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GW’s offense heats up in commanding victory over Sacred Heart

Senior guard Lasan Kromah releases a shot earlier this season. Hatchet File Photo by Jordan Emont | Photo Editor

First, it was Dwayne Smith. Then, it was Bryan Bynes.

After Smith’s dominant off-the-bench performance against VMI Dec. 22, it was Bynes who stepped up against Sacred Heart, ending the game with nine points, three rebounds and an assist.

If there’s ever a time for players to begin to discover their game, it’s as their team closes in on conference play. It’s an important boost of confidence, one that can spread across a team. And the impact of the improved shooting was easy to see Sunday as GW (6-6) walked away with a 77-38 victory over Sacred Heart, the team’s biggest margin of victory since 2007.

“[Bynes] has really struggled to make baskets and today, in the first half, he had eight or nine points, made some shots, and it was so much easier for our team to get some scoring out of him,” head coach Mike Lonergan said. “Hopefully he can build on that and keep working hard. Especially for the seniors, you want them to have no regrets and go out and have the best year of their careers.”

The opening minutes of play didn’t provide a hint of the Colonial dominance to come. The two teams played through three lead changes and a tie over roughly the first nine minutes of play.

But GW soon found its rhythm. A Bynes three before a media timeout jumpstarted the Colonial offense, peaking in a 31-10 scoring run over the final 15 minutes of the first half. GW shot 59.3 percent on the half, the team’s best first-half shooting of the season.

“We’ve got to keep getting better. We’ve been working on our shooting more than any team I’ve ever seen,” Lonergan said. “Hopefully the guys will start understanding the reason we’re bringing them in for extra shooting is so it will pay off.”

The offensive pressure didn’t relax after the break. The Colonials came out of the half strong, never letting Sacred Heart get close. And though the Pioneers attempted to stall GW’s shooting with a zone that collapsed inside, the Colonials shook off earlier shooting slumps to stay hot from the floor.

GW shot 50.9 percent overall, controlling the offensive pace of the game. Despite Sacred Heart attempting to apply pressure inside, the Colonials picked up a 38-16 points in the paint advantage, supplementing its production with a 13-8 edge in second-chance points. The team’s play was aided by its 43-37 advantage on the boards.

“I thought [senior guard] Lasan [Kromah] did a good job, he had a good floor game. We’re playing him a little at the point now because he’s a good passer,” Lonergan said. “Our competition is going to get a lot stronger than it was today but it was good to see a strong team effort.”

The scoring was spread across the team’s roster, GW picking up 39 points from its bench. All 12 of the Colonials who checked into the game scored, paced by senior guard Lasan Kromah and Smith, who added 10 points and eight and five rebounds, respectively. Senior forward Isaiah Armwood had eight points, three assists and three blocks, while freshman guard Joe McDonald had eight points, seven boards, four assists and four steals.

Also strong off the bench for GW was freshman forward Paris Maragkos, who pulled down five boards and eight points, including his first collegiate three-pointer.

“Paris, I wanted to get him some time today. His mom came over from Greece and she was with him for four or five days and she was able to see this game,” Lonergan said.

The Colonials’ wide-ranging production was made even more potent by Sacred Heart’s limited lineup. Losing a number of players to injury, the Pioneers struggled to establish a balanced game, earning just five points from their bench.

That lent itself well to GW establishing a strong transition game, tightly controlling most of the Pioneers’ trips down the court. Sacred Heart shot just 23.7 percent on the game, surrendering 19 turnovers that GW turned into 23 points and able to tally only 16 points in the paint.

“We’ve had to rely on our defense. Our field goal percentage defensively has been pretty good. We struggle to score a lot and our shooting hasn’t been very strong, so defense can be a constant for us,” Lonergan said.

The win, though not a challenging victory, was an important one for the Colonials. After multiple games that ended in a three-point defeat, it could serve as an important injection of confidence as the team looks to wrap non-conference play against Georgia Jan. 4.

After that, GW will host St. Bonaventure Jan. 9 to officially begin play in a tough A-10 field. The team is still waiting on news about injured senior forward David Pellom, Lonergan said, who is slated to see a doctor in a few days and could rejoin GW in time for A-10 play.

“It could really help us,” Lonergan said. “But we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do to get more out of the guys we’ve got. I’m happy with where we’re at, we’ve had some setbacks we didn’t expect the first semester, but we’ve got to keep getting better.”

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