BROOKLYN, N.Y.—Tomorrow should be a monumental day for George Washington and head coach Mike Lonergan.
The Colonials won’t have an opportunity to cut down the nets at Barclays Center — they fell to VCU, 74-55, in the Atlantic 10 semifinals today — but they, in all likelihood, will hear their name called on Selection Sunday.
“We’re getting in the [NCAA] tournament unless everybody’s wrong,” Lonergan said. “So I’ll be happy for our team, and I’ll be happy for our fans.”
Those fans have waited since 2007 for a return to the Big Dance, when George Washington fell in the first round to Vanderbilt as a No. 11 seed. While Lonergan will relish appearing in the NCAA tournament for the first time since taking the job at GW, he won’t let that distract his team from advancing.
“I told our guys all these people are into it, and that’s how it should be. There’s a lot of people that are really happy about our success,” he said. “We don’t want to just make the tournament, though. If there’s ever a year you can advance, hopefully this will be the year.”
It also could have been the year for George Washington to win the Atlantic 10 championship, something the Colonials haven’t done since 2005. VCU dashed those hopes with a defensive effort that forced 15 GW turnovers and limited the Colonials to 41.7 percent shooting from the field. The Rams precluded George Washington’s guards from feeding big men Isaiah Armwood and Kevin Larsen in the second half, taking away the Colonials’ most notable advantage.
Armwood and Larsen combined for 18 first-half points on 8-of-11 shooting as George Washington trailed by two at the break. They finished with 25 points, and converted just 2 of 6 field-goal attempts in the second half.
“[At halftime] I told our guards, ‘Hey, they’re really scoring. We’ve got to get them the ball.’ We struggled to get them the ball,” Lonergan said. “Then we got it over halfcourt, they’re not really respecting some of our guys as shooters, so they’re kind of backing off, which is the smart thing to do, and it’s really difficult to get the ball inside. That’s because of their defense.”
The loss will linger in Lonergan’s head. A win over VCU followed by a defeat of St. Joseph’s in tomorrow’s title game could have improved George Washington’s NCAA tournament seeding.
But regardless, the Colonials will punch their ticket. They’ll just need to wait until tomorrow evening to know when and where they’ll play.
“I’ll sulk for a while, and it’ll probably take me until I go to bed tonight — if I go to bed tonight,” Lonergan said. “But I’ll wake up tomorrow, and it’ll be a great day in my life.”