By Paul Gotham
BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Six scored in double figures as George Washington’s Colonials raced to a double-digit lead early in the second half and held on to defeat the Massachusetts Minutemen, 85-77 in the Atlantic 10 quarter-finals at the Barclays Center Friday night.
“That was a nice win for us,” George Washington coach Mike Lonergan stated. “Our guys played really hard and got a nice lead at halftime and thought we rebounded real well the second half.”
Senior Nemanja Mikic gave GW a boost off the bench hitting 4 of 6 from the floor and 3 of 5 behind the arc.
“I’ve pretty much got a lot of open shots lately,” Mikic said. “They just didn’t go in the last couple games and when Coach, teammates believe in you, they passed me the ball when I was open and they dropped down tonight.”
Armwood sparked a 7-0 midway through the second half as the Colonials pushed the lead to 16. The senior forward took a Patricio Garino lead in transition and finished with a dunk. One the next possession he followed with a bucket in the lane to beat the shot clock, and GW led 54-38.
“It’s a good feeling,” Armwood said of the win. “We’ve got six players in double figures scoring. We score a couple times and they came back and cut it down to maybe eight, so we wanted to keep stretching that lead. So it’s definitely a good feeling to move on to the next round.”
“Seniors step up this time of year,” Lonergan said. “It was a really good three games in a row coming in today and Isaiah was great, and to see a senior, just a smile on his face after the game makes you feel really good. But it’s a seniors’ time of year right now and we need our seniors to step up.”
“George Washington outplayed us tonight,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. “They played a very good game and made some shots…We didn’t take advantage of a lot of the opportunities we actually had. We didn’t make the shots or the plays when we had gotten the game sped up to a certain extent.”
George Washington outrebounded UMass 39-35.
UMass scored 21 points off 19 GW turnovers.
The Colonials move on to VCU in the conference semi-finals. The teams split a pair of games earlier this season with the Colonials winning on the home court 76-66. VCU responded with 92-75 victory on February 12th.
“We are going to have to really handle the ball better than we did tonight in the game there,” Lonergan stated. “What really helped us in the first game is (Kethan) Savage did a great job of handling the ball and did taking some of the pressure off of Joe. And you know, now without Keith in, as you saw tonight under pressure, we don’t have a lot of ball handlers. Kevin Larsen is going to have to help us out, and Maurice is going to have to do a much better job, I think he had six turnovers tonight, so it’s kind of going to have to be a team effort. It’s easier said than done. They have got a heck of a team, and the defense is incredible. Not a lot of turnaround time, so it’s not an ideal matchup for us; but you know what we are excited about playing, we can play loose and hopefully we’ll just trade shots, not turnovers.”