George Washington makes statement with win over VCU

George Washington makes statement with win over VCU
January 14, 2014, 9:30 pm
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George Washington Colonials guard Maurice Creek (1) runs to George Washington Colonials forward Nemanja Mikic (30) after the game against Maryland Terrapins at Verizon Center. George Washington Colonials defeated Maryland Terrapins 77-75.

(Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports)

Recap: Patricio Garino scored 18 of his career-high 25 points second after Kevin Larsen tallied 17 of his career-high 22 before halftime as the George Washington Colonials made a loud statement in pursuit of the Atlantic 10 title with a 76-66 win over VCU on Tuesday night before a sell out crowd at the Smith Center.

Isaiah Armwood had 11 points and 14 rebounds for the Colonials (14-3, 2-1), who improved to 9-0 at home with eight wins coming by at least 10 points. Even though the Colonials committed 21 turnovers, they never succumbed to VCU's "Havoc" pressure defense. Instead GW's defenders held the Rams to 36.8 percent from the field while the Colonials shot 56 percent in both halves and had a 46-30 points in the paint edge before the crowd of 4,874.

Rob Brandenberg had 17 points and Treveon Graham scored 12 for the Rams (13-4, 1-1). VCU, which entered the season as the conference favorite, had won five straight and nine of 10. 

The Colonials won for the first time in five games against the Rams, who made their first appearance to the Smith Center as conference foe.

[RELATED: For GW, the jerseys will match the court vs. VCU]

Big man on campus: Sure looked liked Larsen had this spot sewn up after making 7 of 8 attempts in the first half, but Garino's all-court performance after halftime shined above all. The 6-foot-6 guard was credited with three steals, but anyone watching would swear there were more. He made 8 of 14 attempts from the field with buckets coming on crafty drives or two 3-pointers. Garino, who comes off the bench by his own decision, also made 7 of 8 from the free throw line and had seven rebounds with one block.

Key stat: The Colonials outrebounded VCU 45-29 as Armwood matched his career-high. 

Key stat 2: The Rams started the game making 6 of 8 from beyond the 3-point arc. They then missed nine straight and finished 9 of 28. Chased throughout by the lenghty Armwood, Graham missed five of six attempts.

Key stat 3: GW didn't shoot very well from the free throw line, finishing 20 of 32. VCU was worse and took fewer attempts, ending up 7 of 16.

They said it: "It's a special win for us. One of our goals is we want to try and go undefeated at home. I told the guys we can reach our goals if we go undefeated at home. This is a big game for us. They were picked to win the league, nationally ranked at the beginning of the year." - George Washington coach Mike Lonergan

Run stoppers: Dealing with VCU means avoided those game-changing, tempo-altering spurts the "Havoc" defense causes. Midway through the first half, the Rams drained three straight 3-pointers for a 25-20 lead, matching their largest margin of the first half. Yet instead of wilting, the Colonials countered with six straight manly points from Larsen and closed the first half on a 16-4 run for a 36-39 lead.

After GW opened a 54-43 lead on Garino's 3-pointer in the second half, the Rams made several mini-rallies in the second half, pulling within four points on several occasions, but could never climb all the way back. At 63-57 with less than five minutes remaining, Garino came up a steal which eventually led to a score. His putback the next time moved the lead back to 10 and essentially ended any rallying hopes.

[MORE: 'Frustrated' Terps ready for Notre Dame matchup]

Atmosphere: Loud and raucous describes the Colonials second sell out since 2006. Brad Stevens and Butler's visit last year was the other sell out, but that was more about the opponent then the notion of winning. Not so this time and the energy from the stands cascaded onto the court.

They said it: "I've never been in a gym that packed and that loud. It was definitely one of the reasons I came here, to start a new franchise you could say." - Larsen

First half: Larsen matched his career-high with 17 points on 7 of 8 shooting as the Colonials knocked down 56.5 percent (12 of 23) of their attempts. Even though George Washington committed 10 turnovers, most were not "Havoc" related and led to only nine points for VCU, which shot 36.7 percent from the field.

They said it: "Probably the biggest difference maker on the team was Garino. I thought Garino was an absolute spark plug coming off the bench for them. Defensively, offensively he got on the back end of our transition defense and our press a couple of times. That really hurt us." - VCU coach Shaka Smart

Handle pressure: Last season the young Colonials with their four-freshman starting lineup committed 25 turnovers against the Rams, who lead the nation in turnover margin this season. GW nearly matched that total, but were ultimately able to spread out the miscues by sticking with the plan of throwing over the top of traps rather than dribbling through them.

Deep bunch: Maurice Creek carried GW's offense for stretches this season and had the season's single biggest moment with the buzzer-beating game-winner against Maryland. Fellow gusrd guard Kethan Savage ranks second behind Creek in scoring this season. Against VCU the pair combined for eight points on 3 of 11 shooting with Creek committing seven turnovers. The Colonials won anyway.

They said it: Notre Dame coach Mike Brey, in town to face Maryland on Wednesday, was inducted into the GW Athletic Hall of Fame. Breay addressed the Smith Center crowd at halftime. "I need some advice. How the hell do you beat Maryland?" GW defeated Maryland in the BB&T Classic earlier this season.

See you soon: George Washington plays at VCU on Feb. 12

On deck: The Colonials are back on the road to face St. Bonaventure on Saturday