Men’s Basketball Drops Delaware with Late Comeback

Photo credit: GW men’s basketball

By: Liam O’Murchu (@Liam_0__)

Men’s basketball bounced back from their first loss of the season with an 81-71 comeback win over Delaware on Sunday evening to pick up third place in the Baha Mar Hoops Nassau Championship.

The Revolutionaries (6-1) came back from a 16 point deficit behind a workmanlike 28 points from senior guard James Bishop and 24 points from redshirt sophomore wing Max Edwards. The Blue Hens (5-2) were dominant early thanks to their scoring down low, spearheaded by 10 points in the first 10 minutes from senior forward Jyáre Davis, who finished with 23 points and nine rebounds.

“I thought we plugged away similar to how we did yesterday.” Caputo said. “We were able to then get it close. I thought if we could get it to one possession, we would have the ability to take control of the game.”

GW started slow for the second straight game, falling into a 12-6 hole by the first media timeout. The difference between this game and the matchup with UIC is the Blue Hens were pumping the ball down low early whereas the Flames were raining down shots from beyond the arc.

As much as Davis led the way, the Blue Hens found scoring from a multitude of players in the early going, with six players on the scoresheet by the under 12 media timeout. Four minutes later, Delaware had moved the lead to 29-19 thanks to 14-of-18 shooting from two point range.

What followed was easily the ugliest four minutes of GW men’s basketball so far this season. The Revs missed eight straight shots from the field, going scoreless for over six minutes. Not to be outdone, the Blue Hens missed 13 consecutive shots and didn’t score for roughly the same amount of time. If you were doing something else for a few minutes, you literally did not miss anything. The score at the final media timeout of the first half was the same as it was at the penultimate one.

UD stretched the lead to 16 before heading into halftime up 38-25. The Revs had 20 minutes remaining in a stretch of three games in as many days, which included a double OT thriller against Ohio on Friday. 

“Going through yesterday gave us a little bit of confidence that we could cut it.” Caputo said about the halftime mood. “So there was confidence in terms of knowing what we were capable of doing and if we had another opportunity, we might be able to push it over to the edge. I think the guy’s focus was in the right place.”

GW redshirt freshman wing Garrett Johnson was held scoreless in the first half for the first time in his young collegiate career and the Revs knew they had to get him going. On the first possession of the half, Bishop drove into the lane and fed a cutting Johnson, who picked up his first points off a dunk. Johnson finished with nine points and two rebounds, both career lows. However, the production he gave the Revs came at the perfect moments and was crucial in ultimately pushing them over the edge.

The rest of the offense followed suit and GW went on a 10-2 run to open the half, forcing Delaware head coach Martin Inglesby to take a timeout and pulling the Revs within 40-35. From there GW worked to further close the gap but the Blue Hens hit timely shots to prevent them from doing so.

The tide turned with roughly seven minutes remaining when redshirt forward Darren Buchanan Jr. finished through contact to cut the deficit to 60-57. Although he missed the ensuing free throw, GW had the momentum. Buchanan tied the game at 62 moments later and a minute later Bishop gave the Revs a two-point lead with a steal and subsequent fast break layup. From there, the Buff & Blue wouldn’t relinquish the lead.

The Blue Hens stayed within striking distance until a big sequence with about a minute left involving GW’s best three players on the day. Edwards started it off by driving to the free throw line and draining a floater to put the Revs up 72-67. Buchanan followed that up with terrific interior defense, forcing a miss from UD graduate guard Gerald Drumgoole. Buchanan quickly got the ball up the court to Bishop, who was fouled and knocked down both free throws to put GW up seven points (he’s shooting 92.9% from the line this year. Not too shabby!).

From there GW padded the margin with some free throws and a garbage time layup. After scoring a season-low 25 points in the first half and shooting only 30% from the field, the Revs scored a season-high 56 points in the second half and shot a stunning 77.8% from the floor.

Let me take a moment to talk about GW’s stars in Bishop and Edwards. Bishop was phenomenal in the Bahamas, averaging 26 points per game across three games and tying the tournament record with 78 total points. He was named to the all-tournament team for his efforts and we got an amazing photo of him smiling with his trophy.

Photo credit: GW men’s basketball

The joy that he’s playing with is evident in that photo and when you watch him play. There is almost no way to stop him from scoring. If you’re too tight on him on the perimeter, he will blow by you and make a wizardly finish look like a walk in the park. If you sag off him, he will not hesitate to put up a three pointer, which he is converting on a career-high 34.4% of this season. And this isn’t even mentioning his increased role as a facilitator, averaging 5.1 assists per game.

Edwards was ejected in the loss to UIC after picking up a technical foul and later a Flagrant Two for shoving a Flames player off the ball while jostling for a rebound. This compounded with his ejection against New Hampshire last weekend led Caputo to discipline him by taking him out of the starting lineup, the first change of the year. While others may get discouraged, Edwards responded in the best possible way by scoring 24 points and grabbing eight boards. The revelation in Edwards’ game this year has been the confidence with which he is playing. Last year he may have hesitated to pull the trigger on a shot, but that has not been the case this season. After posting a respectable 35.3% mark from three his freshman year, he’s shooting a remarkable 48.8% from beyond the arc this season. While he can’t be expected to keep up that accuracy from deep, that sort of bump can make an otherwise good GW team great.

The fight shown by this young Revolutionaries squad in their first games away from the Smith Center bodes well for the rest of the season and shows that what this team lacks in experience, they make up for in talent and shotmaking. There are adjustments to be made, certainly on the defensive end. But it is difficult to complain about having one loss through seven games and being 79 spots higher on KenPom than they were to start the year.

“We’re continuing to learn each other.” Caputo said. “We have four guys that have never played college basketball and two guys who’ve had very limited roles in college basketball. So I think that we’re just learning a lot”

The Revolutionaries have a much needed break from games until Friday, when they head to Columbia to take on South Carolina, where they’ll look to replicate the 79-55 thumping they put on the Gamecocks last year in DC. Tip off for that game is 7 PM and it can be streamed on SEC Network+.

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