Men’s basketball loses final regular season game to Duquesne on last-second foul call

Photo credit: Jason Aigner (@jbutter3_)

By Cameron Mays (@cameronemays)

After snapping the longest losing streak since their infamous 1-27 season in 1988-1989, the Revolutionaries (15-16, 4-14 A10) traveled to Pittsburgh to face Duquesne in the last game of the regular season and fell 67-65. Coming off the win in James Bishop IV’s senior day where the team shot 59% from the field and 52% from three, the hope was that GW could stay hot to build momentum going into the “pillow fight” round of the A10 Tournament.

GW started the game with the same high energy and good decision making that led to the win over St. Bonaventure. On the first defensive possession of the game the team employed the man-zone hybrid that head coach Chris Caputo has turned to in the last few games. Once again it proved effective, and GW was able to put pressure on Duquesne’s guards while rotating and helping on passes, and then trapped the Dukes’ (20-11, 10-8 A10) big man, leading to a shot clock violation.

“I think it’s been found for us, we’ve answered the bell pretty good over the last few nights,” Caputo said about the improved defensive performance. “Being able to put it together and play the best we can has been able to activate us.”

On the offensive end GW was hitting shots, but started turning the ball over after the first few minutes to give Duquesne easy points and keep the game close. 

After playing the first 11 minutes even at 16-16, Duquesne went on a run over the next nine minutes to give themselves a 34-26 lead at the under two minute mark. The Revs cooled down from three and the defense started to fall flat. The team allowed Duquesne guards too much separation when going over screens and were not getting back in transition. Senior guard Jimmy Clark III led the way for the Dukes, scoring 10 points over the stretch.

When it seemed like Duquesne would push the lead even further, with a minute left in the half, GW put together several good sequences to bring the halftime deficit to just four. Redshirt freshman forward Darren Buchanan Jr. hit two free throws after getting fouled on a strong move to the basket to get GW within six. Then on the other end of the floor after freshman guard Jake DiMichele got past Edwards, Edwards made a quick recovery and swatted DiMichele’s layup attempt, leading to a buzzer-beating jumper by Bishop.

GW went back to the hybrid defense to start the half, and played with intensity like they had been to start the game to force Duquesne misses. Offensively GW was rewarded with buckets from freshman guard Jacoi Hutchinson and graduate center Stretch Akingbola to quickly retake the lead, 35-34 with 18:21 left.

For the rest of the way GW battled hard, and neither team went up by more than five. When GW went up 45-41 with 12:49 left, it looked like they might take a commanding lead, but Duqesne forced turnovers and hit timely shots to stay in it. Then with the Dukes up 63-58 with 3:08 left, redshirt sophomore wing Max Edwards hit a big three and assisted on a layup to tie it back up. 

Edwards, who came off the bench again, provided the consistent calming presence GW needed on the court that we have not seen from him as much this year. He got off to a slow start in the first half, but improved his shot selection and passing to contribute 10 points and two assists in the second half. On his last three, GW broke the school record for most three pointers in a season with 277 on the year.

With the game coming down to the wire after Bishop hit a mid-range jumper with 42 seconds to tie the game at 65, the officiating took over. On the next Duquesne possession, Stretch and Clark both went up for a rebound off a Duquesne miss with 11.6 seconds remaining. On the floor the officials called it out on Stretch, and then confirmed the call after review despite little evidence showing he touched it.

“They said it was off Stretch, which I don’t know if it was or it wasn’t,” Caputo said about the call. “I guess they can see different angles, said it was off Stretch, his head.”

Duquesne gave the ball to Clark off the inbound, and with 2.9 seconds he drew a weak foul on Stretch to get to the line. While there was contact on the drive, Stretch jumped straight up and hardly bumped Clark. With the officiating for the first 39 minutes of the game largely allowing contact, this foul call all but gave Duquesne the game. Clark hit both the free throws and Edwards missed the half court heave to give Duquesne the 67-65 victory.

“Certainly a very difficult call with two seconds left,” Caputo said. “I’m just disappointed, we get in a position late in a well played game and to have the game being decided on that call is disappointing to me.”

Despite the result, GW played arguably their best game since the losing streak started. The 67 points the Revs gave up was the least since the first George Mason game, and the team held Duquesne to just 33% from three. While Bishop had a poor shooting day going just 6-for-18 from the floor, the team shot a solid 46% from the field and 37% from three. Going into the conference tournament, GW will need production from everyone on both sides of the ball to make a run, but a performance like today makes it seem possible.

“We just tell the guys to go out there and compete, and we’ve done that,” Caputo said about how he thought the performance compared to the rest of the conference. “So tonight, it’s a shame when you don’t get the result you want, but I think it’s another good performance that’s encouraging going into Brooklyn.”

With the loss, GW is locked into the 15 seed for the A10 Tournament and will play La Salle at 2:00 pm on Tuesday. The game can be listened to on WRGW and streamed on ESPN+.

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