Men’s basketball blows out Stonehill in electric opener

Photo credit: Greg Fiume

By: Sunit Chakraborty (@76ersSunit)

Men’s basketball blew out Stonehill 89-44 to a packed and noisy Smith Center on Monday night. The Revolutionaries (1-0) couldn’t have imagined a better way to start their season, which will continue with three more home games before going on the road.

Transfer redshirt freshman Garrett Johnson, who was forced to sit out his previous two seasons at Princeton due to injury, led the Revolutionaries in scoring, pouring in 21 points on a scorching 8-for-10 shooting and 5-for-7 shooting from beyond the arc in his first ever collegiate game, to go along with nine rebounds. 

“I mean, there were times I didn’t think I was going to play basketball again.” Johnson said about his journey leading up to tonight. “I mean, I went through a lot, two and a half years, but to see the first one going on there, all the jitters kind of went away, and then it was just basketball.”

Redshirt sophomore Maximus Edwards, who was the A10 Rookie of the Year last season, emerged as a force to be reckoned with, scoring 19 points and grabbing seven rebounds while shooting 7-for-11 from the field and 5-for-8 from three. The Revolutionaries as a whole shot a very healthy 51% from the floor and 42% from three.

“I mean, from my perspective, I come in, I come in to Smith after class some days and Garrett and Trey [Autry], or someone is always there shooting,” Edwards said of the Revolutionaries impressive shooting performance in their 45-point win. “Whether it’s in the morning or night, we have great teammates and great coaching staff. We’re in the gym shooting almost every day.”

The Revolutionaries started the game on an 8-2 run. Edwards scored the team’s first points of the season with a pull-up three pointer less than a minute into the game. In a sign of things to come, Johnson scored the next 5 points, with a three pointer and a pull-up bank shot. 

The Revolutionaries and Skyhawks (0-1) went back and forth for much of the first 8 minutes, with Edwards and Johnson scoring the first 13 points for GW, before transfer center Babatunde Akingbola hit a putback layup to put the score at 15-8 with 12:56 left in the half. Akingbola finished with four points, four rebounds, four blocks, and three steals, cementing his presence on the defensive end of the floor.

“We have a guy who has a presence and he can be a help defender moving laterally in pick and roll defense, but also a guy who can vertically help,” Caputo said about what Akingbola brings to the table at the center position. “Sometimes guys who can vertically help – they can’t move. Sometimes those guys should move, they can’t help vertically. He can do both. He can move, cover ground and also get up in the air.”

Transfer forward Benny Schröder hit an and-one three pointer with a little over 11 minutes to go in the first half that jolted the crowd into pandemonium. The ball was flowing fast and the energy from player to player, and from the crowd to the players, was infectious, as the entire team gave high levels of effort on both ends of the floor.

The Revolutionaries held Stonehill to an ice-cold 7-for-40 first half shooting mark, and 3-for-20 from three. The Skyhawks did not fare much better in the second half, finishing the game shooting 21.4% and 15.2% from three. 

“That’s just great scouting from the coaching staff.” Edwards said of the team’s defensive performance. “You know, on Saturday, we weren’t having the best day defensively and, I think it carried off on Monday. We had a little chip on our shoulder and we were all ready to play. We were just all excited and it just started on a defensive end for us tonight which led to offense.”

The Revolutionaries led 37-20 at halftime, and would end up outscoring the Stonehill Skyhawks 52-24 in the second half, leading to the final lopsided score of 89-44. The second half started with a James Bishop steal to a Trey Autry assist to a Garrett Johnson alley-oop slam dunk. The team hit a barrage of threes, exhibiting a fast-paced and high-energy “Showtime Lakers” type offense that wowed the crowd and debilitated the Skyhawks from ever entering striking distance. 

12 different players scored for the Revolutionaries, a dramatic difference from many of the games last year, where the vast majority of the offense came from guards James Bishop and Brendan Adams.

Bishop had a relatively quiet offensive performance tonight, only scoring five points but dishing out five assists in 20 minutes of play. It was a testament to how different the composition of this year’s roster is to last year’s that GW was able to win in blowout fashion without requiring a high-scoring output from Bishop, who led the team in points last season and averaged almost 22 points a game.

“We’ve got many, many more guys that can make threes.” Caputo said. “We wanted to surround James with more guys who could do that. The way it worked out, we were a little bit younger in doing it, but you know when Garrett makes five, obviously Max can shoot, Benny made one, Jacoi made one.”

Johnson also spoke to the gravity James Bishop demands from the defense, and how it opens up scoring opportunities for everyone else.

“JB gives us a lot of confidence.” Johnson said. “Obviously he’s done a lot here already and teams know how good he is. So we’re gonna be ready for the ball and he’s gonna find us and that just kind of speaks to what we did in the summer. We all trust each other out there.”

The Revolutionaries hope to continue their momentum with a win against William and Mary this Saturday. Tip-off is slated for 1 PM and that game can be streamed on ESPN+ and WRGW.

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