WASHINGTON - The George Washington Colonials used a 42-20 edge in points in the paint and a 48-33 advantage on the glass to help them overcome a second half deficit and defeat the VMI Keydets, 76-67, Saturday afternoon at the Smith Center in Washington, D.C.
After a back and forth first half, the Keydets (4-7) had taken a 45-42 lead on a Tim Marshall three-pointer with 14:16 remaining. GW (5-6), however, retook the lead just over two minutes later, and used a crucial 6-0 run at the 6:45 mark to push the cushion to double figures, 64-54. That lead was the largest of the day for either team, in a game that saw nine ties and eight lead changes. The home squad then held on for the victory, as VMI could get no closer than seven the rest of the way.
In defeat, VMI saw Stan Okoye battle through a 5 for 16 day from the floor to finish with a double-double, 19 points and ten rebounds. All of his points came in the second half. D.J. Covington chipped in five blocks, moving him into fourth place in program history and making him just the fifth Keydet all-time to exceed 100 career rejections (104). In addition, Marshall added a career-high 14 points, including four three-pointers.
Both Isaiah Armwood and Dwayne Smith finished with 18 points apiece to lead George Washington, and Smith was part of GW's crucial 35-16 edge in bench points.
After early back and forth action, the Keydets took an early 9-8 lead on a Rodney Glasgow three-pointer 5:30 into the contest. VMI then held that advantage for the next 3:26, stretching it to as many as four and leading until Smith converted the second of back to back baskets, staking George Washington to a 15-14 edge. The back and forth continued, however, as VMI immediately used a 5-0 run to jump back in front, 19-15, with 9:54 left in the half.
This advantage lasted until the 6:31 mark, when Armwood tied the game at 21 with a basket, but a Brian Brown three-pointer seven seconds later gave the lead right back to VMI, 24-21. The Colonials would quickly seize control for the first time moments later, however, as two Bryan Bynes free throws gave them the lead and were part of a 14-2 run. Brown stopped the spurt with a triple for the half's final points, but the push enabled GW to go to the locker room with a 35-29 advantage.
The first half saw GW hold a 22-8 lead in the paint and hit 11 of 13 from the foul line (84.6%) in comparison to just 2 of 2 for the Keydets. The five ties and six lead changes were helped by Glasgow's team-leading 10 points and eight from Brown, as VMI shot 11 of 30 (36.7%) in the first half, but did hit 5 of 12 (41.7%) from distance.
Covington opened the second half with a basket, drawing the Keydets within four, and after a three-point play by Lasan Kromah pushed the margin back to seven, 38-31, the visitors launched a 14-4 run that included seven points from the free throw line. VMI went 7 of 8 at the charity stripe during the run, but it was a Marshall three-pointer that gave the visitors the lead once again, 45-42, with 14:16 to play.
The Keydets held that advantage for the next two-plus minutes, but a Patricio Garino triple at the 12:12 mark gave GWU the lead for good, 49-46. The back and forth battling continued, however, as the home team stretched its lead to seven three different times, only to be pulled back by an Okoye layup and a pair of Marshall three-pointers.
The last of those came at the 7:05 mark, and on the Colonials' next trip down the floor, Smith converted a three-point play that started the deciding 6-0 run, the small push that finally separated the two squads. Smith, in fact, scored all six points of the run and gave GW a 64-54 lead with 5:57 to go.
The Keydets closed to within seven twice in the final 1:44, doing so for the last time with 44 seconds to play, but a Smith dunk provided the game's last points and accounted for the final margin, 76-67.
While Okoye led all second half scorers with 19 points, Smith notched 14 to pace the Colonials, who hit 15 of 34 (44.1%) from the field in the final 20 minutes and took advantage of a slow-paced half that saw just two fast break points. VMI, in contrast, was 11 of 30 (36.7%) for the second straight half, but took advantage of 16 free throw attempts to make 12 (75.0%) and finished with a 14 of 18 effort (77.8%) at the line, the team's best performance since an 80.6% pace against Elon on Nov. 24.
For the game, GW held the edge in field goal percentage, 40.3% (27 of 67) to 36.7% (22 of 60), while VMI made 9 of 21 three-pointers (42.9%) to just a 3 of 14 (21.4%) day for the home team.
VMI basketball will return to action January 2, taking on Shenandoah University at Cameron Hall. Game time is set for 7 p.m.
QUOTES - VMI Head Coach Duggar Baucom
"We competed. That was our goal going into it. For the most part, we competed and played about as hard as we could possibly play. "
"Dwayne Smith (GWU forward) is a good player and certainly helped them match-up wise. He played outstanding, made a big three and was certainly the difference in the game."
"Stan played really hard in the second half. I applaud him for that. But it's consistency. We can't have two points from DJ and Stan at halftime and expect to be ahead especially on the road."
"I thought Tim Marshall was awesome and played really, really well. I also thought Brian Brown kept us in it in the first half."
"If we can shoot the three like that against teams our size and in the league, we've got a chance to be pretty good."