Game #9-507: George Washington Colonials vs. Massachusetts MinutemenMarch 14, 2013 9:00 pm
The final opening round game of the A-10 tournament featured #6
seed Massachusetts and #11
seed George Washington. While fatigue was starting to set in by this point, I was interested to see a matchup of teams that I'd not previously seen in person. Much like the Richmond-Charlotte game to begin the day, this was another contrast in styles. UMass, led by Brooklyn's own 5'9" point guard Chaz Williams, has excellent athleticism and reasonably good balance offensively. GW, much like Charlotte, is a team focused on its strength on the interior, and looks to pound the ball inside at every opportunity.
True to form, the Colonials forced the ball inside, mainly featuring their two power forwards, Kevin Larsen and Isaiah Armwood. By the time we reached the first media timeout, GW held a 7-4 lead and had corralled a staggering seven offensive rebounds (in just a bit over four minutes). They seemed adamant to take every shot within three feet of the basket, and were well prepared to try again when they missed. That opening sequence was a dominant display of power from George Washington. UMass withstood this early charge from GW, and countered with a surge of its own, featuring junior forward Raphiael Putney. Within a span of three and a half minutes, Putney hit all four of his field goal attempts, including three from long-range. His three-point shooting display bordered on the spectacular, with his first coming from about 28 feet away, his second being banked in from the wing, and the third a relatively mundane shot from deep in the corner. Putney seemed as if he could dominate the game, but after looking like a future NBA All-Star for those few minutes, he'd score just one more point the rest of the way.
While Putney was showcasing his skills, GW continued to stick to the basics. Drawing fouls to such an extent that they were in the bonus by the midway point of first half, GW often found themselves at the free throw line, at least on those possessions on which they weren't committing turnovers. The turnover problem grew more significant as the half drew to a close, and UMass was able to exploit that sufficiently to take a 34-31 lead into the locker room.
George Washington won the prize for the most significant fan support for the day, at least among those teams participating. They weren't particularly loud, but there was a relatively large number of them.
In the second half, the Colonials looked to get inside yet again. Freshman guard Joe McDonald penetrated the lane for two mid-range jumpers in the early moments of the half, and then Armwood had a remarkable possession in which he had three offensive rebounds, culminating finally in a tip in of his own missed shot, and also drew a key third foul on UMass' Terrell Vinson.
From there, this was a hotly contested game. Action continued for several minutes, with GW holding a lead of no more than four points, and UMass leading by no more than three. Both teams featured balanced offensive attacks, for which the opposing defenses had few answers on how to slow them down consistently. After a Cady Lalanne dunk cut the GW lead to 62-61, Larsen took charge for the Colonials, with six straight points for his team off of short jumpers and free throws. UMass countered with back-to-back threes by Trey Davis, both on assists from Williams. With two and half minutes to go, GW lead 68-67.
After a turnover by Larsen, Williams took over. He attacked the basket repeatedly over the next two minutes of play, converting all three of his field goal attempts. The last of these baskets gave UMass a 75-72 lead with 33 seconds to go. GW Coach Mike Lonergan took a timeout to discuss strategy.
Let's take some time for an opening round flashback. Charlotte was in a similar situation in their game against Richmond. In both cases, each team trailed by three points late in game, and neither of them had previously made a three-point shot during the entire game. Charlotte recognized their deficiency, and repeatedly drove to the basket for easy layups. While there were some extraordinary circumstances associated with it, that strategy ultimately worked out for the 49ers. By contrast, Lonergan chose to run the clock down, and then attempt a game-tying three pointer. For this big shot, GW went to Armwood, who, while being a very gifted player, was just 2-for-13 from three-point range on the season. Not surprisingly, Armwood's shot was off the mark. Teammate Patricio Garino gathered the offensive rebound, his team's 21st of the game, but was promptly stripped of the ball by Williams, his third steal on the day. Williams got the ball to Trey Davis, whose two free throws clinched the win.
Lonergan did a nice job of keeping his team in the game throughout the evening, but his decision to wait and go for the tying superhoop was subject to questioning. There was plenty of time to take advantage of easy scoring opportunities and create multiple possessions, forcing UMass to make their free throws. Instead, he relied upon a low percentage three-point attempt. It's always a good idea to do what you do best, and GW is a 28% three-point shooting team. The Colonials gave UMass a tough game, but Chaz Williams ended up taking it away from them.
MASSACHUSETTS 77, GEORGE WASHINGTON 72
GEORGE WASHINGTON 13-17 (7-9) -- I. Armwood 7-14 2-2 16; L. Kromah 4-9 3-4 11; J. McDonald 4-9 2-2 10; K. Larsen 5-10 7-8 17; P. Garino 2-5 0-0 4; B. Bynes 1-3 3-5 5; D. Smith 2-8 2-2 6; K. Savage 0-3 0-0 0; J. Kopriva 1-4 1-1 3; N. Mikic 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 26-67 20-24 72.
MASSACHUSETTS 20-10 (9-7) -- C. Williams 7-19 2-2 16; F. Riley 1-7 1-2 4; S. Carter 4-8 1-2 9; R. Putney 4-6 1-2 12; M. Esho 1-4 2-2 4; T. Vinson 5-9 4-6 14; T. Davis 4-6 3-4 14; C. Lalanne 2-3 0-0 4; T. Bergantino 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 28-62 14-20 77.
Three-point goals: GW 0-8 (B. Bynes 0-1; L. Kromah 0-1; I. Armwood 0-1; N. Mikic 0-2; P. Garino 0-1; J. McDonald 0-1; K. Savage 0-1), MASS 7-20 (S. Carter 0-1; R. Putney 3-4; F. Riley 1-6; T. Vinson 0-1; C. Williams 0-5; T. Davis 3-3); Rebounds: GW 40 (I. Armwood 13), MASS 27 (M. Esho 6); Assists: GW 13 (L. Kromah 4), MASS 15 (C. Williams 8); Total Fouls -- GW 18, MASS 20; Fouled Out: GW-None; MASS-T. Vinson.