Men’s basketball defeated Western Connecticut State 78–61 in its first exhibition game of the season Sunday after forcing turnovers and maintaining a patient offense to build a big lead early.
In their first matchup on the season, the Colonials scored quick fast break points off 13 turnovers by the Wolves, which accounted for 22 points for the GW team. The Colonials showcased their perimeter shooting on offense, firing 31 shots from long range at a clip of 48.4 percent.
The GW fast break repeatedly pushed the Colonials to the top of the court, where their 3-point game padded an indestructible lead that downed Division III Western Connecticut State with ease.
“It was more let’s keep the ball moving,” Head Coach Chris Caputo said in a post game interview. “You know, let’s see if we can get them into a mistake. And then the ball found the open guy, and that guy stepped up with confidence and made threes.”
In his GW debut, redshirt freshman guard Max Edwards played the most minutes for the Colonials at nearly 31, while scoring 18 points and bringing in nine rebounds.
Edwards, a transfer from Kansas State, did not play last season due to an injury and saw his first collegiate minutes Sunday. With a 6’5” frame and the skills of a guard, Edwards grabbed a game-high three offensive boards and tied for second in individual 3-point percentage, hitting three out of six attempts.
“He’s got things that he can do that not a lot of guys on the team can do, or maybe freshmen in this league might be able to do,” head coach Chris Caputo said. “So I’m very happy with him. He’s a great guy.”
The game opened with a slow start for both teams, with the first field goal for the Colonials coming two and a half minutes into the first quarter when Edwards knocked down a triple. GW managed to slowly build a lead they would not lose from there, with senior guard James Bishop hitting from beyond the arc to set a 10-point lead seven minutes into the game.
GW controlled the pace of the game in the first half, driving the fast break off turnovers but running a slower half court attack focused on driving and kicking the ball out to the perimeter. With graduate point guard Brendan Adams sidelined with an injury, James Bishop was at the helm of the Colonials offense and dished out a game-high six assists.
“He can make all the reads on the pick and roll,” Caputo said. “He’s not 6’5” or 6’6” right? But at his size, he’s got great vision. I mean, I believe he had six assists and no turnovers. He rarely turns the ball over.”
The Colonials continued to build their lead while relying on the three point shot, closing the half with a 40-22 lead after going 10 for 19 from deep. GW turned the ball over just three times while forcing nine from the Wolves, allowing the Colonials to take advantage of the fast break.
Graduate guard E.J. Clark hit a contested three ball off the dribble to start the second half coming off an assist from Bishop. Clark would go on to score 11 points and knock down two from beyond the arc.
“I just feel like our teammates set us up good,” Clark said. “Just getting in the gym and putting in the work, that’s what we do everyday.”
Two minutes into the second half, senior forward Ricky Lindo nailed a three off a defensive stop to give the Colonials their largest lead of the night at 28. Shortly after, Western Connecticut State launched a full court press that forced the Colonials into multiple turnovers.
“We’ve got guys with very little experience in college basketball, and quite honestly, they’re not guards,” Caputo said. “They’re more wings right? And you’re getting pressed by a team that’s a good pressing team.”
Lindo made a powerful statement when he hammered in a dunk off an assist from senior forward Qwanzi Samuels with 12 minutes to go. While celebrating, Lindo had a word with his defender that drew a technical foul from officials that led to two netted free throws and a free possession for Western Connecticut State.
Within the last eight minutes, Caputo began to cycle out his best players, substituting them with reserves and younger team members. With Adams injured and Bishop on the bench, the Wolves’ defensive pressure began to take hold, chipping away at the GW lead to cut it down to 17.
With four minutes to go, the Colonials strung together a series of trips to the free throw line as Western Connecticut State continued its aggressive defensive posture. At the final buzzer, GW came out on top 78-61, leading in just about every statistical category.
The Colonials’ first showing under Caputo had an emphasis on firing from beyond the arc, combined with solid interior defense and subsequent control of the glass.
Caputo said with an anticipated return of starters Brendan Adams and senior forward Hunter Dean for the next matchup, GW is ready to be firing on all cylinders for the official first game of the regular season. Caputo said Adams will bring the ball down the court and take the lead on offense for the GW team, which account for primary point guard duties. He said the 6’10”, 235 pound Dean will anchor the defensive unit as a key rebounder.
The Colonials will officially kick off their season Monday against Virginia State in the Smith Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.