Men’s basketball picked up their second road win of the season and their ninth consecutive win against Massachusetts Wednesday night.
The Colonials (9-13, 5-5 A-10) were in control for much of the game and were able to close it out 77–68 thanks to a 5-0 run in the last 2:24 of the game. The Minutemen (10-12, 3-7 A-10) came into the game as the seventh-best three point shooting team in the country, shooting 39.6 percent from beyond the arc, but the Colonials held them to just 8-of-27 from three point range.
“They’re a really good three point shooting team,” head coach Jamion Christian said. “But we’re also a very good three point defensive team. We had a plan going into the game we thought would work and we had a secondary defensive plan that we thought we might need to use in terms of switching.”
Massachusetts started out hot, shooting 4-of-5 from three point range, leading 14-8 going into the first media timeout. After that, GW adjusted to their alternate defensive plan and locked down their perimeter defense while settling into the game offensively.
Junior guard James Bishop spearheaded the team’s attack early, scoring 12 of his game-high 24 points in the first half to start another strong night offensively despite finishing the game 0-of-5 from beyond the arc.
But perhaps the most important aspect of his performance was the defensive work he did on junior guard Noah Fernandes.
Coming into the game, Fernandes was the Minutemen’s leading scorer with 15.7 points per game. Bishop, who guarded Fernandes most of the night, limited him to four points on 1-of-11 shooting, not allowing him to score until 36 minutes into the game.
“James has been outstanding for us defensively.” Christian said. “And then, our switching, I thought affected him, it affected his rhythm, how he was able to play.”
The Colonials controlled the glass all night, finishing with a 41 to 29 rebounding advantage and a 12 to 6 edge on the offensive boards, allowing GW to outscore Massachusetts 36-30 in the paint.
At halftime, GW was leading 43-38 thanks in part to an efficient outing from freshman guard Brayon Freeman, who had nine points on 4-of-5 shooting to go along with three assists, two rebounds and a steal.
Freeman maintained his good form after the half, hitting a few off balance, contested shots to go along with impressive finishes at the rim and wily passes to his teammates. The DMV native finished with 15 points, five rebounds, five assists and a steal in a team-high 36 minutes.
Senior forward Ricky Lindo Jr. grabbed six defensive boards and blocked a shot in limited minutes. Lindo was in and out of the game due to an injury, but Christian said he will play a key part in GW’s next game.
“Ricky’s a great player, a great defensive player,” Christian said. “He does a lot of things at such a high level. We wanted to be a little conservative with him because it’s such a big game on Saturday.”
Mid-way through the second half, the Colonials slowed down offensively. Eight minutes into the second half the Colonials were only shooting 27 percent from the field, but still held a 56–51 lead.
“We missed about four layups in about a five-minute span.” Christian said. “So you know, it’s really just about not overreacting.”
Graduate student guard Brendan Adams had 15 points, five assists, two rebounds and two steals, earning him ‘George’s Chain of Command’. The chain acts as a ‘Player of the Game’ trophy and is a new addition this season.
After struggling with an injury at the beginning of conference play, Adams has been a key contributor for the Colonials recently.
After junior forward Hunter Dean split a pair of free throws to make it 75–68 with 1:40 remaining, graduate student guard Rich Kelly missed a long three-pointer that would have pulled Massachusetts within four points. Minutemen head coach Matt McCall opted not to foul, allowing the Colonials to close the game out.
“No one picked us where we are now,” Christian said. “We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us. I never allow people to put my team or myself in a box. We’re going to be as good as how much we learn and we’ve been learning a ton.”
The Colonials continue their three game road trip on Saturday at Dayton, who sits third in the A-10 and beat GW 83-58 on Jan. 8 at the Smith Center. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m.