Pressure defense lifts Mountaineers to a win over Colonials
On Monday, George Washington learned why Mount St. Mary's hired coach Jamion Christian off the staff at Virginia Commonwealth.
Christian calls his defense -- fullcourt pressure akin to VCU's -- "mayhem." At Smith Center, the Mountaineers created enough of it to upset the Colonials 65-56 before 1,507.
"It wasn't perfect. It wasn't beautiful," Christian said. "The guys really rallied around the opportunity to gain some respect."
The game was played at the breakneck pace preferred by Mount St. Mary's (2-3), which threw wave upon wave of fresh guards at the GW backcourt. With three freshmen in the starting lineup, the Colonials struggled with the aggression and quick hands and feet of the Mountaineers. GW (2-3) committed 25 turnovers, including six by senior Bryan Bynes in 20 harried minutes.
Led by junior guards Sam Prescott (15 points) and Julian Norfleet (12 points), Mount St. Mary's seized control midway through the second half, and its defense did the rest. Junior guard Rashad Whack (eight points), a transfer from George Mason, hit back-to-back jumpers, one a 3-pointer, to give the Mountaineers the lead for good with 12:34 left.
GW knew what was coming. Coach Mike Lonergan talked apprehensively about Mount St. Mary's "mayhem" shortly after a win Saturday over Hofstra. But dealing with it was another matter.
During a furious 4:18 span of the first half, Mount St. Mary's forced 10 turnovers and held the Colonials to one shot, fueling a 9-2 run that resulted in a 20-13 lead.
When GW solved the pressure, it was often rewarded with layups, as was the case when the Colonials reeled off 12 straight points, answering the run of the Mountaineers. Junior Lasan Kromah (18 points) scored three times in transition as GW regained the lead 25-20.
But the pressure had a cumulative effect. After GW started the second half well, Mount St. Mary's rallied. Whenever GW got close, the Mountaineers rose to the challenge and forced another turnover. Norfleet delivered the knockout blow with 35 seconds left. With the shot clock winding down, he fired a 28-footer that swished clean through the net for a 64-56 lead.
GW got solid work from freshman forward Kevin Larsen (10 points, nine rebounds), who hit all five of his shots, and junior center Isaiah Armwood (15 points, 11 rebounds, three steals). But the turnovers were too much for the Colonials to overcome. The five starters combined to commit 17, including four each by Armwood and freshmen Patricio Garino and Joe McDonald.