Monday, December 2, 2013

Whoa! GW beats #20 Creighton 60-53 for 3rd in the Wooden Legacy

What a night! GW faced #20 Creighton and their star Doug McDermott, one of the NCAA's leading scorers, and came away victorious. GW started the game hot, hitting open shots and frustrating McDermott and Creighton, taking it to a 12 point lead at one point in the first half. During the second, the Blue Jays tied it up and briefly took the lead, but the good guys didn't give in, fighting back for the lead and knocking down clutch free throws to win it.

The story of the game was Isaiah "Zeek" Armwood and his defense on McDermott, who was a non-factor in the game. McDermott was 2/12 with only 7 points, his first time in single digits since January. Zeek blocked 4 of McDermott's shots and didn't commit a single foul. McDermott was visibly frustrated, especially in the first half. A few sports reporters raved about Mike Lonergan's coaching this game, and his gameplan of playing single coverage on McDermott to not let the other shooters open worked perfectly.

The victory was GW's first win over a ranked team since 2005, when the Colonials beat Maryland and Michigan State at the BB&T Classic, beginning the rise of those great mid-2000s teams, eventually leading to three consecutive NCAA tournaments and a conference title.

While not quite the same, this weekend was definitely a good one for GW, with wins over Miami, which won the ACC last year (but lost a lot of players) and now Creighton. The only dark spot was the big loss to #25 Marquette, but hey, with this win, who's complaining.

The game was pretty thrilling and at times frustrating, as in the second half the good guys forced shots and allowed some defensive lapses, like two dunks by Creighton's Greg Gibbs. Bizarrely, these two dunks got most of the national sportswriters talking on Twitter, rather than the fact that it was a close game or GW was winning. Only towards the very end, when GW locked up the game with defensive stops, clutch shots and clutch free throw shooting, did those national media types come back and start talking about GW's win.

The free throw shooting down the stretch was great, as was some good defense and timely shots. With about 6 minutes to go in the second half it looked like the game would get away from the good guys, as Ethan Wragge and Gibbs closed the gap then put Creighton up by three. GW was suddenly missing shots they had made earlier -- short jumpers, threes and layups, but then the team got some defensive stops, Kevin Larsen made two layups off Joe McDonald assists, and McDonald added one of his own. Really nice to see that toughness come out down the stretch, the team straightened when they could have laid down.

McDonald had a great game, with 5 assists and 12 points, and once again the team only turned it over 10 times (previous games were 9 and 7) to go with 6 steals and 6 blocks. Larsen led GW with 14, Armwood had 12 and Kethan "Macho Man" Savage added 10 in only 15 minutes due to foul trouble. Interestingly, Coach Lonergan shortened his bench considerably, with John Kopriva getting 7 minutes and Miguel Cartagena and Paris Maragkos only a brief time on the floor. Patricio Garino and Nemanja Mikic both had 4 boards but combined for only 5 points in 40 minutes total. We'll see what happens with the lineup and rotation as the season progresses.

It was a good night to be a GW basketball fan. The good guys may even get a few more AP polls votes. The Colonials next play Rutgers on Wednesday at 7 at the Smith Center. I hope there's a big student (and non-student) turnout for this one.

Here's the box score and the AP's write-up.

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