Men’s Basketball’s Season Ends in A10 Tournament Loss to La Salle

By Liam O’Murchu (@Liam_0__)

Men’s basketball saw their season end with a heartbreaking 61-60 loss to La Salle on Tuesday afternoon in the A10 tournament in Brooklyn after leading for 32 of 40 minutes.

The Revolutionaries (15-17, 4-15 A10) were undone by cold shooting and heroics from Explorers (16-16, 7-12 A10) senior guard Jhamir Brickus, who hit a game winning shot with 20 seconds left. GW was led by 19 points from graduate guard James Bishop IV in his final game in Buff & Blue while Brickus paced La Salle with 21 points.

“It’s a disappointing end to what’s been a very difficult year for us.” GW head coach Chris Caputo said. “But I was proud of the way our guys played over the last month or so. It’s difficult, especially with a young group of guys, to stick together the way we did. I thought we actually had our best defensive performance today.”

After a Brickus shot in the lane to open the scoring, GW ran out to an 8-2 lead thanks to shots from distance from Bishop and freshman guard Trey Autry. Redshirt sophomore wing Max Edwards quickly made an impact off the bench, scoring five points after coming in following the first media timeout. By the second media timeout, the Revs were 5-for-10 from the field and held the Explorers to just 4-for-14 shooting from the field. However, GW led just 14-9 with 13:22 remaining in the half and already had five turnovers.

GW’s offense stagnated a bit at the midpoint of the first half, not scoring a single field goal for 6:27, which ended with a three pointer from freshman guard Jacoi Hutchinson. But La Salle continued to struggle offensively and the Revs led by six points at the under eight timeout and the rest of the first half was much of the same story as the Explorers stayed within striking distance but the Revs did enough to maintain a 30-23 halftime lead.

From there the tides shifted towards the Explorers, who made just 25% of their first half shots but flipped the script thanks to some halftime adjustments.

“We eliminated [double teams] in the second half when we had no running to double-team on a big guy like [Babatunde] Akingbola.” La Salle coach Fran Dunphy said about halftime adjustments. “And with [Brantley and Brickus], they can get us shots on drive and kicks and sometimes they do a great job of making their own shots.”

On the other hand, GW was held scoreless in the first four minutes of the second half and saw their woes continue well into the period. With 11:35 left, sophomore forward Rokas Jocius hit a three pointer to tie the game for the first time since the score was 2-2. But it was Brickus and junior guard Khalil Brantley who really kept the Explorers going, hitting big shot after big shot and playing lockdown defense on Bishop. The pair scored 21 of their combined 36 points in the second half.

“Honestly, I wanted to be Defensive Player of the Year.” Brantley said “I take pride in my defense. I feel like a lot of people, especially at my size, may look over me. But I defend and I feel like I can defend anybody.”

Edwards kept GW afloat with five straight points around the nine minute mark and the Revs trailed 45-43 at the penultimate media timeout. He would finish with 10 points on 4-for-9 shooting, coming off the bench along with nine rebounds. But it was after this point that Bishop started to put his mark on what would be his final game at GW, hitting multiple big shots from deep and scoring 10 of his 19 points between the under eight and under four media timeouts.

I’ve already talked at length about Bishop’s departure and time at GW, but it bears repeating that he is a special player who deserves recognition for being one of the best scorers in program history even if he hasn’t done much winning.

“I don’t think it’s clicked yet.” Bishop said about playing his last game at GW. “I’m happy I was able to play for GW, help the program and be around this special group of guys. It didn’t go our way but I love how we fought. I wouldn’t change the decision to come back for anything.”

Also quieter than usual (although it doesn’t seem it by the stat line) was redshirt freshman forward Darren Buchanan Jr, who finished with 14 points, six assists and six rebounds on 3-for-7 shooting, including a huge corner three pointer with 1:56 left to give GW a 60-59 lead. Earlier in the day Buchanan was snubbed for A10 Rookie of the Year, which Buchanan said he didn’t care about but confused Caputo.

“I don’t know if I’ve heard of a freshman in league play being fifth in scoring and sixth in rebounding and not winning Freshman of the Year.” Caputo said. “It’s just unheard of. Xzayvier Brown was Rookie of the Year for sure. He had an awesome year and kicked our butt. How there’s not a co-Rookie of the Year with those numbers… I’m not sure what everyone was paying attention to. Or more likely, they weren’t paying attention, which is fine because we didn’t win enough games.”

But Brickus was the star that shined the brightest, hitting two clutch mid range shots, including the game winning one with 20 seconds remaining. Facing a one point deficit, GW got the ball over half court and took a timeout with 15 seconds left. Coming out of the timeout, the play closely resembled the play that won the Revs the game over VCU, isolating James Bishop and letting him create his own shot. But this time it did not work and GW was unable to capitalize on Buchanan’s offensive rebound to Bishop, whose circus shot fell just short at the buzzer

“The guy has 2,000 points in his career and he’s made some game-winners.” Caputo said. “I’m going to trust that he’s going to make a good choice. Their guy made the shot. Our guy missed the shot. It’s life. There were a lot of other plays throughout the game that could’ve gone either way.”

For GW, this is the third straight year they’ve failed to win a conference tournament game and the sixth season they’ve finished with a losing record in the last seven years. Year Two of the Caputo era was undoubtedly a disappointment, although it was derailed by injuries (redshirt freshman forward Garrett Johnson sat out the last eight games of the season) and youth (GW got the 3rd most points from freshman in the NCAA). But the team we saw at the beginning of the year was not the same as one we saw at the end.

Assuming everyone returns, the Revs have four open scholarships to fill this offseason and the top priorities will be getting a big man and replacing James Bishop, neither of which will be an easy task.

On a personal level, this is my last game writing about GW basketball as a student. As I’ve said previously, GW basketball means the world to me and I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunity to write, broadcast, and generally obsess over their games. My passion for GW basketball is lifelong even if my writing stops here (which it may not!). Thank you all for reading my ramblings the past few years.

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