The Smith Center was packed and extremely loud last night as GW held off UVa for a 73-68 win in an amazing atmosphere. The student section was rocking and generally drowned out the significant Virginia fan base (I'd say about 30% orange.)
GW led for most of the game and held fast when UVa took a few brief leads, making stops and knocking down big shots to go back up. The biggest GW lead was 9, while UVa's was 6 at the very beginning.
It was a tough, gritty performance for the good guys, who never looked out of control. As UVa coach Tony Bennett said, "We can’t just say, 'oh, it wasn’t our game.' We got outplayed and outexecuted. We have to keep finding ourselves." The team executed and played smart and tough.
Patricio Garino had a huge game with 18 points and 5 boards on 7/8 shooting, and Tyler Cavanaugh also scored 18 with 5 rebounds. The team as a whole shot 82% from the free throw line with 28 free throws, which was a key to staying in it and taking the game at the end.
Kevin Larsen also played well, but more as a passer -- he made a lot of great dishes for 5 assists, plus some hockey assists where his pass led to another pass that led to a shot (plus 9 points.) Yuta Watanabe had a cold night from the floor, just 1/7, but did grab 7 board and had 2 blocks, and was clutch on defense. Paul Jorgensen and Joe McDonald both had 10 points, and Jorgensen had some nasty moves, burning his man for an open jumper, then drawing a foul the next play on another nice move.
It's hard not to say everybody was great -- the defense was solid, there were great passes, and they weathered every run from UVa, outplayed the Pack Line defense and just were all around solid. The good guys only were 4/15 from three, but they showed they can make it work even when they happens.
The game was intense and stressful -- I was making every possible facial expression, clenching my fists and generally going nuts. It was hard to tweet or retweet about the action. But it was great. It never seemed like GW would lose, and in the end, they didn't. Maybe it was the new jerseys.
And the Smith Center was electric. It was as loud as I can remember since maybe the Charlotte buzzer beater in 2006, and reminded me of the crazy crowds in 1998-99, my freshman year, when the team reached the NCAA tourney behind 5'4" Shawnta Rogers (whose son Darnell is coming to GW next year) and Yegor Mescheriakov. The Colonial Army turned out big and were super noisy, and the folks under the basket were dressed tropically also going nuts, bringing inflatable whales, palm trees, flamingos and other props. Those fans rushed the court after the win, while the student section was blocked by security.
(The only minus about the crowd was that the side opposite the students was pretty stoic, not getting into any of the usual Gee! Dub! or D-Fense chants.) And Coach Lonergan's son was hilarious, wearing a coconut bra like his dad did in Hawaii.
The UVa fans were mostly solid and seemed fine -- a couple dudes behind me yelled something about Yuta's mom, but otherwise they kept to themselves.
I saw a fair number of notable folks too, like NBC4 weatherman Doug Kammerer, Post reporter Gene Wang and writer/commentator Clay Travis. There were also some national college basketball reporters. The Gee! Dub! chant guy was in attendance too. Anybody see other well-known folks?
And still, wow. What a game. I'm looking forward to the rest of the season.
Here's recaps from the Hatchet, the Post, AP, NBC Sports, Sports Illustrated, CBS Sports, and ESPN. The Post has more too about Lonergan.