Men’s basketball got their second consecutive win and third in four games in a 89-87 nailbiter over La Salle at home.
The Colonials (8-12, 4-4 A-10) were led in scoring by junior guard James Bishop and sophomore guard Joe Bamisile, who had 27 and 24 points, respectively. Bamisile had 17 points in the first half and Bishop chipped in 23 second half points.
Although GW led for 34 of the 40 minutes, the Explorers (6-13, 1-8 A-10) kept it close throughout the game and had a chance to win it at the buzzer. La Salle was led in scoring and assists by sophomore guard Jhamir Brickus, who finished with 20 points and eight assists.
GW set a season high for assists with 19 and 3-pointers with 13, but struggled rebounding, getting outrebounded 46-26. Similarly, La Salle had a 21-6 advantage on the offensive boards and a 20-4 edge in second chance points.
“It was a great college basketball game to watch,” head coach Jamion Christian said. “It’s kind of a tough college basketball game to coach. But it was good our team was able to step up and play offensively at the level we needed to. Obviously, defensively we really struggled guarding those guys tonight and they had some guys that had some really good nights and they did some things that we just struggled with today.”
GW started the game with a strong showing from junior forward Qwanzi Samuels, who had 8 points in the first eight minutes of the game, including two 3-pointers. Recently, opposing teams have been leaving Samuels open beyond the 3-point line, daring him to take long range shots.
This was the first time the District Heights, MD native has hit multiple 3-pointers in one game in his GW career. He finished the game with 8 points, four rebounds, two assists, a block and a steal.
For the rest of the half, it was the Joe Bamisile show. He seemingly couldn’t miss from behind the arc, finishing the half going 5-of-6 from 3-point range, with smiles and celebrations abound following each bucket.
GW as a whole finished with a staggering 10 3-pointers in the first half alone, tying the team’s season high for 3-pointers made in a game. The team excelled in transition throughout the game, especially in the first half, although Christian said it could have been even better.
“I think if we started making some better decisions in transition, we might have had like 24 assists tonight,” Christian said. “So, definitely some areas we can get better at, but I’m encouraged in our ability to move the ball.”
Going into the half, the Colonials led 48-46. Coming out of the break GW started strong offensively but struggled to get a stop.
On the first possession of the second half, Christian designed a play to get Bishop a look on a mid-range jumper. Bishop hit the shot and never looked back, scoring 23 points on 6-of-10 shooting in the second half.
Freshman guard Brayon Freeman had a great night, ending the game with 12 points, seven assists, three rebounds, two steals, and only one turnover. The DMV native showed his prowess driving into the lane, creating scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates.
Freshman guard Khalil Brantley helped the Explorers creep back into the game mid-way through the second half, scoring 8 of his 11 points in the second half and providing a spark for La Salle. Brantley finished the game with four rebounds, four assists and a steal to go along with his points total.
Hunter Dean had 13 points, six rebounds and a steal on 4-6 shooting from the field and 5-5 from the free throw line, a notable achievement as he had only made 8-20 so far this year.
Dean also tied a career high with five blocks. However, with 5:23 remaining, he picked up his fourth foul, limiting his minutes down the stretch.
After a relatively quiet second half, Bamisile popped up and hit a 3-pointer to extend the Colonials lead to 5 points heading into the final media timeout. A few minutes later, he took some contact on a Brickus layup and went down grabbing his ribs for a few moments.
But he soon popped back up and was able to finish the game with 24 points, four steals, two assists and two rebounds on 8-14 shooting from the field and 7-10 shooting from three. The seven made 3-pointers is a career high for Bamisile, who has steadily improved his 3-point shooting as the year has gone on.
“I’m a trooper,” Bamisile said.
The Explorers were able to pull within 3 points with 24 seconds left before Bishop crossed up La Salle sophomore guard Anwar Gill at halfcourt, causing the D.C. native hit the scorers table. Bishop then drew a foul and hit both free throws to put GW up 88-83 and seemingly ice the game.
But the Colonials didn’t make it easy on themselves, as Bamisile fouled Brickus on a made 3-pointer with five seconds remaining.
“We actually reviewed it yesterday in practice and two days before that, so you know, we got to obviously go back and review it again to make sure the guys understand,” Christian said. “In those situations where threes are the only things that can beat you, you just got to understand that once that guy dribbles inside the 3-point line, everybody should be expanding out.”
After Brickus made the free throw to make it 88-87 and La Salle head coach Ashley Howard took a timeout to draw up a full court press, Bishop was fouled again. This time he made the first shot and missed the second one.
Redshirt senior forward Clifton Moore grabbed the rebound and heaved up a halfcourt shot that would have won the game for the Explorers.
“I just said a prayer,” Bishop said. “I was just hoping he didn’t make that”
Fortunately for GW, the shot clanged off the back iron and the Colonials made it out victorious to remain in eighth place in the Atlantic 10.
The Colonials will look to win their third game in a row when they take on Davidson for a 2 p.m. tipoff at home. Davidson was ranked in the AP Poll last week and has wins over Alabama, Richmond and VCU this season, all away from home.