Men’s Basketball Drops Heartbreaker to Loyola-Chicago After Ten-Point Comeback

Photo credit: Peyton Stoike

By Scott Greaney (@ScottGreaney_)

On a warm Saturday afternoon, GW showed signs of potentially breaking their cold streak at home against Loyola Chicago, but foul trouble and late injuries ultimately hindered them from pulling out the victory. The Revolutionaries (14-9, 3-6 A-10) continue to fall in the conference standings on this 6-game losing streak, as they now sit at 13th in the conference.

“I’m very proud of my group. I thought we had a lot of fight. I thought, for the first time in a while, my younger group of guys played the game and not the score at times,” GW head coach Chris Caputo said.

In the first half, it seemed like another cold shooting afternoon from the Buff & Blue, as they shot 30% from the field and just 4-of-15 from three-point range. Redshirt freshman wing Garrett Johnson returned to the hardwood after missing Tuesday’s game against Rhode Island due to an injury and had eight points in the opening half despite an off-shooting performance. 

Meanwhile, the Ramblers (17-7, 9-2 A10) came out firing from deep, shooting 46.7% from both the field and three-point range in the half. Loyola led for the entire first half, stretching their lead to as much as 10 with eight minutes left in the half. Following another rough shooting half, Caputo’s squad found themselves facing an eight-point deficit at halftime. 

Whatever was said in the locker room at halftime paid off as GW pulled off a 9-4 run in the first four minutes of the second half to cut the Rambler lead to just three. This run was highlighted by GW’s stifling defense on the perimeter, causing the once-hot Ramblers to miss their first 10 three-point attempts in the second half. 

“The coaches felt good about our energy in the first half and the defensive effort we were giving,” senior guard James Bishop IV said. “The message was just to continue that, and shots will fall; offense will get going. Our main message was just energy on defense really.”

Despite the strong defense on the three-point arc, the Revolutionaries were unable to stop the Ramblers in the paint with leading shot-blocker graduate center Babatunde “Stretch” Akingbola battling foul trouble in the second half. 

Shortly after the under-16 media timeout, trouble struck for the Buff and Blue. Freshman guard Jacoi Hutchinson had to sit on the bench dealing with a bloody nose, while redshirt freshman forward Darren Buchanan Jr. limped off the court, appearing to have a groin injury. Hutchinson returned shortly thereafter, whereas Buchanan Jr. watched from behind the bench, and his status remains questionable. 

With no other options for size available, Caputo had no choice but to check Stretch back in with four fouls. However, just over a minute after checking in, Stretch picked up his fifth foul, sending him to the bench for the remainder of Saturday’s game.

After switching to a smaller, quicker lineup, redshirt sophomore wing Maximus Edwards hit a corner three to give GW its first lead of the game. Shortly thereafter, Bishop sent junior forward Des Watson to the hardwood with a dazzling crossover stepback three, sending the Smith Center crowd into near pandemonium. 

However, the Ramblers, with four conference road wins coming into Saturday, battled back into the game thanks to a pair of three-pointers from senior wing Sheldon Edwards and graduate guard Braden Norris that returned it to a two-point game at the under-four media timeout. 

After the media timeout, the Ramblers regained the lead with a pair of and-one post layups from graduate center Dame Adelekun. This marked the beginning of a trend for the Ramblers, as their last 14 points of the game were all scored in the paint and at the free-throw line.

“I think, for us, the biggest thing was they just had some big guys that were physical down low, and when you lose the two frontcourt guys, it’s tough to guard those guys,” Johnson said.

Even though Saturday’s loss marked the sixth straight for GW, the defensive intensity and urgency were bright spots for the Buff and Blue. Today’s game also signified a bounce-back game from Bishop, who finished with 25 points and seven assists.

“I think we’ve got to keep the energy we had today. This is the first time in a long time that I think we came to play for two full halves, tonight it just didn’t go our way. I was happy with our energy and our effort the whole game so we want to keep that going,” Bishop said. 

Caputo took pride in his team’s resilience fighting back from a ten-point deficit and competing without their two frontcourt starters. “It’s not really about the score right now, it’s really more about how we’re playing and I thought today we were back to the way we played in the first four league games.” 

GW will travel across the Potomac Tuesday night to face George Mason, the team they last beat before this six-game slide. The Revolutionaries are looking to sweep the season series for the second time in five seasons. Be sure to tune into WRGW at 7 p.m.. I’ll also be on the live coverage in Fairfax with the write-up after. 

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