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George Washington star after beating Dayton: ‘We came out firing’

Published: Sunday, March 05, 2017 @ 11:23 AM
By: David Jablonski

George Washington couldn’t miss. In fact, it didn’t miss for the first five minutes Saturday against the Dayton Flyers on the final day of play in the Atlantic 10 regular season at the Smith Center.

Here’s a summary of George Washington’s first nine possessions: jumper by Patrick Steeves; 3-pointer by Matt Hart; 3-pointer by Tyler Cavanaugh; layup by Cavanaugh; jumper by Yuta Watanabe; layup by Hart; layup by Cavanaugh; 3-pointer by Watanabe; and jumper by Steeves to end the run at the 14:53 mark.

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By the time, Steeves missed a 3-pointer at the 14:21 mark, Dayton trailed 21-5. The Flyers would trail by double digits for the most of the night and never got closer than five points in an 87-81 loss.

“It’s incredible to get the best team in the conference on our floor,” said Cavanaugh, who scored 19 of his 30 points in the first half. “We came out firing. I mean we didn’t miss. I was happy we could hold on. I just wanted the clock to run to zeros because that’s a great team. We knew they were going to fight, so I was happy with our resiliency. So many guys contributed, which is what made it so special.”

In the same 5:07 span to start the game, Dayton made 2 of 5 field goals and 1 of 2 free throws and turned the ball over three times. The Flyers cut the deficit to 10 points twice late in the second half only to see the Colonials push the lead to 17 points at halftime.

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Asked if there was anything his team could have done to slow the Colonials in those opening minutes, Dayton coach Archie Miller said, “You can guard them a lot better,” Miller said. “You have to play a lot harder after the first one goes in, and after the second or third one goes in, you’ve got to really strap it on. I thought in the first four or five or six minutes in the first half, we just weren’t there.”

Dayton (24-6, 15-3), which had already clinched the outright A-10 title, saw its nine-game winning streak end three days after an emotional 79-72 victory against Virginia Commonwealth on Wednesday on Senior Night at UD Arena.

“Our biggest fears came true,” Miller said. “We were just so stuck in the mud from Wednesday night and feeling really good about ourselves. We were playing a team that was feeling really good about itself, and they kicked our you know what for about 40 minutes. Like I told the guys, you never want to not recognize a full regular season and you’re emotional after a game, but that’s unacceptable. This should set the tone for a much more ready team when we go to Pittsburgh because if you lose your edge, if you lose your competitive spirit, if you’re not all dialed in, anyone can beat you.”

George Washington ended the regular season on a five-game winning streak. It got hot in March a year ago, too, winning the NIT championship. The firing of its head coach, Mike Lonergan, in September seemed to spell doom for the Colonials, but interim coach Maurice Joseph has done an excellent job down the stretch. GW (18-13, 10-8) is the No. 6 seed in the A-10 tournament.

“I think we are playing the best basketball of our season,” Joseph said. “Last few games, whether it be high assists or low turnovers, there’s been a couple stats that really stand out that we didn’t see earlier in the year. That’s a telling sign of a team that’s getting better. Every game is like a different statistical category that was eye opening, that was completely night and day from the beginning of the year. That’s a product of trusting the process and getting better throughout the year. Everybody knows that March is about momentum. The teams that are typically playing well towards the end of the year, those are the teams that go on runs, those are the teams that make special things happen. I think that team has that kind of potential because they’ve grown together.”