Monday, November 11, 2013

Recap of GW's big opening win: GW 76-Radford 54

The Colonials opened their season with a bang, shillelaghing the Highlanders of Radford 76-54 to start off the season. GW (the good guys) didn't trail again after going down 4-1 early and gradually got the lead up to 30 before dropping down to the final margin.

The student section was packed and rowdy, which was nice to see. GW organized a big tailgate part beforehand with food, beer and a surprisingly awesome 90s cover band named White Ford Bronco, which was a lot of fun. The students also turned away from the opposing team during their introductions, which I enjoyed and don't remember seeing before. And the guy (or girl) in the pink gorilla suit wins fan of the game, hands down.

It was an interesting game for GW -- I didn't get a good sense of the offense, but the team did seem to play very opportunistically, taking and hitting open shots and making drives to the basket when it was available. My buddy described it as a higher basketball IQ team than he had seen in a while, and the hot shooting helped -- they were upwards of 60% for a lot of the game, finishing at 50% from the floor and 5/9 from three. Also nice to see, especially after some struggles last year, was that the team shot 79.3% from the floor.

As expected, the team dominated down low, collecting 43 boards to Radford's 34, but surprisingly were outrebounded on the offensive glass 15-10. GW's guards rebounded well too, with Kethan Savage and Joe McDonald both pulling down 6, second only to Isaiah Armwood's 12. Savage was a beast out there (get it) with 18 points, 5 assists, 5 steals and the 6 boards. It was sort of quiet though, like Omar Williams a few years ago -- without me really noticing it, he filled up the stat sheet. One friend wanted to call Savage the Quiet Assassin but another friend gave him a much better nickname: Macho Man. GW named his Colonial of the Week for his great game as well.

Kevin Larsen also played great offensively, scoring 16, though Armwood was 0/5 from the floor (he did score 7 from the foul line.) Newcomer Maurice Creek scored 12, including two 3s, and Nemanja Mikic also knocked down two of three from behind the arc. Nice to see that.

New NCAA emphasis on hand checks and other fouls really showed up as it seemed like the refs blew the whistle every 30 seconds. There were 48 fouls called total and the teams shot a combined 50 free throws. Luckily for the good guys, Radford was only 9/21 from the line. The Highlanders were also 5/21 from three and shot 33% overall from the floor, with some of that due to pressure but a lot just missed open shots.

I expected Radford, whose coach was a former Shaka Smart assistant, to play more like VCU with a lot of pressure and speed, which has been a struggle for GW in the past, but they really didn't. They trapped occasionally, which worked a couple of times, but mostly it was a fairly normal game plan from the Highlanders. I thought Miguel Cartagena played ok for a freshman PG in his first game, but he did get flummoxed by the trap a few times. It seemed like a few times, GW dribbled towards the trap rather than away from it. I hope Coach Lonergan learns them good on that one. GW turned it over 17 times, but there weren't too many egregious examples I could spot aside from the traps.

At first it seemed like GW was having a hard time catching with the Radford half court offense, which involved a lot of quick passes, but gradually the good guys got the hang of it and started to pull away. Eight Colonials played double digit minutes, plus 7 and 8 respectively for Jon Kopriva and Paris Maragkos. There was even a brief Skyler White sighting.

GW's all-time leading scorer, Chris Monroe, was in the building too, watching from the sideline for a while. After the game I chatted with him a bit, he said he's playing in Russia these days. I was wearing a #3 Mike Hall jersey and he pointed out that it could also be a #3 Sirvaliant Brown jersey, the other high-scoring guard from those late 90s-early 2000 teams. True that. Monroe is 3 and Val is 21 on GW's list of 100 players to mark the team's 100 seasons.

In short, nice to see this game. I hope for fewer turnovers and maybe more three point attempts, but not a lot to complain about here. The good guys face the Black Bears of Maine on Tuesday at 7 pm at the Smith Center.

Here's the box score and GW's recap (plus a little Storify they put together.)

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