His Colonials wilted in the face of stifling pressure defense. They didn’t make free throws, could make one 3-pointer on the night. And they turned it over. Oh, how they turned it over, 25 times in all.
It affected even the best players on Lonergan’s roster, including freshman swingman Patricio Garino. He had four giveaways, and Lonergan emphasized later just how dependent George Washington is him to produce.
“But he’s a freshman, and I’m not going to be that hard on a freshman,” Lonergan said. “I need to get a lot more out of some of our upperclassmen. They really have to step it up now. Some of them had good games. The stat sheet tonight really speaks for itself.”
Indeed it did. The Colonials’ bench logged 50 minutes, with three points, six rebounds, one assist and eight turnovers to show for its trouble.
Among those in reserve roles were seniors Dwayne Smith and Bryan Bynes and junior Nemanja Mikic, veterans who Lonergan knew he needed to coax something from even before practice commenced last month.
Not one of the three has reached double figures in a game for the Colonials (2-3), who visit James Madison (1-4) on Wednesday. In fairness, Bynes proved a serviceable backup point guard to freshman Joe McDonald before Monday’s six-turnover night.
More is needed from Smith, whose early averages of 4.4 points and 2.6 rebounds are a decline from a year ago and roughly half of what he managed two seasons ago as a sophomore. Mikic was scoreless in a dozen minutes, a problem considering his best skill is his outside shooting.
Those struggles only amplify the absence of forward David Pellom, the Colonials’ second-leading returning scorer from a season ago who is expected to be out until January because of an injured wrist.
“Bryan, Nemanja and Dwayne, we have to get them playing somehow,” Lonergan said. “Maybe I have to start them. I don’t know what it is. It worked with Lasan [Kromah], offensively at least he’s played really well lately [since] I put him back in the starting lineup. Maybe I have to give Dwayne a chance because we didn’t get a lot out of him tonight.”
It was a considerable departure to what George Washington is accustomed to facing, and it probably won’t deal with many opponents besides Virginia Commonwealth the rest of the season so devoted to the press. Unsurprisingly, the first-year coach at Mount St. Mary’s (Jamion Christian) is a former VCU assistant.
Nonetheless, it was a sobering performance for a team that was a forgettable 2-4 in nonconference home games a year ago.
“Long story short, their pressure won the game for them,” said forward Isaiah Armwood, who is averaging 12.6 points and 8.6 rebounds. “They made us turn the ball over, and they were successful with what they did.”
The addition of Armwood, a transfer from Villanova, provides a stable presence for the Colonials, but it is hardly enough to solve all of their problems.
However talented Garino, McDonald and center Kevin Larsen are, Lonergan knows he needs more from older pieces in the rotation. A few weeks in, he just isn’t sure how often he will receive such contributions.