By: Cameron Mays
It was a tale of two halves at the Smith Center Saturday night, as GW lost their footing in the second half and fell to SLU 81-74 and dropped to 2-2 in conference play.
With much of the pre-game preparation focusing on one of the best point guards in the country in Yuri Collins, it was a surprise to see him be a late scratch due to an illness. Despite the unexpected change just minutes before the tip, GW came out solid in the first half. They shot a respectable 48.5% from the floor despite only going 4-15 (26.7%) from three. Additionally, GW outrebounded SLU by 10 (22-12), cleaning up an often criticized part of the team’s game.
While GW only committed five fouls in the first half, two of those were by Hunter Dean before the 16-minute mark, forcing Coach Caputo to insert Noel Brown into the lineup for the majority of the remaining minutes. Brown had a solid showing, going 4-4 for eight points and three rebounds. He looked more comfortable with the ball in his hands, catching passes more cleanly and showing a better touch around the rim.
Speaking about Brown coming in for Dean, Caputo said, “Noel has really done a nice job defensively. I thought with his physicality, the way we’re playing pick-and-rolls benefits him. He finished some plays, sometimes it can be an adventure, but he was 4-4 in the first half.”
Anchored like usual by Bishop with 11 and Adams with nine, Edwards also stepped up to fill the lack of offense from Ricky Lindo, contributing nine as well. After opening their largest lead of the game at 39-31, SLU closed the half with five straight, sending both teams to the locker room with GW up 39-36.
Whatever SLU talked about in the locker room worked because out of the half, SLU went on a 20-0 run to the 10:56 mark. Combined with the first half, this was a 25-0 run that spanned 9:55 of game time, leading to a 56-39 lead. Despite the limiting factors in the first half, GW put together a good first half, which is why as the minutes ticked by and Javonte Perkins and Javon Pickett went back and forth with each other for SLU scoring, the crowd was more confused than anything else.
Adams said, “I think we kind of just went cold for a second, and then we let that affect our defense for a little bit. They went on a big run and I think a lot of it was we were just missing shots, not reacting well.”
During that 9:55 time, GW went 0-14 from the field, including 0-8 from three. The defensive effort was obviously lacking, and there were far too many turnovers. Caputo called two time-outs during the run but was unable to shake SLU.
Finally, Edwards ended the run with a layup, sparking a smaller but crucial 25-10 GW run, which brought the game back within two points. During this run over 8:18 of game time, Edwards had 13 points, and Dean had seven.
On his career-high 24-point performance, Edwards said, “Obviously, JB and BA were finding me on the three-point line, and I was able to hit shots. Most of their team was focused on JB and BA, so it’s a great feeling, but we still ain’t win.”
GW could not bring the game any closer as they reversed a promising trend throughout the earlier parts of the game and started fouling. Lindo picked up four fouls in less than as many minutes. Perkins and Pickett made most of the free throws late in the game, sealing it for SLU.
Despite the promising resilience, GW showed late in the second half, and the 25-0 run proved to be too much. Combined with an off night for Bishop, where he shot only 5-23 overall, GW did not have enough options to find the lead and make it stick.
On Bishop’s shooting struggles, Caputo offered a simple message. “I just think we lose when he shoots 5-23, it’s real simple. Brendan had a good night, Ricky didn’t score, Max had a good night. James did have six assists and he had 14 points. We are so contingent upon the five starters.”
GW will travel to George Mason on MLK Day to face off against the Patriots in the Revolutionary Rivalry. Mason took SLU down to the wire in St. Louis and held off Davidson at home, so GW will need a much better performance in order to come away with the win.