Balanced Offensive Attack Driving George Washington’s Success

Posted by Chris Stone on December 3rd, 2015

The George Washington non-conference revenge tour continued last night with the Colonials’ 72-64 victory over Seton Hall, as defeats to the Pirates along with Virginia and Penn State in the 2014-15 season still linger in head coach Mike Lonergan’s mind. “Last year we played Penn State, Seton Hall, Rutgers, and Virginia all on the road, and I told the guys before the game, you know, we’ve got a chance to get them all back.” After being picked to finished fourth in the Atlantic 10 in the preseason, Lonergan’s club has stormed out of the gates. George Washington now sits at a healthy 7-1 with wins over power conference teams such as Tennessee and Seton Hall along with a major resume-building upset over Virginia.

Joe McDonald picked up George Washington's offense against Seton Hall. (GW Athletics/Mitchell Layton)

Joe McDonald picked up George Washington’s offense against Seton Hall. (GW Athletics/Mitchell Layton)

Although the Colonials put two players, Patricio Garino and Kevin Larsen, on the preseason all-Atlantic 10 second team, it’s been a balanced offensive attack that has driven their success. Coming into Wednesday’s contest, three players were averaging double figures — Garino, Larsen, and Wake Forest transfer Tyler Cavanaugh. Garino is a lanky swingman who has shown an improved three-point shot, while Larsen is a bruising big man who does most of his work in the paint. Cavanaugh, though, is the team’s most versatile scoring option. At 6’9″, he spends most of his time operating down low with Larsen, but after connecting on two of his four three-point attempts against the Pirates, the junior is now also shooting 35 percent from behind the arc. His ability to space the floor is an important component of an offense that often operates late in the shot clock (GW ranks 280th in offensive possession length, according to KenPom) when isolations become routine.

The scoring load spread itself out even further last night as senior guard Joe McDonald took on a larger role. McDonald entered the game averaging 7.3 PPG and sporting a usage rate of 14 percent, but his ability to operate in the pick-and-roll was essential, especially in the second half when he scored 13 of his 16 points. “We talked about it with the coaches how they weren’t really strong on the ball-screen defense, so I think we took advantage of that,” McDonald said afterward. The senior certainly looked comfortable in the increased role, and it seems likely that this won’t be the last time we see him this season. “I want him to have the ball in his hands at the end of the game there as much as possible,” Lonergan informed the media.

While the Colonials don’t have the nation’s highest-powered offense, they have enough diversified talent on the roster to get the job done when one of their main options isn’t producing. Larsen scored just two points against Seton Hall, but McDonald was more than up to the challenge of picking up his slack. Their balanced offense combined with a solid defense rated in KenPom’s top 50 nationally makes George Washington a considerable threat against power conference opponents. “That’s what we want to do. That’s why I came here,” Lonergan said. Next up, the Colonials can round out the revenge tour with a victory over the Big Ten’s Penn State on December 8. And regardless of what happens there, keep an eye on this team come March. George Washington could be one menacing #7-#12 seed in the middle of your bracket.

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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