Pittsburgh, PA — George Washington men’s basketball forward Tyler Cavanaugh was having his way with Richmond and the Spiders had to offer a quick response if they wanted to advance to the Atlantic 10 Championship semifinals.
With the game very competitive and each possession having a purpose, Richmond determined the solution would be an increased intensity.
For the final 7:34 of game action, Cavanaugh did not get a shot off and Richmond held off a final minute GW rally to win 70-67 Friday night at PPG Paints Arena.
“I think it just shows our heart that we have,” senior forward T.J. Cline said. “We know when it the comes down to the last few minutes down to the wire that, we need to man up and make defensive plays. You know, credit him. He played really, really well. He shot the three well. He was doing well down low. And we knew we couldn’t let him continue doing that, so I thought we did a really good job of locking in on him and kind of making sure he didn’t get any post touches, and if he did, there was kinds of people around him to crowd him.”
Richmond Athletics clinched the final spot in the #A10MBB semifinals with a 70-67 victory over George Washington University Colonials. Watch the highlights!
Posted by Atlantic 10 Conference on Friday, March 10, 2017
GW interim coach Maurice Joseph noticed the lack of offensive production from Cavanaugh late and credited Richmond’s defense.
“They did a good job of just kind of staying on top of them, and you know, we had some pretty stagnant possessions there where we took some last-second shots,” he said. “They did a good job of switching, especially defenses, and the way they play, you never know if they are in a match-up zone where we could screen them or within our traditional zone. So they did a good job of masking what they wanted to do, and that made us stagnant a little bit. there was a couple possessions there that they did a good job of staying topside on Tyler, avoiding us. You can’t just sit there and kind of just look for him and look for him, just wasting time, seconds off the clock. Credit to them; they did a great job of taking away our best player.”
Still GW had the ball with seven seconds left. Richmond had two fouls to give and used both cutting the game clock down to 5.8 seconds.
The Colonials designed a play call for Cavanaugh but with him being well guarded, GW turned to Yuta Watanabe. Watanabe turned the ball over and Richmond’s lay-up just beat the buzzer.
“I know once they got it in, they wanted to get Bolden coming around for the screen,” Richmond sophomore Khwan Fore said. “We had seen that before in previous games, so I was just on the alert for that, and I just went in to help once Watanabe got the ball, and I just took a chance and got the steal.
GW’s future unknown
At 19-14, GW must play the waiting game to see if it will be given an opportunity to defend its NIT title.
“My hope is that we have more basketball to play, I think we deserve it,” Joseph said. “I think that coming into this game with a 94 RPI, winning six in a row and beating teams like Daytons and Bonnies, and I think we got some pretty good wins under our belt. I think we deserve to have our season prolonged, but again, obviously that’s not my decision. But I just hope for these guys that we have an opportunity to continue to compete and continue to grow as a unit.”
Beyond that there is the whole “interim” tag on Joseph and AD Patrick Nero has to determine if Joseph will continue in his current role. There have been rumblings outside of the program that Florida Gulf Coast coach Joe Dooley is in consideration for the job. This rumor may have legs seeing that he graduated from GW in 1988.
Joseph came into a situation where he was hired to replace Mike Lonergan after the team’s Japan tour. The announcement was officially made September 27.
After this Joseph had to get his fellow assistants, who also interviewed for the position to be on the same page as him and also get his players to buy in.
The timing of the situation was certainly not the most ideal and Atlantic 10 Men’s Basketball Media Day was held October 18, giving him even less time to be prepared for a barrage of questions given the circumstances Joseph was tasked with overcoming.
Despite these hardships, George Washington was on a six game winning streak prior to Friday’s loss. Still Joseph saw his team’s journey and saw massive improvements.
“We have grown leaps and bounds, exponentially,” he said. “We just grew gradually throughout the course of the year and it shows in our stats and we improved defensively from being one of the bottom teams defensively in the league to being top five or top six or whatever it was in terms of field goal defense and points allowed. Our guys came to work every day. They trusted the process. They stayed the course and we just kind of chopped wood. Win or lose, our plan was to keep getting better and better and we did that all year I thought.”
VCU holds serve against game George Mason
For both of the first two rounds of the Atlantic 10 Championship, there were no real upsets with ninth seeded Davidson defeating eighth seeded La Salle in a second round matchup.
Earlier Friday, top seeded Dayton lost to Davidson and second seeded VCU nearly did the same to George Mason.
George Mason had lost both regular season meetings to VCU and though the Rams bested the Patriots for a third time, this one by a 71-60 score, it was clear it had given VCU all that could be handled.
“We executed in those final six minutes, and you know, when we were making threes like that, that scoreboard adds up pretty quickly,” VCU coach Will Wade said. “That was a big help. But was proud of our guys. I thought JeQuan (Lewis) really stepped up down the stretch. I think he was one of six until the last — or one of seven until last ten minutes or so. Coach Paulsen does a phenomenal job. They had all sorts of junk defenses for us tonight, some stuff we hadn’t seen during the regular season.”
VCU Athletics made a late run over George Mason Athletics in the #A10MBB quarterfinals Friday night to earn a spot in Saturday's semis. Watch the highlights from the game!
Posted by Atlantic 10 Conference on Friday, March 10, 2017
This was a game with a tremendous atmosphere as both teams had several fans make the five plus hour trip in addition to both bands, VCU’s Peppas and George Mason’s Green Machine.
Anyone who thought this game meant nothing was sorely mistaken. George Mason frustrated VCU and held a lead for over 11 minutes of the game.
When the final buzzer sounded confirming VCU’s victory and after he was done with postgame interviews, Wade repeatedly pumped his fist to recognize the battle his Rams were able to win.
“You know, we’re really disappointed, heartbroken,” George Mason coach Dave Paulsen said. “The guys in the locker room obviously were devastated, and it’s really hard for me as a coach. I think we had VCU on their heels. We wanted to have some of their guys that maybe aren’t their leading scorers beat us, and for 32 minutes, they didn’t. In the last seven or eight minutes, they made some big plays. We just had some empty possessions. I don’t think I’ve ever been proud of a team in defeat, and the guys have made a lot of progress.”
George Mason held Mo Alie-Cox scoreless and kept him to two rebounds, both offensive. It was freshman De’Riante Jenkins’s career-high 15 points that created separation. This was Jenkin’s third game back from a broken foot.
The Patriots will wait to see if their 20 wins is enough to earn an NIT berth.
Richmond and VCU will face each other in the second of two semifinals. This game will tip off at 3:30 p.m. VCU won both regular season meetings.