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.
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.
The second half of the NBC Sports Network doubleheader tips off at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, as the Fordham Hawks head south to take on George Washington in the nation’s capital. The game can also be watched on line via NBC Sports Live Extra.
Mike Lonergan’s Colonials are off to an 11-2 start to the season, and prior to their loss at De Paul they were ranked in the AP Top 25. George Washington has one of the Atlantic 10’s best front court rotations, with seniors Kevin Larsen and Patricio Garino being joined by Wake Forest transfer Tyler Cavanaugh (the team’s leading scorer) and sophomore Yuta Watanabe.
Fordham is off to a surprising 9-2 start under first-year head coach Jeff Neubauer, but this game represents their biggest challenge to date. Ryan Rhoomes has been high productive in the front court for the Rams, who also have one of the A-10’s top freshmen in guard Joseph Chartouny.
To watch the game on NBC Sports Live Extra, click here.