Men's Basketball Runs Away From La Salle, 80-69
Watanabe scores a career-high 29 points in the victory
WASHINGTON -- The GW men's basketball team closed a three-game homestand on Wednesday night on a high note with a thorough, 80-69, win against visiting La Salle.
Yuta Watanabe would not be denied the victory as he put his team on his back and shot GW back into the win column. GW's leading scorer, rebounder, top three-point threat and minutes played leader was every bit of the team leader the Colonials needed against the Explorers. On a career-high 20 field goal attempts, the senior sunk 11, including five three-pointers in seven attempts, en route to a career-high 29 points. Watanabe also ripped down eight rebounds in his game-high 36 minutes of action and notched 20-plus points for the third time this season, and second game in a row.
With Jair Bolden (concussion) sidelined, Justin Mazzulla made his third start of the season at the point, but foul trouble limited him to 24 minutes and forced fellow freshman Terry Nolan Jr. into the role of primary ball-handler for much of the game. The freshmen duo shared team-high assist honors with four, on a night when Watanabe found plenty of help on the offensive end of the floor. Fellow starters Patrick Steeves and Arnaldo Toro both notched 15-point outings as the tandem got it done inside in a combined 11-of-22 shooting effort, and was particularly effective on the offensive glass. Toro pulled down four of his seven rebounds on offense, while Steeves snared three of his five boards there, as the Colonials parlayed 15 rebounds on that end of the floor into a season-high 28 second chance points. GW held a 40-26 edge in points in the paint, while Nolan Jr. got in on the paint party from his guard position with a game- and career-high 11 rebounds of his own.
Just one game after La Salle committed only two turnovers as a team, GW forced the Explorers into 17 miscues, and the harassing Colonials defense limited La Salle to a .387 shooting percentage. Leading guns B.J. Johnson and Pookie Powell came into the game ranked first and eighth in the conference in scoring, respectively, with a combined 38.7 points per game between them, but were limited to 30 points total on 12-of-28 shooting.
GW took a 39-33 lead into the halftime lockeroom and reversing a recent trend put the pedal down further in the second half to explode to a 23-point at its largest. While upping its shooting percentage from .432 in the first half to .452 in the second stanza, GW coordinated its increased efficiency with a tightening of the screws on defense. La Salle found success on 43.3 percent of its first half field goal tries, but suffered through a .344 clip in the final 20 minutes, including just 2-of-13 from deep.
The Colonials now head back on the road for a match-up at Revolutionary Rival George Mason - against whom GW has never lost an A-10 game - on Saturday at 4pm. Having downed the Patriots earlier this season at Smith Center, with a win in Fairfax the Colonials will not only sweep the season series but also pull even with Mason in the conference standings and secure the head-to-head tiebreaker. A trip to Massachusetts ensues a week from tonight on Valentine's Day, before the Colonials return home for their annual highly-anticipated clash with VCU on Saturday, February 17th at 4pm.
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