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Colonials close CBE HOF Classic with loss to UAB

Photo courtesy of Blake Roberts
Junior guard Yuta Watanabe battles a UAB defender Tuesday night at the Sprint Center. Watanabe scored 18 points in GW’s 81-74 CBE Hall of Fame consolation game loss. Photo courtesy of Blake Roberts

Updated: Nov. 23 at 1:50 p.m.

KANSAS CITY, MO. — Another resilient effort by men’s basketball fell short Tuesday at the Sprint Center. 

Despite a rousing 13-0 second-half run, GW’s flat defensive showing allowed UAB to shoot a season-high 51.9 percent from the field on the night. 

That and 18 turnovers – with a team-high 5 coming from its point guard – hindered any chance GW had at a comeback in the game’s final minutes. The Blazers (3-2) would go on to win the CBE Hall of Fame Classic consolation match 81-74, good for a third-place finish in the tournament.

The Colonials, who entered the field undefeated, dropped both of their contests in Kansas City and now move to 3-2 on the season.

“We should be proud of how we fought but we have to understand that we can’t dig ourselves into this deep of a hole, with this good of a team and expect to win,” interim head coach Maurice Joseph said. “You expend all of that energy trying to claw your way back, and we did that and we did a really great job of that, but we were kind of gassed towards the end and couldn’t finish the job.”

Graduate student Tyler Cavanaugh’s play was a bright spot once again as the forward finished with a team-best 19 points and a game-high 13 rebounds for his third double-double of the year.

Junior guard Yuta Watanabe also had an impressive second-half with 14 points and 18 on the game, followed by redshirt junior guard Jaren Sina (16p) – the third Colonial to score in double-figures behind a 4-for-8 shooting from beyond the arc.

The Colonials also commanded the offensive boards 17-8 and went a much improved 14-for-16 from the free throw line, but none of it was enough to overcome a sloppy performance on their own end.

Defensive woes were apparent from the get-go as GW’s Conference USA opponent opened the game going 13-for-18 (72 percent) from the field, catapulting them to a 16-point lead a little more than halfway through the first half.

We started off slow. The energy level wasn’t great to start the game,” Sina said. “Coach Joseph works so hard putting great scouting reports together for us and we have to follow them. We’ve just got to keep executing…and especially young guys, we’ve got to lock in – and we will, and that’s going to be a big point of emphasis for the rest of the season.”

Ten first-half points from Cavanaugh and nine off the bench prevented the game from getting out of hand in the opening period, but a 53.6 percent UAB shooting clip, plus a 7-for-7 showing at the free-throw line contributed to a 39-29 Blazers’ lead at the break.

GW looked far better to start the second half, as a 7-0 run with a three-pointer and two free-throws Watanabe, plus a bucket down-low from Cavanaugh made it a one-possession game.

UAB’s top-three scorers, junior forwards Chris Cokley (19p), William Lee (19p) and senior guard Dirk Williams (15p) – all put up points in a subsequent Blazers run that put them back on top 53-41.

That’s when a Sina three-pointer sparked an inspired 13-0 run that saw big contributions from freshman forward Arnaldo Toro, who was a presence down-low snagging critical offensive rebounds.

The first-year big who split minutes with starting freshman center Collin Smith again Tuesday, finished with five rebounds and seven points – five which came during that stretch – and garnered praise from Joseph after the game.

The double-digit scoring spurt – assisted by UAB’s 11 second-half total turnovers – helped GW regain a brief one-point edge, but that’s big a lead as they would ever hold all night.

The Colonials would commit 10 second-half turnovers of their own, and 18 total to give the Blazers extra chances on GW’s end that they could not afford. A slightly stronger second-half GW defense was unable withstand a barrage of attacks down the stretch, costing them the game.

The Blazers would go on to shoot 54.5 percent from beyond the arc and 50 percent from the field in the final frame, and outscore GW 36-32 in the paint on the night.

Joseph said part of the blame rests on his shoulders.

“I have to do a better job getting our guys ready to play,” he said. “However I have to do that. Whether it’s playing time or if it’s a change in the lineups to figure out who’s willing to come out and guard with energy, we have to sit down as a staff and talk about that. But I’ll put that on me. If our energy level is low that’s my fault. We came out flat and I have to figure out how to change that.”

The Colonials return home Saturday to play Penn State. Tip-off at the Smith Center is slated for 4 p.m.

“We played two very good teams [this week],” Sina said. “We’ve got to get back and watch some film, keep moving forward and getting better.”

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