Men’s basketball trounced the South Carolina Gamecocks 79-55 in a nationally televised showdown at the Smith Center Wednesday night – the team’s first win against a Power 5 opponent since 2016.
Led by senior guard James Bishop IV, the Colonials rained a barrage of 3-pointers down on the Gamecocks, five of which came from the slithery southpaw who finished the game with 24 points. On the other end of the floor, GW’s defense was tenacious, allowing only 22 South Carolina points in the paint and 55 points in total on the night.
In a post-game interview, Head Coach Chris Caputo said the team’s elevated effort and energy, particularly on the defensive end, translated to the Colonials’ success in the blowout victory.
“The message today was we’re going to start with maximum effort to start the game, and I thought we did,” Caputo said.
A total of 2,216 fans packed the Smith Center, the second-highest attendance of the year behind the Colonials’ matchup against Howard in early November. And the fans weren’t the only notable attendees – at least 10 scouts from eight NBA teams were in the stands for the game, according to a GW Athletics attendance sheet.
After a pre-game hype video and the announcement of the starting lineups got the Smith Center rocking, senior forward Hunter Dean slammed home a monstrous dunk to put GW on the board first just 32 seconds into the game, and the Buff and Blue never looked back.
Thanks to the Dean dunk that ignited the already-buzzing crowd, it didn’t take long for Bishop to start heating up. His first shot of the game came in the form of a right-wing 3-pointer off an assist from graduate student guard E.J. Clark, which he followed up with a deep three from the top of the key, courtesy of a Dean offensive board, to give GW a 15-7 lead nine minutes into the game.
The pair of threes from Bishop sparked a 12-0 GW run, tied for their longest of the game, which included a 3-pointer from graduate student guard Brendan Adams that sent the crowd into a frenzy and put the score at 27-10.
In a highlight reel play during their run that epitomized the Colonials’ night, senior forward Ricky Lindo Jr. careened across the court to track down a tipped offensive rebound that he managed to shovel to Bishop. The 6-foot-2 point guard gathered, weaved his way past two South Carolina defenders and banked in a tough layup high off the glass plus the foul.
GW’s defense commanded the first half, holding South Carolina’s offense to 20 points. Five-star freshman forward GG Jackson II – who was met with chants of “overrated” from the crowd all game – could only muster two points on eight shot attempts. The Gamecocks’ 20 first-half points are the fewest GW has allowed in a half all year, according to GW’s media kit.
Jackson, the highest-rated recruit in South Carolina’s history, made just four of his 17 shot attempts, and his 11 points accounted for his lowest total of the season.
Thanks to their stingy defense and 15 points from Bishop, the Colonials entered the locker room at the half with a comfortable 40-20 lead.
The lead may have been comfortable, but GW still came roaring out of the gates in the second half with a sense of urgency. 3-pointers from Lindo and Adams, a layup from Dean and two Lindo free throws composed a 10-0 GW run. The scoring streak stretched to 12 when Lindo uncorked a vicious dunk off a James Bishop assist, giving GW a 55-23 lead with 15:54 left in the half and sending the Smith Center into pandemonium.
Throughout the night, Lindo dictated the terms of the game, knocking down six of his eight shot attempts, grabbing six boards and stoutly defending South Carolina’s Jackson, a 17-year-old recruit already carrying a heavy load for the Gamecocks.
Lindo said beating a Power 5 team in the Smith Center in front of such a raucous crowd was especially meaningful for himself and Bishop as senior leaders on the team.
“It was big for us, not just for the school, but just for ourselves,” Lindo said. “Me and JB have probably been here the longest, and it was just big for ourselves.”
The Gamecocks were the first Power 5 school to visit the Smith Center since 2017, when the sixth-ranked Miami Hurricanes arrived in D.C. to beat the Colonials 59-50.
In fitting fashion, Bishop put the last exclamation point on the Colonials’ incredible night. His fifth and final 3-pointer, a flailing heave from the left wing that kissed off the glass and nestled in the bottom of the net, capped off a statement win for GW.
South Carolina Head Coach Lamont Paris lamented the loss, saying the Colonials simply outcompeted South Carolina’s young team.
“They were more competitive than us, and I don’t have a magic play for that,” he told The State, a South Carolina-based newspaper. “We got our butts kicked.”
At the end of the day, Caputo said he wants to thank the students who showed up to the game and brought passionate energy.
“It certainly felt like, particularly, the student section was incredible, and it gives you a chance to build a great program when you have that type of support,” he said.
The Buff and Blue will travel to Virginia Sunday to challenge Radford. Tip-off is at 2 p.m.