George Washington’s Huge Win Poised to Catapult Program Forward

Posted by Chris Stone on November 17th, 2015

It started before the ball had even been tipped last night at the Smith Center in Washington, DC. George Washington students rang out in chants proclaiming their opponent, Virginia, as “overrated.” It’s always weird when fans look to minimize an opponent rather than build them up to make their team look as strong as possible in victory, but that’s a discussion for another time. And certainly the Colonials’ coaches and players didn’t see it that way.

George Washington court storm

George Washington Students RTC After Their Team’s 73-68 Win over Virginia Monday night.

During the postgame press conference, senior Patricio Garino made it clear that, even though he believes that his team is on the level of a national power like Virginia, he has all of the respect in the world for the Cavaliers. The Colonials certainly looked it in their huge 73-68 victory, a win that already puts Mike Lonergan‘s squad in great position to earn an NCAA Tournament berth next March. Garino, a lanky 6’6″ forward who was successful in playing the four against the Cavaliers’ larger defenders, scored 18 points on the night. Junior Tyler Cavanaugh , also with 18 points, got the chance to prove he could play with the ACC’s elite after transferring out of the conference (Wake Forest) in July 2014.

The team’s most valuable player against the Cavaliers last night, though, was forward Kevin Larsen. The senior big man turned in a masterful performance as the Colonials operated their offense out of the post. In the first half, Larsen was the subject of Virginia’s big-on-big double teams, but he helped break down the Cavaliers’ vaunted pack line defense with his impressive passing that led to open looks. He was so good at beating the double teams that Virginia coach Tony Bennett abandoned the strategy completely to start the second half, only to be punished as the 265-pound Larsen then used his considerable girth to bully Mike Tobey around on the inside. The decision to operate through Larsen in this match-up was a deliberate one. Lonergan afterward called him “the best passing big man” he’s ever coached, and his team’s ability to execute that game plan shows they’ve got the players and the discipline to compete with the top teams in the country when they’re locked in.

George Washington forward Yuta Watanabe, left of center, smiles as he celebrates with fans that stormed the court after an NCAA college basketball game against Virginia, Monday, Nov. 16, 2015, in Washington. George Washington won 73-68. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

George Washington Forward Yuta Watanabe Smiles as He Celebrates with Fans (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The Colonials will look to carry Monday’s momentum into the rest of their non-conference schedule. An upcoming tilt with Seton Hall on December 2 is their next best opportunity to enhance their resume, but with the remainder of the slate (outside of the Barclays Center Classic) coming at home, George Washington should expect to enter Atlantic 10 play with a strong overall record (12-0 or 11-1 is entirely reasonable). The Colonials were picked to finished fourth in the A-10 preseason poll, but an unfortunate injury to Rhode Island’s E.C. Matthews could push them into a top three placement. Assuming the Colonials only lose at most a couple of games during the remainder of their non-conference schedule, they should finish with a win total and overall resume similar to the 24 wins that got them into the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team (#9 seed) in 2014. This time, though, they’ll have a signature early season win that will help the country (and Selection Committee) realize just how underrated they are.

Chris Stone (136 Posts)

Chris Stone is a contributor to the Big 12 microsite. You can find him on Twitter @cstonehoops.

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