Men's Basketball Shines on Senior Night Over Dayton, 87-81
Cavanaugh pours in 30 points while fellow senior Hart adds 10
WASHINGTON -- On Senior Night at the Smith Center Tyler Cavanaugh and Matt Hart were on the marquee and fans got what they came for immediately after the jump. The pair was honored in a pregame ceremony prior to their last home game of their prolific collegiate careers, and then the honorees came out scorching. In the first half alone, Cavanaugh and Hart drained 7-of-8 three-pointers combined, while GW buried 10 threes in the opening half alone and withstood a championship-caliber comeback try from the regular season A-10 Champion Flyers to give Dayton just its third conference loss of the year.
Anyone who expected anything less from Cavanaugh just hasn't been paying close enough attention to his exploits. Last year's NIT Most Outstanding Player and All A-10 selection has taken his game to new heights this season to find himself among the leading Player of the Year candidates in the conference. He had 19 of his game-high 30 points in 17 minutes of first half action, with a blistering 7-of-11 shooting performance. Cavanaugh finished with 30 points in his 14th game this season above 20 in the scoring column, and nailed a career-high tying six three-pointers in eight tries.
As a team GW connected on 13-of-26 threes in the game to continue to perform as the A-10's top marksmen from three-point range heading into Thursday's A-10 Championship match-up vs. the winner of Wednesday's contest between 11th seeded Saint Louis and 14-seed Duquesne. GW finishes the regular season at 18-13 overall and 10-8 in conference play to earn the 6-seed in the tournament.
With a season-high five-game win streak, the Colonials own a five-game win streak in A-10 play for the first time since the 2014 NCAA Tournament team accomplished the feat. Prior to that, the last time the Colonials won five conference games consecutively was at the end of the 2006-07 season, when that GW squad also won the last five A-10 games of the regular season and rode that momentum to three more wins in the A-10 Championship en route to program's last A-10 crown.
Despite never trailing on Saturday night, connecting on its first nine shots and leading by as many as 19, GW wasn't allowed to coast in the second half. Dayton kept coming on the back of Kendall Pollard who dropped 24 points in 24 minutes on 8-of-10 shooting.
The Flyers pulled within single digits and threatened to seize momentum on multiple occasions in the closing minutes, but a valiant effort to withstand the flurry by the Colonials kept the Flyers at bay. A Jair Bolden and-one stretched an eight-point lead to 11 at the 2:59 mark, and a free throw by Bolden with 1:12 to play extended a seven-point margin back to eight. With :30.3 seconds to play, a Bolden rebound in traffic led to an immediate foul and the freshman knocked down two more free throws to keep it an eight-point game at 82-74. Then one last gasp by Dayton was extinguished by the clutch free throw shooting of GW, fittingly with Cavanaugh providing the last two points of the game at the line after Dayton drew within four.
GW used a multitude of defensive looks on the high-powered Dayton backcourt of Charles Cooke and Scoochie Smith who came in averaging 30 points between them, but the pair was held to 20 combined points on 7-of-18 shooting. On the other end, defensive standout Yuta Watanabe had his offense going for GW as he contributed 18 points on 7-of-15 shooting (2-of-4 3pt. FG), along with six rebounds (three offensive). The senior Hart finished with 10 after his first half flurry, while Bolden netted 12 in a big performance in the clutch.
The Colonials now have four full days to prepare for the Saint Louis-Duquesne winner; two teams that the Colonials have had success against this season with a combined 3-0 mark. GW swept a pair of games with Duquesne, most recently in Pittsburgh, 77-70 on Feb. 19th, and beat Saint Louis at home, 63-55, in late January. Thursday's game is the nightcap of four second round games at Pittsburgh's PPG Paints Arenas with tip-time approximately 8:30 pm on NBCSN.
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