Men’s basketball picked up their third straight win Saturday night with a 92-85 victory over La Salle that featured a career-high scoring performance from senior forward Hunter Dean.
The Colonials (15-14, 9-7 A-10) capitalized on consistent finishing at the rim and a steady offensive attack while holding the Explorers (13-16, 7-9 A-10) to 40 percent shooting from the field. With just two games remaining on the schedule, GW took another step toward solidifying a top-five Atlantic 10 finish and a first-round bye in the conference championship.
In a night where rebounding proved key to victory, Dean’s eight boards helped turn the battle for the glass in the Colonials’ favor in the second half. Registering 36 minutes, Dean only logged less time than senior guard and leading scorer James Bishop.
Dean got the scoring started with a powerful dunk off the assist from Bishop, the first two of his career-high 21 points of the night. GW jumped to an 8-0 lead within just three minutes, with five of those coming from Dean.
The Colonials controlled much of the game through their sheer scoring output, firing nearly 60 percent from the field and scoring 50 of their points in the painted area. La Salle managed to stay competitive thanks to a monster night on the offensive glass where they pulled down 21 of their own shots and converted that into 29 second-chance points.
Caputo said some of the rebounding struggles were due to the Colonials’ partial switch to a zone defense alongside a lack of focus and effort chasing loose balls, something he drilled into his squad at halftime.
“I thought we were going to give up the record for the most offensive rebounds in the history of college basketball,” Head Coach Chris Caputo said after the game.
The Explorers pushed back on the early GW run with two straight wing threes, with 15:27 to play. Both squads continued to trade baskets before senior guard James Bishop nailed a top-of-the-key, pull-up three to push the Colonials’ lead back up to 5 midway through the first half.
GW attempted just 14 3-pointers on the game compared to La Salle’s 38, a sign of the Colonials’ focus on getting inside and to the hoop.
La Salle grabbed their first lead of the ball game off a second-chance three from redshirt freshman guard Andres Marrero, putting the Explorers up 32-30 with 6:40 to go in the first half. Bishop responded with a layup on the other end, giving him 16 points through just 15 minutes of play.
Bishop would finish with 29 points and nine assists, leading the game in both categories. Bishop has been the undisputed leader of the GW offense this season and has combined his scoring prowess with a newly developed ability to find open teammates all over the court.
“You talk about a guy who’s got a skill set,” Caputo said, “Throw him in that thing at the All-Star Game, the skills competition. He’s very, very, very good. Pass, dribble, shoot.”
With three minutes to go in the first half, La Salle sophomore guard Daeshon Shepherd finished a contested layup at the basket to put the Explorers up two. The rest of the half was nearly scoreless, with a layup from graduate student guard Brendan Adams and a pair of La Salle free throws solidifying the halftime score at a 42-40 La Salle advantage.
The Colonials shot a healthy .615 percent in the first half, but their lack of success rebounding held them back from the lead.
“That’s basically all we talked about at halftime,” junior forward Ricky Lindo Jr. said. “Just boxing them out, grabbing it with two hands, finishing the possession and keep running.”
GW won the rebounding battle 23-17 in the second half and limited La Salle to just four offensive boards, propelling the Colonials to a massive scoring surge.
The score stayed tight throughout the first stages of the second half, with both sides swapping layups and free throws. With 14:36 to play, Adams sliced inside and finished at the rim to give GW a seven point advantage at 58-51.
From there, the Colonials managed to keep La Salle at an arm’s length, slowly building their lead to double digits while pounding it inside. With nine minutes to play, Adams knocked down GW’s lone second half 3-pointer off the assist from Bishop, pushing the lead to 17 points.
Head Coach Chris Caputo kept the rotation small all game, with just six players registering more than four minutes of play.
“I think this time of year, everybody is really trying to win,” Caputo said. “You’re not thinking about November like ‘Hey let me see if I can develop some depth,’ it’s more like, ‘Hey, what do we need to do to win today?’”
With just six minutes to go, Lindo Jr. knocked down a midrange jumper that put the GW lead at 20 points, the largest of the night. But the Explorers were not finished, going on a 20-9 run in the final three minutes that forced Caputo to put his starters back in, subbing them back in with just 15 seconds to go after relieving them a minute earlier.
But the barrage of threes from La Salle did not come in time, and the Colonials captured the victory, 92–85.
With the win, the Colonials now sit at sixth in the crowded A-10 standings, just a half-game back from fifth-place Duquesne. Two games remain on the schedule before the team packs its bags and heads to Brooklyn for the conference championship.
GW will head to North Carolina to play Davidson in their final road game of the year at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
This article appeared in the February 27, 2023 issue of the Hatchet.