George Washington is well aware of Matthew Wright’s shooting ability and that he can be a frightening sight when left alone. So when Colonials coach Mike Lonergan didn’t rotate quickly enough in the Colonials’ 1-3-1 zone, he yelled at the top of his lungs, “Noooo!”
Wright let fly from the corner and, much to the delight of Lonergan, the shot rimmed in and out. The missed jumper was the Bonnies’ night in a microcosm.
There weren’t enough three-pointers that rang true for St. Bonaventure and far too many found their way home for George Washington. Tack on issues with ball security and the Bonnies suffered their first loss this season at the Reilly Center on Saturday night, 79-71, in front of 5,160.
St. Bonaventure (11-7, 1-3 Atlantic 10) uncorked 26 three-pointers and connected on just seven (26.9 percent). They made just 4 for 14 in the second half as George Washington (15-3, 3-1) extended its lead to as much as 14 with 1:47 left.
The Bonnies dropped their third straight, all against quality opponents who will have their say on how the A-10 shakes down come March. They lost to Massachusetts and Saint Louis on the road in nail-biters and were hoping to bounce back against a Colonials team that has started receiving votes in the national polls.
Expectations, at least outside of Olean, were low and the three losses prove to Schmidt that the Bonnies can contend.
“It shows our guys that we can compete in this league where some people have said that we couldn’t,” Schmidt said. “To take two teams on the road to the wire and play a team like George Washington tough. At the same time we’re not here for moral victories, we’re here to win.”
The key for the Colonials was taking away Wright and Jordan Gathers, who connected on a combined 51 three-pointers coming into Saturday’s game. Wright went 2 of 7 from long distance while Gathers was 2 of 9.
“I thought we did a pretty good job on Matt Wright, we were really focused on him and Gathers,” Lonergan said. “I think we had a little bit of a lead late and they had to take some deeper threes against our 1-3-1 and they missed some shots that they normally make.”
Meanwhile, George Washington is a pick-your-poison team because interior players Kevin Larsen (15 points, eight rebounds) and Isaiah Armwood command the double team which leaves open shots for the guards. Maurice Creek scored a game-high 21 points.
“Big time players make big time plays,” Schmidt said. “Those guys hit those shots at crucial moments and we didn’t.”
The game was tied at 42 when the Colonials gained separation with an 11-2 run which gave them a 53-44 lead. The Bonnies were able to close within five at 57-52 with 6:04 left but Savage hit two free throws and Joe McDonald knocked down a trey to push the lead back to 10. St. Bonaventure couldn’t get the lead under double digits until there was 11 seconds left in the game.
“We really needed that the way we’ve been shooting free throws this year,” Lonergan said. “It was nice to have that cushion.”
Andell Cumberbatch led the Bonnies with 15 points.