Stellar Year Raises Bar for Colonials
Expectations were modest for the men’s basketball team as it entered the 2013-14 season. Around Foggy Bottom, it was believed that the Colonials would be better than last year’s 13-17 record and the 10th place prediction in the Atlantic 10 preseason poll. But little did anyone know that GW would enjoy one of the best seasons in school history.
GW posted a 24-9 record to match the second-most victories in the program’s 100 seasons and earned an at-large bid to the 2014 NCAA Tournament, its 11th all-time appearance in college basketball’s premier event.
The 11-win improvement from the previous season tied for the eighth-best turnaround among 353 NCAA Division I teams in 2013-14 and helped third-year head coach Mike Lonergan secure a contract extension through 2020-21.
“I thought we had a great season,” says Mr. Lonergan. “I'll always be proud of our guys for what they were able to accomplish for themselves, our program, the university, alumni, and fans. We reached our goal of making the NCAA Tournament and finished in third place in what was a really strong A-10. Nobody can take either of those things away from us.”
It was fitting that, as the team celebrated its past and present this season, the Colonials were led by a mix of motivated veterans and talented underclassmen. Graduate student Maurice Creek and senior Isaiah Armwood keyed the revival in Foggy Bottom after both sought GW to redeem their college basketball careers. Mr. Creek, who persevered through a series of setbacks during four years at Indiana, proved to be the perimeter spark the Colonials needed, averaging a team-best 14.1 points and connecting on 80three-pointers, the second-most in one season in program history, to earn third team all-Atlantic 10 honors.
Mr. Armwood, a local product who returned home from Villanova three years ago, leaves GW as one of just two players in school history to record at least 500 points, 500 rebounds, 100 blocks, 100 assists, and 50 steals in his GW career. Mr. Armwood was a second team all-Atlantic 10 and A-10 all-defensive team pick after averaging 12.7 points and a team-best 8.4 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in his final collegiate season.
As much as GW’s success in 2013-14 can be attributed to Mr. Creek and Mr. Armwood, it can also be linked to a quartet of student-athletes who blossomed in their sophomore seasons: Patricio Garino, Kevin Larsen, Joe McDonald, and Kethan Savage. All four saw significant scoring spikes, highlighted by Mr. Savage, who went from 3.1 points per game as a freshman to 12.7 before his sophomore year was cut short in January by a broken foot.
Mr. Garino and Mr. Larsen picked up the slack in his absence, as Mr. Garino earned second team all-Atlantic 10 and A-10 all-defensive team honors, while Mr. Larsen was chosen the A-10’s Most Improved Player. Mr. McDonald was one of the league’s most productive point guards despite battling a painful hip injury throughout the season which required offseason surgery.
While victories over NCAA Tournament teams Creighton, Manhattan, Massachusetts, St. Joseph’s, and VCU will serve as benchmarks for a program on the rise, there remains one game that will serve as motivation for the Colonials heading into summer workouts and a 2014-15 season in which expectations will certainly be elevated.
“I wish we would have played better against Memphis in the NCAA Tournament, but I think it’s something to really build on in the future,” says Mr. Lonergan. “We don't want to just get there, we want to advance. I think our guys can really taste it and they know it’s going to take a lot of hard work, but it’s definitely possible to get back to that point and further.”