The George Washington Colonials survived a furious comeback by the La Salle Explorers to escape with an 82 – 80 win over La Salle at the Gola Arena. The Colonials opened an 18 point lead in the second half, but had to hang on for thevictory front of 1,427 at the Gola Arena. La Salle had a chance to win or tie as they got the ball with 6 seconds on the clock, but a last second shot by Aaric Murray did not go in for the home team.
“I was extremely disappointed,” La Salle Coach John Giannini said about the loss. “I was glad we fought back the way we did, but I am disappointed in a lot of things. It’s extremely hard to lose that game and to play the way we have been playing. We did fight hard, and that is what makes this so agonizing.”
George Washington took a 43 – 38 lead at halftime. The opening of the second half was not kind to La Salle. The Colonials got the lead scoring the last nine points of the first half. The second half-opened with George Washington going on a 16 – 3 run to move in front 59 – 41 with 14:48 on the clock. Forward Dwayne Smith opened the stanza scoring five consecutive points, the back to back deep 3’s by Forward Nemanja Mikic allowed George Washington to move in front by 15. A jump shot by Guard Tony Taylor and a three-point shot by Guard Bryan Bynes gave George Washington their largest lead at 18 points.
La Salle started their comeback on a layup by Senior Forward Jerrell Williams to get the Explorers within 10 at 72 – 62 with 6:22 remaining to play. The Explorer defense made the game frenetic, and they were benefitting from the pace. A basket from beyond the arc by Freshman Guard Cole Stefan got La Salle to within 78 – 74 with 1:08 remaining. A Colonial turnover resulted in a three by Freshman Guard Tyreek Duren at 53.8 seconds remaining as La Salle trailed 78 – 77. After two Bynes free throws, Murray made a drive down the lane with 23.9 to play bringing La Salle to within 80 – 79. Taylor converted two more free throws for the Colonials. With 7 seconds left Murray missed a three-pointer. Taylor was fouled, but this time missed his free throws giving La Salle a last chance to win or tie the game. Driving to the basket Freshman Guard Sam Mills was fouled. He made the first foul shot, and on the second missed. La Salle got the ball back as it went out-of-bounds off a Colonial player. Murray had a last shot with 1.1 seconds, but the jumper was long.
“We got a couple of turnovers off of the press, and we played better half court defense, and we made some shots,” Giannini said about the late charge by his team. “We were down 15, then we played tremendously hard, and tremendously well. Where was that earlier?”
Williams scored a game-high 27 points making 10 of 18 shots and 7 of 8 from the foul line. La Salle played the last 1:19 without their Senior Forward as he fouled out. Duren scored 15 points and handed out 8 assists. The Explorer defense forced 21 Colonial turnovers, 12 on Steals. La Salle registered a 25 – 13 edge in Points Off Turnovers.
“Jerrell played with great energy,” Giannini said about Williams. “He did a great job, and he gives us great effort. Tonight he made the shots to go along with it.”
George Washington had four players in double figures led by Mikic and Taylor with 17 points each. Smith scored 14 and Bynes 11. Forward David Pellom pulled down 13 rebounds. The Colonials made 29 of 55 shots for 52.7%.
It was another exasperating loss for La Salle who is now 12 – 15 on the season, and are 4 – 8 in the Atlantic 10. The Explorers prepare for a February matchup at Xavier.
Mentally, we have a hard time doing our best,” Giannini said. I wish I knew the answer. We do have good players, and we do have good kids, and that’s what makes this unbelievably frustrating.”
Key Run in the Game
George Washington took a 43 – 38 lead at halftime. The opening of the second half was not kind to La Salle. The Colonials got the lead scoring the last nine points of the half. The second half opened with George Washington going on a 16 – 3 run to move in front 59 – 41 with 14:48 on the clock. Forward Dwayne Smith opened the stanza scoring five consecutive points, the back to back deep 3’s by Forward Nemanja Mikic allowed George Washington to move in front by 15. A jump shot by Guard Tony Taylor and a three-point shot by Guard Bryan Bynes gave George Washington their largest lead at 18 points. It would be too big of a hill for La Salle to climb.
Key Stat in the Game
George Washington committed 21 turnovers that led to a 25 – 13 edge for La Salle in Points off Turnovers. 12 of the 21 turnovers were steals for the Explorers. It was a good indication of how La Salle made their comeback.
Key Players in the Game
For La Salle – Jerrell Williams scored a game-high 27 points making 10 of 18 from the floor, and converted 7 of 8 from the free throw line. Tyreek Duren scored 15 points and dished out 8 assists.
For George Washington – Nemanja Mikic scored 17 points making 5 of 8 from beyond the arc. His back to back 3’s in the second half sparked George Washington to their largest lead of the game at 18 points.
Point Where the Game Was Decided
When Aaric Murray missed a jumper from the corner with a second left. The horn sounded, the game ended.
Thoughts and Musings
The long, strange trip for La Salle continues. Last season the losses were a direct result of injuries. This season the Explorers played well, and look like success was on the way. Then, inexplicably, the losing began. Coach John Giannini is not sure how, but believes the why is more mental than anything else
“We do have the talent to win, and we do have good kids,” Giannini said. “I never dreamed that if I had good players and good kids that I would struggle. Somehow, this year is an exception. It comes down to focus and attention to detail, the kind of intangibles that you need to be good consistently. I have seen situations when with our backs to the wall, we are tremendous. Good teams don’t wait until their backs are to the wall to do what they are taught and play with the highest level of energy. Mentally, we have a hard time doing our best. I wish I knew the answer. We do have good players, and we do have good kids, and that’s what makes this unbelievably frustrating.”
There is no other way to describe it better than Coach Giannini did, frustrating. The positive is that they continue to play hard, continue to compete. When the Explorers can do this for a full game, the frustration will alleviate. The question for the team is when will that happen?
Written By: Glenn Papazian