Thursday night’s Postseason NIT championship matchup featured two teams, No. 1 seed Valparaiso and No. 4 seed George Washington, that began this season with hopes of playing in the NCAA tournament. Things didn’t work out as either team would have hoped, with the Crusaders falling in the Horizon League tournament and the Colonials not getting the wins needed to earn an at-large bid out of the Atlantic 10, but both had the chance to return home with a championship trophy.
And it was Mike Lonergan’s team that would accomplish that goal, pulling away in the second half to beat Valparaiso by the final score of 76-60.
Kevin Larsen led four Colonials in double figures with 18 points, with Patricio Garino adding 14 points, Joe McDonald 13, eight rebounds and four assists and tournament Most Outstanding Player Tyler Cavanaugh 12 points. Leading by one at the intermission, George Washington outscore Valparaiso 44-29 in the second half with the Crusaders struggling to make shots.
Bryce Drew’s team finished the game 8-for-28 from three, with forward Alec Peters being their lone double-digit scorer with 15 points. Valparaiso shot 39 percent from the field, and the reliance on perimeter shots was one reason why they were outscored 22-6 from the foul line. That margin was the biggest difference, and as a result George Washington is headed home with their first postseason tournament title.
The Colonials join Columbia (CIT) and Old Dominion (Vegas 16) as winners of postseason tournaments thus far. Nevada hosts Morehead State in Game 3 of the CBI Finals Friday night.
Friday’s Atlantic 10 quarterfinal matchup between No. 4 seed Saint Joseph’s and No. 5 seed George Washington was an important one for both teams, with the Hawks looking to sew up an NCAA tournament bid and the Colonials having work to do to get into the conversation. Mike Lonergan’s team led by as many as 16 points and appeared well on their way to an important résumé-boosting victory.
However DeAndre Bembry and the Hawks turned things around, rallying back for an 86-80 win over the Colonials. As a result Saint Joseph’s will play top seed Dayton in Saturday’s semifinals, and George Washington in all likelihood is now headed to the Postseason NIT.
Saint Joseph’s outscored George Washington 51-31 in the second half, with Bembry finishing the game with 21 points, Shavar Newkirk 19 and three other Hawks scoring in double figures as well. Joe McDonald led six Colonials in double figures with 15 points, and Kevin Larsen just missed out on a triple-double as he accounted for ten points, 11 rebounds and nine assists.
No. 5 seed George Washington arrived in Brooklyn for the Atlantic 10 tournament knowing that they had some work to do in regards to earning a bid to the NCAA tournament. Thursday afternoon Mike Lonergan’s Colonials took the first step in that quest, as they took care of No. 12 Saint Louis by the final score of 73-65.
Sophomore forward Yuta Watanabe led the way offensively with 19 points, and fellow forward Tyler Cavanaugh added 13 points and eight rebounds. Guard Joe McDonald performed well as the distributor for the Colonials, as he dished out ten assists with just one turnover and scored nine points. The key for George Washington was their forcing of 17 Saint Louis turnovers, keeping the Billikens off-balance with their use of both man and 1-3-1 zone looks.
Jermaine Bishop led three Billikens in double figures with 15 points. Shortly after the game’s conclusion, the school announced that head coach Jim Crews had been relieved of his duties.
Next up for George Washington is No. 4 seed Saint Joseph’s in Friday’s quarterfinal round, which can be seen on NBCSN.
Saturday’s matchup between VCU and George Washington was important for multiple reasons. First there’s the fact that both teams entered the game a position where every win is critical as they look to get into the NCAA tournament. Add in the fact that the visiting Rams are still part of the race to win the Atlantic 10 regular season title, and there was a lot on the line at the Smith Center in Washington, D.C.
Will Wade’s Rams managed to hold off George Washington 69-65, moving to 21-8 overall and 13-3 in A-10 play as a result. The win moves VCU into first place in the Atlantic 10, with Saint Joseph’s (12-3) tied in the loss column. Jonathan Williams led four Rams in double figures with 17 points while also dishing out five assists, and VCU outscored the Colonials 42-30 in the paint.
VCU avenged a home loss to George Washington earlier this month, winning in spite of the fact that the Colonials scored 20 points off of Ram turnovers and 17 second-chance points. Tyler Cavanaugh led George Washington (21-8, 10-6) with a game-high 19 points.
Getting quality wins is very important this time of year for teams on the NCAA tournament bubble, but so is avoiding bad losses at all costs. George Washington faced that scenario Sunday afternoon as they hosted La Salle on NBC Sports Network. But the Explorers already owned upset wins over No. 15 Dayton and St. Bonaventure (both in Philadelphia), which undoubtedly got the attention of Mike Lonergan’s Colonials.
George Washington was ready to play from the outset, taking control early on in a game they’d go on to win by the final score of 90-50. Tyler Cavanaugh led the way for George Washington with 22 points and Patricio Garino added 19 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
Jordan Price led La Salle with 17 points, but he was the only Explorer who managed to get anything going offensively at the Smith Center.
George Washington junior guard Kethan Savage, with the ball in his hands with 6.6 seconds left, trailing 64-63 to Dayton. He waved off a high ball screen and took Kyle Davis off the dribble. Scoochie Smith was late rotating over and while he made a last-ditch effort at a swipe, he turned his back on Joe McDonald.
The 6-foot-1 guard collecting Savage’s block shot and banking in the game-winning bucket as the time expired for a dramatic 65-64 win at home on Friday night.
Moments earlier, Kyle Davis drained a baseline 3-pointer to give Dayton a 64-63 lead with 16 seconds left, erasing a six-point overtime deficit.
Savage had the ball in his hands at the end of regulation. He forced his way into the lane, but his jumper rattled in-and-out. Dayton got the ball back with 1.5 seconds left, though, not enough to get a look at the basket.
This was an important win for Mike Lonergan’s team. In College Basketball Talk‘s latest bracket (posted Friday morning), the Colonials were listed as one of the “Next Five Out” meaning they had work to do to get back on the right side of the bubble. A win over Dayton, rated in the kenpom top 40, is a good start, especially After a 24-point loss at conference-leading VCU followed by another road at Rhode Island, currently second in the A-10 standings.
Friday’s overtime win gives George Washington an edge over Dayton for third-place in the conference standings, which could come in handy for the Atlantic 10 Tournament in March.
In eight days, the Colonials host No. 18 VCU with two games against Davidson also left on the schedule. That gives the Colonials opportunities to add to a resume that includes wins over the Flyers and Wichita State.