Men’s Basketball Finally Wins, 86-75 over St. Bonaventure

Photo credit: Art Pittman

By Liam O’Murchu (@Liam_0__)

Our national nightmare is over! The George Washington men’s basketball team has finally won a game again! 

The Revolutionaries (15-15, 4-13 A10) snapped a 12-game, 51-day losing streak on Wednesday night with a 86-75 win over St. Bonaventure thanks to a signature 27-point, 8-for-13 shooting performance from fifth year senior guard James Bishop IV on his Senior Night.

“I’m happy for James and the way he went out tonight.” GW head coach Chris Caputo said. “He deserves it after the great career he’s had. I’m happy for our group. I think we’ve kind of kept chopping wood.”

The Revs were looking to avoid their first 13-game losing streak since 1989 but it was the Bonnies (18-11, 9-8 A10) who started the game hot. Redshirt senior guard Moses Flowers hit three of his first four shots from three point range and SBU led 20-15 at the first media timeout after pushing the lead to as much as seven.

Defense was optional early on and Bishop led the Revs to a 26-25 lead with nine points at the under-8 media timeout. The Bonnies backcourt continued to carry the load as GW made their leading scorer, redshirt junior forward Chad Venning, uncomfortable early and often by quickly double teaming him when he got the ball in the post. At halftime he had as many fouls as points in eight minutes on the floor: two.

“I thought the doubles early set the tone.” Caputo said. “They were physical. I’ve seen him barrel through a couple of doubles and just lay the ball in. So you can say you’re coming over, but you’ve got to come over and put a body on somebody. Both guys need to be able to put him in a closet.”

Flowers and sophomore forward Assa Essamvous paced SBU in the first half, combining for 20 of the team’s 42 first-half points. But Bishop clearly came to play in his final game at the Charles E. Smith Center and had 14 points before the break, 12 of which came from beyond the arc. 

With 7.2 seconds left in the half, graduate center Babatunde Akingbola (who was honored pregame alongside Bishop and forward Antoine Smith Jr) committed a foul and subsequently got a technical foul for arguing the call with the referee. What was a 38-34 Bonnies lead became a 42-34 lead in a matter of moments. But the Revs fed freshman guard Trey Autry the ball and he stepped into a transition three pointer with a second left, which rattled in to cut the deficit to 42-37 at the break.

At halftime, both teams were shooting above 54% from the field and it was the fifth time in the last six games GW had given up 40+ points in the first half. The Bonnies had a 12-4 advantage in points off turnovers at the break, capitalizing on the Revs’ eight first half turnovers.

“The [halftime] message is not ‘ra, ra.’” Caputo said. “They just stole four points. But other than that, we had a good half. We’ve got to get to their feet on jump shots, which for us is hard because of our size issues.”

But GW flipped the script after halftime, turning SBU over three times in the first four minutes of the second half (all of which came from Venning), as many as they had in all of the opening stanza. By the 15:47 mark of the second half, the Revs were up 48-46. 

This was the stage of the game when freshman guard Jacoi Hutchinson really got going, with two steals, an assist and a transition layup before the first media timeout. Hutchinson has been a revelation in recent games despite the team’s struggles as a whole. Coming into Wednesday’s game, he was averaging 14.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3 assists, 51.2% shooting from the field, and 52.2% shooting from three point range in 36.6 minutes per game over the last five games. He continued his strong play with 13 points, seven assists (career high), two rebounds and two steals. If he can continue performances like this, the Laurel, Maryland native will be one of the best players in the Atlantic 10 for years to come.

“I don’t know how you keep Jacoi off the [A10 All-Rookie] Team right now the way he’s playing.” Caputo said. “He is playing 40 minutes like a veteran guard. Points, assists, rebounds, steals, defense. I am very high on Jacoi.”

“I’ve had great people around me to push me to focus on the good things.” Hutchinson said. “I took the time to watch film, rewatch the game myself, talk to my teammates and figure out ways that I can still learn.”

For the first 10 minutes of the second half, the teams traded blows and former GW center Noel Brown contributed to the effort to keep pace with the Revs, eventually finishing the game 4-for-5 from the field with eight points and four rebounds. 

“He’s one of my better friends. So I always talk to him. And definitely before tonight I talked to him.” Bishop said.

But after the Leesburg, Virginia native put in his third basket, GW went on an 11-1 run, spurred on by hot shooting from redshirt sophomore wing Max Edwards, who’s been less consistent this year than he was in his A10 Rookie of the Year campaign last season. Fortunately for the Revs, Edwards came to play on Wednesday, scoring 15 of his 19 points in the second half as part of a 6-for-10 shooting performance in the game as a whole despite only playing 19 minutes.

Once the Revs established a 69-60 lead at the penultimate media timeout, they did not relinquish it largely thanks to their best defensive half of the conference season. GW forced St. Bonaventure into 12-for-29 (41.4%) shooting from the floor in the second half (which isn’t outstanding but is juxtaposed by the Revs’ 14-for-22 (63.6%) mark) and four turnovers, all of which came from Venning.

“We’re challenged defensively.” Caputo said. “This is not a big secret. We’re just a little small in the backcourt. When you’re like that, the effort level has to be so high… there’s Jun [Buchanan]”

“I love you, coach!” yelled Buchanan, who finished with 14 points, from the back of the press room.

“It was palpable.” Caputo said. “You could see it. And that’s hard to do all the time. Even the best defensive teams don’t do it all the time. They’re just really long, fast, and athletic. They make a mistake and they come over and fix the mistake.”

The highlight of the night came at the 3:11 mark of the second half when Bishop found himself in space on a fast break and dunked for the first time in his career to push the lead to 79-65 before checking out with 44 seconds remaining to a standing ovation.

Bishop is a soft-spoken volume shooter who does his talking on the court and hasn’t done much winning since he’s been at GW. But he is the best scorer I have ever watched play basketball in person. He can score from three, driving to the basket, from mid-range, and from the free throw line. He can hit heavily contested shots and open ones just the same. He never gets too high or too low and he’s one of the last players you’d ever want to play against. But it’s not because he’s unsportsmanlike or bends the rules. He just puts the ball in the basket. It makes opposing fan bases want to rip their hair out and his supporters want to kiss him on the mouth (guilty). His simple love for the game and dedication to improve no matter what is refreshing, inspiring and something that can be emulated outside of basketball.

“He’s carried me for two years.” Caputo said. “I don’t know what the heck we’ll do when he’s gone. Every time we win I’m like, ‘Oh, we won because he played great.’ He’s one for the ages here.”

(If you’re looking for more on Bishop I wrote a profile about him ahead of his Senior Night)

On a personal note, this was my final GW basketball game at the Smith Center as a student. I got to campus in January of 2021 and attended every game I could since then. Home basketball games have been fundamental to my experience as a GW student, whether it was seeing the Domino’s mascot at a game or getting run off the floor by Dayton in front of a crowd full of family members before waiting 30+ minutes in the press room to speak with Jamion Christian. Win or lose, it is a special place to watch basketball and I hope that future GW students share my passion.

GW’s final regular season game is at Duquesne, tipping off at 2 PM on Saturday. The Revs can’t move higher than 14th in the standings but will look to win consecutive games for the first time since January 13-15. The game can be streamed on ESPN+.

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