Joe McDonald, a point guard with a football player's mentality, leads George Washington men's basketball team in assists and 3-point shooting. The 6-foot-1 sophomore also ranks high in other categories for the 17-3 Colonials. Unofficially that includes landing hard on the court with body parts other than feet.
Now GW holds its breath that McDonald's latest hard hit doesn't take away yet another starter from the streaking program's lineup.
McDonald exited in the first half of the Colonials' 69-47 win over La Salle with a hip injury, one that has lingered throughout the season. Fouled on a layup attempt, he crashed to the court during GW's 19-0 run. McDonald stayed down long enough for a boxing knockout before teammates helped him to his feet. He made two free throws then left for good seconds later with 6:02 remaining, having scored three points in 13 minutes.
The Lorton native went to the locker room before the first half ended and he didn't return to the bench until deep in the second half. McDonald appeared uncomfortable, sitting with his left leg extended. Following the game, he walked gingerly and very slowly up steps leading to the Smith Center exit doors.
Head coach Mike Lonergan did not have an immediate update following GW's fifth straight victory, matching the program's longest Atlantic 10 winning streak since the 2006-07 season.
"He went out in the first half and our trainer told me he was done," Lonergan said, "I've been kind of worried about that for a while. Hopefully we'll find out more tomorrow.
"I'm just going to pray that he's going to be okay and we're going to find a way if he's not."
McDonald took a similar hard fall against Rutgers on December 4 and nearly missed the next game versus Maryland. Instead, McDonald played and nearly posted a triple-double in GW's win over the Terps in the BB&T Classic. However, he has not been able to participate in full practices for several weeks due to the hip woes.
A two-year starter, McDonald averages 8.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.9 steals and 28.5 minutes while shooting 42 percent from beyond the arc.
GW is already shorthanded without sophomore guard Kethan Savage, but has won two straight minus its second-leading scorer. Savage could miss the remainder of the regular season with a foot injury.
In most situations the Colonials stick with an eight-man rotation. That includes Savage and McDonald.
Little-used freshmen guards Miguel Cartagena and Nick Griffin (Magruder) are green, but might have to ripen quickly if McDonald misses time.
Cartagena, who averaged only 6.1 minutes entering Wednesday's game, joined the starters opening the second half, but quickly got into foul trouble and played 10 minutes. Looking to keep size on the court in their effective 1-3-1 defense, Lonergan stuck with lengthy wing guards Maurice Creek and Patricio Garino in the backcourt. Rugged 6-foot-10 center Kevin Larsen, a quality ball handler and the Colonials best passer, took turns at the top of the offense.
Everything worked on a night GW dominated; La Salle shot 27 percent from the field and the Colonials topped 50 percent while improving to 10-0 at home.
GW's run is veering into magical territory as its A-10 regular season title hopes remain sincere. Following a busy night of conference action, George Washington stands tied for second with VCU at 5-1, one-game behind first place St. Louis.
However, unless there truly is fairy dust floating around Foggy Bottom, an 11-assist-to-19-turnover ratio and truly limited depth won't cut it most nights. Lonergan and others are praying the Colonials won't have to play without McDonald for many if any nights in the future.