Bolden Steps Up as Men's Basketball Earns Key Victory
Bolden scored five of GW's final six points as the Colonials held off Temple for a 71-67 win on Sunday
By Eric Detweiler, GW Athletics Communications
WASHINGTON -- With a tense finish looming Sunday afternoon against Temple, Jair Bolden wanted the ball in his hands. No pressure.
Bolden scored five of GW’s final six points in a 71-67 win over the Owls at Capital One Arena. The sophomore point guard showed poise in what could have been stressful moments, helping to deliver an impressive BB&T Classic victory.
The highlight of Bolden’s 17-point, four-assist effort was a stepback 3-pointer with the shot clock expiring. The nifty jumper with 3:05 left turned out to be the game’s final field goal.
“Any basketball player dreams about stuff like that, having the ball at the end of the game and making plays,” Bolden said. “When I’m put in an opportunity like that, my instincts start to kick in, and I’m just trying to make the best plays for the team.”
GW head coach Maurice Joseph has entrusted Bolden to quarterback a new-look group through thick and thin this season. The Colonials showed both extremes over 40 minutes Sunday en route to a win over a Temple club fresh off a defeat of 2017 Final Four participant South Carolina.
Bolden was at the helm when GW hit full stride offensively in a 40-point first half in which it used 68 percent shooting to build a 15-point lead. The Colonials made the Owls pay for giving them open looks on the perimeter.
Later, Bolden was tasked with getting the Colonials back on track when Temple surged back in the second half to tie it. The point guard from Brooklyn, N.Y., stood up to the defensive pressure and created enough late offense to pull out the victory.
Last season, Tyler Cavanaugh hit the game-winning 3-pointer in the closing seconds to beat Temple. With Cavanaugh now in the NBA, Bolden stepped up to provide the heroics needed to hold off the Owls.
“We all have our trust in Jair,” said Justin Mazzulla, who set a career high with nine points on 4-of-4 shooting. “He’s kind of our go-to guy at the end. He sees red. He’s going to take the big shot, and he has the confidence in himself – and we have the confidence in him – to make the shot.”
Bolden had the ball in his hands almost exclusively down the stretch. It was his pass that set up the basket that put GW in front for good. He found Patrick Steeves off an inbounds play for the layup that made it 63-61 with 5:17 left.
Bolden’s terrific stepback with a hand in his face and the shot clock ticking down extended the lead to 69-64 two minutes later.
“I work on shots like that a lot, so when I’m in that position, I feel confident,” Bolden said. “Any shot I take, I feel like I can make it, but shots like that, there’s some extra energy in the air and you can definitely feel it.”
It was far from a mistake-free finish. Bolden lamented a couple late missed free throws and his six total turnovers, including three in the final three minutes.
Yet GW claimed the win thanks to superb defense in the final minutes. The Owls missed their final six field goal attempts, including a pair of 3-pointers to tie in the closing seconds. The Colonials could finally celebrate when Terry Nolan, Jr., cleared the defensive rebound and drew a foul with one second left.
Joseph said the down-to-the-wire victory followed his squad's best few days of game preparation this season, evidence of the group's continued progress.
“Credit our guys," Joseph said. “Things got tough – and that’s a good team – but we stuck together when we needed it most.”
For Bolden and the rest of the Colonials, the performance provides a useful blueprint with more tough non-conference tests coming, starting Wednesday against defending Ivy League champion Princeton at Charles E. Smith Center.
“It’s definitely going to give us some confidence,” Bolden said. “We know we can play with the best in the nation. We know what it takes. We just need to be able to execute like we did today.”
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