GW Escapes Tight Non-Conference Closer to Start Season 11-2

Photo credit: Mitchell Layton

By Matthew Brooks

To cap off the calendar year in the Charles E Smith Center, GW secured a narrow victory against Maryland Eastern Shore with a final score of 69-63. This marks the first time since the 2015-16 NIT championship year that GW has commenced a season with 11 wins.

“I have a lot of respect for UMES,” GW head coach Chris Caputo remarked after the game. “With how hard they play, we knew we were in for a fight.”

The trend of closely contested games against lower-ranked teams persisted through the end of conference play. Among the Revolutionaries (11-2) last four Division I opponents, all ranked below 278 in Kenpom, only one game saw a margin of victory greater than six points. The Revs were heavily favored to win all these matches by double digits. While not the ideal scenario, Caputo acknowledges these games as valuable learning experiences for the team.

“We were able to grind one out. It’s become somewhat of a theme, but I also believe it’s beneficial for us heading into league play.”

Nonetheless, a win is a win, and positive aspects emerged in GW’s game. Defensively, the team appeared more robust and less reliant on graduate center Babatunde “Stretch” Akingbola. Although he performed admirably with four blocks and a steal, other players contributed to forcing turnovers, resulting in a team total of eight blocks and seven steals. Redshirt freshman forward Garrett Johnson notably stepped up, securing two steals, a block, and seven defensive rebounds.

“I thought we were kind of back to being who we are, defensively,” Caputo remarked on his team’s performance.

Offensively, Johnson continued to display his impressive scoring ability. He earned his third double-double of the season with 18 points and ten rebounds on 46.2% shooting. Fellow redshirt freshman forward Darren Buchanan Jr. added 14 points, showcasing two highlight-reel dunks that might find their way onto the SportsCenter top 10. He also contributed eight rebounds and three assists. Additionally, graduate guard James Bishop IV delivered a solid 11-point performance, securing his spot as fourth all-time in GW scoring.

However, there were evident struggles contributing to the Revs’ near loss against a team they were expected to beat by 18.5 points. Their three-point shooting fell short, going 4-for-20 from beyond the arc. Yet, the most concerning aspect was their free-throw shooting, ending at 21-for-35 from the charity stripe. While the frequency of getting to the line was encouraging, a 60% conversion rate won’t suffice in A10 play, and in this match it prevented GW from capitalizing on opportunities to expand their lead.

The win marks the conclusion of non-conference play for the Revs. Caputo is preparing the team for the heightened stakes and intensity that accompany conference play.

“We have had a very good non-conference and yet, and this is what I talked about with the guys, we know this is going to ratchet up in league play and it’s going to be more intense. The stakes are going to get exposed more and our energy and effort has to be there. And we have so many guys who haven’t been through it in college basketball. So we’re going to have to really work to understand quickly, and we’ll see on Wednesday in league play how intense these games really become.”

Conference play kicks off after the new year on Wednesday January 3, as the Revolutionaries stay home to face the Fordham Rams (6-7) at 7:00 PM. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN+ and WRGW.

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