Men’s basketball downs Dayton to claim fourth place in A-10 in pivotal win

Media Credit: Rachel Schwartz | Assistant Photo Editor

Edwards got the scoring underway less than a minute in with a two-handed dunk off the dribble that brought a packed Smith Center of 2,380 to its feet.

Men’s basketball took down the Atlantic 10-leading Dayton 76-69 in a heated matchup, as GW’s interior defense and elite trio of guards kept them in control throughout.

The starting trio of guards – senior James Bishop, redshirt freshman Maximus Edwards and senior Brendan Adams – led the way for the Colonials (10-9, 4-2) with a combined 60 points as they attacked the basket and spread the court, forcing Dayton (13-7, 5-2) into a high-paced matchup. Bishop, who leads the A-10 in scoring with 21.9 points per game, dropped 27 points on 10 out of 19 shots.

Edwards got the scoring underway less than a minute in with a two-handed dunk off the dribble that brought a packed Smith Center of 2,380 to its feet. The Colonials were able to slam it home again when Bishop found senior forward Hunter Dean for an easy dunk to go up 5 three minutes into the game.

Bishop continued to find his teammates throughout the afternoon, dishing out seven assists, including six in the first half alone.

“You almost take his decision-making for granted, it’s so good,” Head Coach Chris Caputo said of Bishop’s playmaking in a post-game press conference. “When he makes a mistake or a bad read, I’m like ‘Wow, I haven’t seen one of those in a long time.’”

The Flyers stayed within one possession until the 10-minute mark, when GW went on a midhalf, 10-0 run capped off by another Edwards dunk to extend the lead to 24-12 with seven minutes to play in the first. Edwards trailed only Bishop and Adams in individual scoring during the game, netting 15 points on 3-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc.

Bishop notched his sixth assist of the half with just 1:36 to play in the first when he found senior forward Ricky Lindo Jr. under the basket for an emphatic dunk. The first half closed in dramatic fashion when graduate guard Brendan Adams inbounded the ball to Edwards who, with a quick catch-and-shoot in less than 1.6 seconds, drained a fadeaway three to beat the buzzer, igniting the crowd and giving GW a 36-22 halftime lead.

“I’m playing with two of the best guards in the A-10 in my opinion,” Edwards said in the postgame press conference. “So I know they’re going to find me. I just play my part.”

Dayton opened the first half with a quick three from freshman forward Mike Sharavjamts, cutting the lead to single digits at 9.

The Flyers relied on their big men inside for offensive production as they have all season. Their two leading scorers in points per game, sophomore DaRon Holmes and junior Toumani Camara, are 6’10” and 6’8” respectively, making them one of the tallest and most physical teams in the A-10.

The Colonials were able to limit Holmes schematically, shifting the defense when he received the ball on the low block.

Caputo said the double teams didn’t always prevent Holmes from finding the open extra man, but they disrupted the post player’s thought process, forcing him to predict whether the double team may be coming at all and when.

“We brought doubles to them early,” Caputo said of GW’s defense against Holmes. “And sometimes doubling people is more about rhythm.”

Dayton came into the matchup with the highest average rebounding differential in the A-10, yet GW controlled the boards throughout, resulting in a 39-35 glass advantage for the Colonials.

With just less than 13 to play in the second half, Holmes found an open dunk off a GW turnover to cut the lead to 6. Junior center Noel Brown responded with a post hook off the assist from Edwards to push the lead back to 8.

GW managed to keep the Flyers at an arm’s length as the half ticked away, continuing to rely on Bishop, Edwards and Adams for scoring and ball movement. The three played an average of 37 minutes, just three minutes shy of a full game each.

Despite trailing by near double digits, Dayton began to foul GW ball handlers to conserve the clock with just less than two minutes to go, leading Adams to make 11 out of 12 free throws, sealing the game in front of a raging crowd.

The A-10 matchup, which was nationally televised on the USA Network, had the highest attendance at the Smith Center this year, including a plethora of NBA scouts from franchises the Charlotte Hornets, the Philadelphia 76ers, the Chicago Bulls, the Denver Nuggets and the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“It was a long winter break,” Edwards said. “I don’t know how many games it was when they weren’t here, but it was very great to see them. They got loud, and we really needed it today.”

Dayton came into this matchup atop the A-10 and sporting a top-10 defense in the country in points allowed per game. At 13-6, the Flyers and their fans who showed up en masse to the Smith Center clad in red with their eyes set on a March Madness tournament berth.

In the end, GW’s trio of scoring guards, the schematic defensive advantage on the interior and their control of the glass proved too much for the Flyers to handle. On that last point, the Colonials are now 9-1 when they out-rebound their opponents.

With the win, GW moves to fourth place in the crowded upper-echelon of the Atlantic 10 Conference, just two games back from leaders VCU and Saint Louis. When asked postgame if Edwards thought the Colonials had a chance of winning the conference, he didn’t hesitate.

“I don’t see why anyone in the locker room shouldn’t think that we can. I think it’s very possible, very possible,” Edwards said.

GW will host Saint Joseph at the Smith Center on Wednesday at 7 p.m. as they look to continue their two-game A-10 winning streak.

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