Men’s Basketball was eliminated from the A-10 Championship tournament Wednesday by Saint Joseph’s, marking the end of what was their most successful season in six years.
The Colonials (16-16, 10-8 A-10) came into this game as the seventh seed looking to knock off the 10th-seeded Hawks (16-16, 8-10 A-10), who were fresh off a 5-point victory against 15th-seed Loyola University Chicago the previous day. The lead traded hands seven times with the Colonials leading by as many as 13 in the first half, but Saint Joseph’s was ultimately able to pull away in the end to win by 11 points with a final score of 87-76.
Senior guard James Bishop led the way for the Colonials, scoring 25 points and dishing out eight assists while shooting 8 for 20 from the field.
As they’ve done all season, the Colonials relied heavily on Bishop to create offense, and he met the moment, sparking up GW’s offense with play after play that kept them in the game for much of the 40 minutes. Bishop led the Atlantic 10 in scoring this season, averaging 21.5 points per game, and also made the A-10 All-Conference First Team.
The Colonials got help from senior forward Ricky Lindo Jr, who scored 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds as well as graduate student guard Brendan Adams, who chipped in 14 points. Adams won the A-10 Most Improved Player award this season, and this game likely marked his final time playing basketball for GW.
“It’s been great, especially this past year,” Adams said in an emotional press conference. “Just the way Coach [Head Coach Chris Caputo] came in and the way the fans kind of rallied around him. It was great to play in the Smith Center this year especially. And we had a great year, I had great bonds with the guys, they’re my brothers out here.”
GW kicked off the game with a 9–0 scoring burst starting when senior forward Hunter Dean hit a layup on the first possession of the game and ending with an alley oop dunk from Lindo Jr. off an assist from Dean to cap off the run with 17:27 left in the first half.
After a jumper from Hawks guard Lynn Greer III, freshman guard and A-10 Rookie of the Year Maximus Edwards hit a step-back 3-pointer to give the Colonials a 12–2 lead. GW maintained a healthy lead for much of the first 10 minutes, with Bishop hitting a floater to put them up 23-10 with 11:26 to go in the half.
Saint Joseph’s responded by going on an 11-0 run to make it 23-20 with eight minutes to play, and the teams traded baskets for the remainder of the half. The Hawks led GW by one point at halftime, 42-41.
While the Colonials shot just 40 percent from the field in the first half, they managed to sink 14 of 15 free throws, many of them coming on bonus attempts after drawing fouls.
The Colonials kept the game close for much of the second half. With around 10 minutes left in the game, the Hawks had a five point lead before Bishop poured in 7-straight GW points, capped off by a pull-up 3-pointer that put GW up 65-63 with 7:47 left in regulation.
Saint Joseph’s sophomore guard Erik Reynolds II hit a three and then a nifty layup to give the Hawks a 5-point lead with 3:45 left in the game. After another three from Saint Joseph’s, this time from senior guard Cameron Brown, Adams hit a 3-pointer of his own to make it a one-possession game.The Colonials trailed 72-75 with 1:40 left in the game.
After a GW timeout, the Hawks hit two consecutive threes and then hit several clutch free throws to put the game out of reach. Reynolds iced the game with two free throws to put Saint Joseph’s up 87-76 with 12.7 seconds left. He finished with a career-high 34 points on 10-22 shooting and a perfect 12-12 from the foul line along with six rebounds and four assists.
“I thought Reynolds was just terrific,” Caputo said postgame. “Shotmaking, his ability to get to the free-throw line. He shot 12 free throws. Difficult guy to defend. Bottom line, you know, one the best scorers in the league but we’re not there as a program yet. We have some things to do that we’re going to have to do to be able to defend people on a better level.”
Head Coach Chris Caputo also reflected on his first year as head coach and leader of the program.
“You know, as I’ve said, I inherited just a really great group of guys,” Caputo said. “And we got a group that was very, very eager to learn, to be part of something maybe bigger than themselves, try to find some success, and we did that. Obviously the most wins since ’17 and the most conference wins since ’17.”
Caputo’s arrival this year, leading the Colonials to their best record since 2017, brought Smith Center attendance records not seen since before the pandemic and earned him a finalist spot for the NCAA’s Joe B. Hall New Coach of the Year Award.
“You know, we love D.C. We love the institution.” Caputo said, “I think I’m a good fit at GW. GW is a good fit for me. I think what the students have done, kind of rallied around the program, the players, the idea of creating a great environment at the Smith Center. There’s a lot there.”
Both the Bishop and Adam’s were emotional during the press conference and Caputo pointed to this as evidence of the teams commitment to winning and to each other.
“I had such a high view of the program, the university, location, at everything, you know, and, while it’s sad, I also think it says a lot about where they’ve come in a year, because I don’t know that they felt this way the year ago but right now for them it hurts because they put so much into it.” Caputo said.
This article appeared in the March 9, 2023 issue of the Hatchet.