Colonials play through pain and into A10 Tourney

Colonials play through pain and into A10 Tourney
March 14, 2013, 12:45 am
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In the final minute - sorry, in the final seconds - of Saturday's must-win game against Dayton, it looked like Mike Lonergan's plan of coaching George Washington into the Atlantic 10 Tournament was cooked.

For one moment earlier in the game, Lonergan feared he had a Mike Shanahan situation on his hands regarding a player's injured leg.

In both cases, the doubts proved unwarranted.

In a 16-team conference where only 12 qualify for the league's postseason event, a late season slide put George Washington (13-16, 7-9) in 13th position. Thanks to a follow dunk by center Isaiah Armwood with 1.9 seconds left, the Colonials defeated Dayton 81-80 in overtime and jumped into the tournament mix as the 11th seed.

The Colonials will face No. 6 UMass (19-10, 9-7) Thursday at 9 p.m. For those not traveling to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, television coverage is on NBC Sports Network.

Part of the reason the Colonials upended Dayton, a surprise return from guard Bryan Bynes. Back on February 22, the team ruled the senior out for the season after he fractured his right tibial plateau against Fordham earlier that week.

Against Dayton on Senior Day, Bynes started, played 30 minutes and scored a season-high 13 points.

Wait, what happened to being out for the season?

Bynes began consulting with a team doctor around a "week and a half" before the finale. The 6-foot-3 guard started riding a stationary six days out. One day before what could have been his final opportunity to suit up on the college level, a workout would determine his decision.

"Based off that workout I had, I made the decision to play," Bynes said on Monday.

Yes, the doctor's also gave him the go-ahead, which leads us back to one coaching Mike thinking about another.

"I didn't really think it would happen, "Lonergan said of Bynes' return. I knew he was pain-free, I believed him."

Though the doctors talked to the coach and showed him results from an MRI, Lonergan said, "I kind of stayed out because I didn't want to be like the coach of the Redskins. I'm really not a doctor. But we have great doctors here, and we have a great trainer."

With a pain-free Bynes providing his usual perimeter defense and a ball handler alongside freshman Joe McDonald, Lonergan played his senior throughout. Moments of trepidation cropped up in the coaches mind along the way.

"One time [Bynes] grabbed his leg -- actually it was his other leg -- but I thought, 'Oh, God.' I was thinking he might break his leg or something. It was a leg cramp."

Benefiting from Bynes' presence, McDonald paced five double-digit scorers with 16 points, the most tallied by the Landon product since scoring 16 against UMass on January 19.

McDonald also had 10 assists in the 79-76 road win over the Minutemen.

Bynes said he would test his knee this week and considered himself a "game-time" decision.

George Washington had not qualified for the main draw of the A-10 tournament since the 2006-07 season. In Lonergan's second campaign with the Foggy Bottom program, he ended that streak.

"It felt good," Lonergan said. "It was really the first time in our locker room we really celebrated. Our guys poured water on me. But, hey, I didn't come here to finish in 11th place, but for where we are right now I'm very about getting into that tournament. Now we want to advance."