GW Battles Back From Early Deficit but Falls 81-69 to St. Joseph’s

Image Credit: Mitchell Layton

By: Abe Rothstein

Looking for a sequel to a thrilling overtime win against Saint Joseph’s, George Washington traveled down to Philadelphia for a Saturday matinee. An extra period has become a familiar sight for GW fans as players had been recovering from a 2OT win against Richmond. Today, the fatigue took a toll as GW started slow out of the gate in an 81-69 loss. 

From the start, this Buff and Blue team was unrecognizable from the team we all saw take down Dayton or start out 5-2 in conference play. Out of the gate, GW immediately found themselves in a large hole, a hole that would only grow as the game continued. Following the opening tip, Saint Joe’s started out strong and would not look to turn back. Going into the first media timeout, GW had not even scored a basket, rather scoring on a free throw to bring the game to an 11-1 lead for Saint Joe’s. 

Starts such as these bring a lot into question with a team that only has eight available players on scholarship, especially after a double-overtime thriller. Graduate Brendan Adams played 48 minutes in the game prior, equal to the amount of a full NBA game. Both Maximus Edwards and James Bishop played upwards of 45 minutes, which is more minutes than any NBA player would average this season. 

To go along with the early offensive barrage by the Hawks, the refs were also on the offensive against GW. Before the U16 timeout, center Hunter Dean and forward Ricky Lindo had already been checked out of the game with two fouls. Losing both starting big men within the first three minutes of the game was huge for Saint Joe’s in their ability to get off to a fast offensive start. 

Feasting off the fact that GW had lost two of their starters for a majority of the first half, the Hawks looked to prey on the Buff and Blue on the defensive end. Taking advantage of the game plan, of which many teams have deployed against Bishop and Adams, arguably the two best guards in the A-10, Saint Joe’s immediately looked to trap both off of the high screen. 

“There’s a way to play against us that we don’t have great answers for so we are grasping to find answers for it,” head coach Chris Caputo said to WRGW in an exclusive interview after the game. 

Those answers have been very difficult for Caputo and the staff to find after Bishop and Adams started so strongly. These adjustments have taken a toll on the team, which generally lacks many weapons outside of the two guards. Without the ability of other playmakers on the team, GW struggled mightily. 

“I think people are playing us a certain way… you can’t play beautiful offense if three guys are guarding you if other guys aren’t taking advantage.” Caputo continued, “ I’m not blaming any of our guys, it’s our group. If you wanna see the ball popping around like the Spurs or Warriors, five guys need to be able to pass, dribble and shoot.”

Caputo has exceeded expectations after coming to Foggy Bottom with a barren roster and two of the top three players from the previous season transferring. He has done a terrific job in keeping the team competitive. 

The first half would end as rough as it started, trailing by over 20 points following a technical foul on Edwards. The technical was more of a misunderstanding after a really late foul was called with only .6 seconds remaining, and Edwards attempted a full-court shot, thinking that the play continued. This would not be the only time that officiating would affect the course of the game. 

GW would storm out after halftime and heat up offensively. Both Adams and Bishop would find their strokes, along with Dean becoming an offensive threat when attacking the rim. That is something he was able to do with drop coverage on him all game. The Buff and Blue went on an 8-0 run and brought the game within eight at multiple points but were unable to close the gap. Much of this could be attributed to officiating. 

Towards the end of the second half, GW had four separate players with four fouls, something that is usually unprecedented. Down eight with five minutes to go and momentum on the side of GW, Ricky Lindo was called for a foul, which was his fifth and final foul of the game. Lindo had to leave the game, but the coaching staff and George’s Army, who traveled up to Philadelphia, were in shock about the call. Lindo clearly was blatantly elbowed in clear sight of the ref, but much like many of the calls today, it did not go the way of GW.

Many members of the coaching staff, in addition to several players, were upset with the officiating. With arguably two of the best guards in the A-10 conference, there is a question as to why they do not receive the same hand-check calls as many others do when they have the ball, along with several ticky-tack fouls being called on GW.

“I thought we cut the game to eight, and there were some foul calls that broke that momentum,” Caputo said, “Proud of our second half, disappointed in the way we played to start the game, disappointed in the foul trouble.”

The Lindo foul and the subsequent foul trouble would be the end for GW, as they failed to bring the lead down, falling 81-69. 

After a hot start in the conference, GW needs to pick things up once again. They will look to get back on track on Wednesday when rival George Mason comes to the Smith Center at 7 p.m. That game will be broadcast live on WRGW, NBC Sports Washington, and ESPN+. 

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