Men’s basketball drops game at home after brief winning streak

Media Credit: Raphael Kellner | Staff Photographer

The Colonials led through the end of the half and kept the game close but could not pull off a win.

Men’s basketball fell to Atlantic-10 top dog Davidson Saturday afternoon in a hard-fought battle.

The Colonials (8-13, 4-5 A-10) led for 15 of 40 minutes but were ultimately unable to overcome the Wildcats (19-3, 9-1 A-10) in a 78-73 loss down the stretch. Senior forward Luka Brajkovic was dominant for Davidson, finishing with 30 points, eight rebounds, three assists, a block and a steal to hand the Wildcats their 18th victory in their last 19 games.

“Thirty-five minutes out of the 40, I thought we were the better team,” Head Coach Jamion Christian said. “I mean, it’s exciting to be with a group of guys where you can go play against a great program like Davidson and just answer the call. They made some big plays, and we responded.”

But GW had no answer for the Austria native, who shot 11-of-14 from the field and 2-of-3 from three point range. The Colonials’ issues dealing with Brajkovic were compounded by foul trouble in their frontcourt.

“He got going, and ultimately it bit us in the butt a little bit,” sophomore guard Joe Bamisile said.

Just over four minutes into the game, junior forward Qwanzi Samuels and senior forward Ricky Lindo Jr. both had two fouls, limiting their minutes for the rest of the first half. In his first game back from injury, sophomore center Noel Brown also picked up four fouls, and junior forward Hunter Dean fouled out in the last minute of the game.

“I just tried to play guys two minutes at a time and just tried to keep them out of foul trouble,” Christian said. “And Noel Brown had three in the first half, Ricky Lindo had three in the first half. So you just try to move guys in and out of the lineup just to try to keep them from getting fouls and banging in too much.”

Despite a 7-0 Davidson run to start the game, the Colonials managed to stay in it thanks to a terrific shooting performance from junior guard James Bishop, who had 21 first half points.

Bishop cooled off in the second half but still finished the game with 26 points to go along with three rebounds, three steals and an assist. This was the Baltimore native’s fourth consecutive game with more than 25 points, and Bishop is averaging 20.2 points per game in conference play this year.

“I was just getting good shots and the ball felt good so it went in, and I kept shooting,” Bishop said.

Although Bishop’s offensive performance will garner the most attention, he was phenomenal on defense as well. He held Davidson’s leading scorer, junior guard Hyunjung Lee, to only six points on 1-of-8 shooting through 33 minutes. Lee had averaged 16 points per game coming into Saturday’s game.

“I think the job he’s done defensively the last three or four games has been special,” Christian said. “That’s a really tough cover there. Lee can really play. He’s got good size, and I liked James Bishop getting to his feet there and making him have a really long day.”

Davidson came into the game with the fourth best 3-point shooting percentage in the country, but GW was able to limit them to only 3-of-11 from beyond the arc in the first half.

The Colonials held a consistent lead throughout the first half, with their biggest lead coming with 1:05 remaining in the half after a pair of free throws from Bamisile put them up 42-30. Bamisile was the Colonials’ second leading scorer on the day with 19 points.

In the final minute of the first half, Davidson gained some momentum going into the break with a scoring spurt that pulled them to being down 8 points, 42-34.

The Wildcats continued that momentum at the start of the second half. After a basket each from Samuels and freshman guard Brayon Freeman, Davidson ripped off a 15-0 run to go up 51-47 with 14:29 remaining in the game.

Davidson looked primed to pull away with 11:14 remaining and a 61-52 lead, their largest of the day, but GW locked it down on defense, got timely baskets and kept it close. A Bamisile 3-pointer knotted the game up at 63 apiece with 7:13 remaining as the GW fans in the crowd came to life.

Bamisile put in a layup with 2:04 left to tie the game again at 73, but those would be their last points of the day. After Bamisile missed a 3-pointer and Brajkovic grabbed the defensive rebound, Davidson Head Coach Bob McKillop took a timeout and drew up a play.

Coming out of the timeout, the Wildcats found the hot hand and fed it to Brajkovic down low, who got the basket and drew a foul from Hunter Dean. Brajkovic sank the free throw to make it 76-73 with 56 seconds left.

Christian then took a timeout of his own with 50 seconds remaining. Bamisile drove to the basket and was fouled. He couldn’t get the original shot to fall and missed both of the free throws.

Up to that point, GW was a perfect 10-for-10 from the line.

Christian elected to foul with 26 seconds left, and senior guard Foster Loyer split a pair of free throws to put Davidson up four. Bishop then missed a contested 3-pointer with 11 seconds remaining.

The Colonials begin a three-game road trip, starting in Amherst where they will take on Massachusetts Wednesday night at 7 p.m.

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