Pittsburgh, PA — George Washington interim coach Maurice Joseph knew his team came out sluggish and this was evidenced by 13 first half points. Something had to change and he had two things in mind.
The first was to let graduate student Tyler Cavanaugh speak. Joseph stated that this was Cavanaugh’s team, so the coach said his piece and got out of the way.
“Stay the course like we have this year and keep fighting and make enough stops,” Cavanaugh said. “That’s a credit to the coaches and to Coach Joseph for keeping us focused and taking it in four-minute increments and just fighting each possession as if it’s our last, because we didn’t want to go home tonight.”
Joseph’s own words were the second thing. He wanted his team to switch to a 1-3-1 defensive scheme to put more pressure on Saint Louis to be faster on offense and create more mistakes.
“We knew they were going to go to it, I just was wondering when,” Saint Louis coach Travis Ford said. “It slowed us down, no doubt and turned us over, probably more than anything. The one-three-one was a difference, no question. It helped them.”
GW trailed by 12 points with 11:23 remaining in the second half but used its defense to frustrate the Billikens and win 53-46 Thursday night at PPG Paints Arena.
“Obviously the change of defense was huge for us,” said Joseph. “We’ve come back from big deficits before this season, and I was glad to see our guys dictate how they wanted their season to end. It wasn’t going to be tonight and the guys made that decision at halftime, so I’m proud of the guys, how they fought back.”
Another comeback win today for George Washington University Colonials, who defeated Billiken Athletics, 53-46 to earn a spot in tomorrow's #A10MBB quarterfinals against Richmond Athletics at 8:30 pm on NBCSN.
Posted by Atlantic 10 Conference on Thursday, March 9, 2017
Another big reason for GW’s win was sophomore guard Jordan Roland. The Colonials were 0-13 on their 3-point shots before Roland nailed two in a row. He had 10 points, all scored in the second half and each came at a time when GW’s offense remained stagnant and needed a boost.
Roland also made a crucial steal with 5:55 remaining in regulation, leaping to intercept Saint Louis’s Reggie Agbeko’s attempt to reset the offense. Instead, Roland found Matt Hart for an easy two points.
Yuta Watanabe was the other major factor in this game. On the surface, his nod to the Atlantic 10 All-Defensive Team stands out but his effort on that end features face guarding the smallest player on the floor, something which is difficult to achieve over 40 minutes.
What makes Watanabe special on defense is his refusal to back down, let alone take a breather.
“I asked him at one point, ‘Do you need a sub or are you tired,'” Joseph said. “He told me, ‘Hell, no.’ And I was like, ‘Go do your thing, man, you’re good to go.’ He’s a warrior. He deserves to be all conference. He’s one of the most selfless teammates I’ve ever met.”
Watanabe held Saint Louis’s leading scorer Davell Roby to four points on 2-8 shooting. Though Roby had 10 rebounds, none came on the offensive end and the Saint Louis guard had seven turnovers.
Mason continues fast progression
When Dave Paulsen was hired by George Mason to be its new coach, he came in with a winning background. No one could have expected him to bring a winner to Fairfax so quickly.
After an 18 win regular season, George Mason showed it was capable to competing in a tough Atlantic 10 Conference, but winning in the A-10 Championship was an entirely differently animal, one the Patriots had unsuccessfully attempted in each of the past three seasons.
In its fourth year as members of the Atlantic 10, George Mason overcame a seven point deficit with 1:01 remaining to defeat Fordham 82-71 in overtime,
“I don’t know that I’ve ever been a part of that big of a comeback that late in the game, and you know, everything had to go right for us, and I give our guys just a tremendous amount of credit for their grit, for their resolve, for not getting rattled, for making big plays, and obviously that energized us in the second half,” Paulsen said.
What a finish PPG Paints Arena! George Mason Athletics ties it at the buzzer and controls the OT period to advance to the #A10MBB quarters against VCU tomorrow on NBCSN.
Posted by Atlantic 10 Conference on Thursday, March 9, 2017
George Mason advanced to the Atlantic 10 Championship quarterfinals, just a year after an 11-21 record. George Mason’s 19 wins are the most since the 2012-13 season.
“This really just shows our maturity, our resilience,” senior Marquise Moore said. “We grew up a lot over that last year, just coming together as one. We learned how to fight. We learned how to stay mentally and physically tough. We just showed that in that overtime period and the last two or three minutes of that game, we just stuck together through adversity and was able to come up with the win.”
On the other end was Fordham a team which experienced its first winning season last year since the 2006-07 season. Its losses from that team were felt as the Rams could not replicate that success.
Still it had a chance to earn a win but missed free throws and allowed an open pass which led to the game tying lay-up which forced overtime.
In the overtime period, George Mason used that momentum shooting 75% while Fordham was held to 1-6 shooting, good for 16.7%.
“I thought it was a great March basketball game, both teams played very well,” Fordham coach Jeff Neubauer said. “I give George Mason a lot of credit down the stretch. They made a couple big shots.”
George Washington will play Richmond Friday at 8:30 p.m in the last of four Atlantic 10 Championship quarterfinal games. GW lost both regular season meetings to Richmond. George Mason will face VCU in a matchup which certainly will bring out the emotions of both teams. VCU won both regular season meetings. That game will tip off at 6:00 p.m.