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Men’s basketball concludes non-conference play with win over VMI

Junior guard/forward Patricio Garino completes a layup during the GW's victory over the UMBC Retrievers. Francis Rivera | Senior Staff Photographer
Junior guard/forward Patricio Garino completes a layup during GW’s victory over UMBC earlier this season. Hatchet File Photo by Francis Rivera | Senior Staff Photographer
Men’s basketball wrapped up non-conference play Tuesday with a commanding 80-60 victory over Virginia Military Institute to earn its 10th win of the season.

Junior guards Kethan Savage and Patricio Garino would both double-double, scoring 18 points and 16 points, respectively, while also recording 10 rebounds each. The double-double is the first of Garino’s collegiate career.

The duo led an offense that saw four Colonials finish the night scoring in double figures, as junior forward Kevin Larsen would score 12 and freshmen Yuta Watanabe put up 10 off the bench.

“This was a big game for us,” head coach Mike Lonergan said. “I think we shared the ball well in the second half. Kevin did a really good job of handling the ball in transition, and these guys got to the rim and finished some plays.”

Despite GW coming off a Diamond Head Classic championship win over No. 11 Wichita State, the less formidable Keydets (5-8) kept the game close early against the Colonials (10-3), with VMI’s high-scoring offense that was tied for the best in the nation coming into the contest.

VMI outshot the GW 33.3 to 32.5 percent in the first half, but sank only four of a whopping 19 attempts from beyond the arc. The Keydets were also able to narrowly out-rebound the Colonials 29-28 in the first frame, but 11 turnovers to GW’s four left VMI with a 35-29 deficit heading into halftime.

“I thought the 1-3-1 was working pretty well, but we had some guys sinking and started to give up some threes,” Lonergan said. “I told the guys at halftime, ‘I’m not here to motivate you. You’ve got to motivate yourselves.’ So we had a lot of energy in the second half.”

Following their sloppy start, the Colonials’ offense came to life and would outshoot the Keydets 65.4 to 25.7 percent in the second half. They outscored their long-range shooting opponent in the paint 52-24 on the night.

Led by junior point guard Joe McDonald, who had a team-high 11 rebounds, GW’s efforts on the glass also improved in the second frame as the Colonials would out-rebound VMI 49-45 on the night. But the team still lacked production from its frontcourt, which combined for just two rebounds.

“Joe’s rebounds are kind of loud because he’s so little and he was rebounding at the rim where a four man should be rebounding,” Lonergan said. “We have a great rebounding set of guards, but we’ve got to get our bigs to rebound at a higher level. Then we could be one of the best rebounding teams not only in the conference, but in the nation. “

The Colonials were also given 30 attempts at the free throw line Tuesday night, and even though the team went 63.3 from the charity stripe, Savage and Garino were able to combine for 16 of the team’s 19 points from the area.

“I really like our team. I think we have some weaknesses that we’ve got to do a better job of hiding, but we just have to stay focused,” Lonergan said. “[St. Joseph’s] is dying for a quality win, and we’ve got to go in there, take advantage of the opportunity and start off 1-0 in the conference.”

GW begins conference play Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia against reigning Atlantic 10 champion St. Joe’s at 2 p.m.

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