish with double-digit points, along with Holmes, sophomore forward Toumani Camara, redshirt junior guard Elijah Weaver and redshirt freshman forward Mustapha Amzil. Dayton had more players score in double digits than GW had scorers on the day.

The highlight of the second half for the Colonials was a Freeman steal that led to a fast break dunk for Bamisile to cut the deficit to 48-35 with 14 minutes remaining. But as the game progressed further into the second half, a losing result became inevitable as the Flyers went on a 14-0 scoring run.

In an arena devoid of students and fans due to COVID-19 protocols, Freeman encouraged his teammates as they closed out the game down 21 points. “Let’s just hoop,” he said after a turnover from one of his teammates with two minutes left.

Despite the break from competitive play as a result of the postponements, Christian said the 26-day COVID pause was not the reason for the team’s performance Saturday.

“I do not think the lay off is a thing,” Christian said. “I think when you’re going to come out and play a good team, you’ve got to step up and you’ve got to play at the level of force that’s required for the game. We did not do that today. We will do that moving forward.”

The Colonials will look to rebound on the road against VCU Tuesday night. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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