Men's Basketball Working Towards 40 Minutes
The Colonials have played their best in the second half in the past two games, but have been undone by slow starts
By Eric Detweiler, GW Athletics Communications
Though GW men's basketball didn't provide a season-best Charles E. Smith Center crowd much to get excited about during an uneven opening 20 minutes against sixth-ranked Miami on Saturday afternoon, the anticipated party quickly kicked into high gear after halftime.
Arnoldo Toro finished a pretty spin move on the opening possession of the second half. Then, Patrick Steeves swished a hook shot, and the good feelings kept coming.
By the time Terry Nolan Jr. brought a rowdy, white-clad student section and most of the rest of the 3,862 fans to their feet with an impossible tumbling tip-in, the Colonials had hit as many field goals in five minutes (five) as they'd made the entire first half.
Though the comeback ultimately fell short, GW outscored the Hurricanes by eight after halftime of a 59-50 loss. The Colonials managed to seize momentum and hang tough against one of the nation's best with a promising effort down the stretch.
"I thought we were great in that second half," head coach Maurice Joseph said. "Great energy. Everybody bouncing around. A lot of really good stuff."
Through a grueling nonconference gauntlet, GW has shown the ability to match its high-powered opponents for stretches. The next step for this young group is to put together a complete 40 minutes.
The Colonials will try for a better start-to-finish performance Wednesday when they welcome New Hampshire to Foggy Bottom for a 7 p.m. tip.
"We've got to come out better and sharper and play well and not have to rely on having our backs against the wall," Joseph said. "We've got to create our own energy and come out of the gates fired up and ready to go."
Five of GW's six losses have come to teams rated in Ken Pomeroy's Top 50. Every showdown with a brand-name foe has seemingly produced bright spots to build on.
The young Colonials have mostly managed to keep up in losses against Florida State, Xavier and Kansas State. They fell into a quick hole in their defeat at Penn State on Dec. 9 but still collected themselves to outscore the Nittany Lions after halftime.
On Saturday, GW trailed Miami by as much as 21 points in the opening half before surging back. The Colonials got as close as seven and had their chances to make it even tighter.
"It's kind of frustrating because we know that if we came out with both halves like that, then our record would be much better right now," said Jair Bolden, who paced the Colonials with 13 points. "To be optimistic, it's good to know that we can hang in there with a team like that, the No. 6 team in the nation, but it's frustrating right now."
Afterward, Joseph said he's no fan of moral victories but acknowledged a host of positives jumping off the stat sheet.
The Colonials used a three-quarter court press that transitioned into a zone defense to slow down Miami. They forced the Hurricanes to work for everything and held them 20 points below their season average.
On the offensive end, GW shot a season-low 30 percent but stoked its comeback effort with a scrappy effort on the offensive boards.
The Colonials turned 17 offensive rebounds into 13 second-chance points and out-rebounded a physically imposing Miami squad, 44-39.
"We were able to pick it up," said Toro, who posted six points and a career-high 13 rebounds. "We mainly focused on defense first, and then our shots had to fall."
In the end, GW couldn't spring the upset on Miami, but the experience should pay dividends for the Colonials over the long haul. The quest for a complete 40 minutes continues.
Like the rest of these nonconference challenges, the loss yielded a slew of small successes to celebrate and at least as many mistakes to correct.
That's a good recipe for more progress, which is welcome news with the start of Atlantic 10 play looming in less than two weeks.
"We're getting there," Joseph said. "We feel like we're playing better. Guys have a better understanding of who we are, what we need to do and who we need to be. We're going to hopefully be playing our best basketball come March."
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