- Associated Press - Thursday, December 25, 2014

HONOLULU — George Washington needed a spark, and Kethan Savage had the answer.

With the Colonials, that starts with defense.

Savage, running tirelessly at the top of a 1-3-1 zone, twice swatted away passes and turned them into layups as the Colonials were relentless to the end Thursday night in a 60-54 upset of No. 11 Wichita State in the Diamond Head Classic championship game.

Savage led the Colonials (9-3) with 12 points to go along with three steals, none bigger than the two he made during a late 16-2 run that carried them to their first in-season tournament title since knocking off Michigan State and Maryland in 2004 at the BB&T Classic in Washington.

“I wanted to find a way to give us some momentum,” Savage said. “On the defensive end, we needed to make a stop, and we were able to turn those into points.”

Yuta Watanabe, the 6-foot-8 freshman from Japan, took over at the top of the zone when Savage got a breather, and he came up big on the offensive side. He hit a 3-pointer with 3:32 left that gave George Washington the lead for good and finished with 10 points and four rebounds.

The Shockers (10-2) were so out of sorts at the end that they were called for a 5-second inbounds violation, and Kevin Larsen hit a 3 for a 57-52 lead. Joe McDonald worked the shot clock down and drove the lane for a tough basket to cap the big run.

Wichita State managed only one field over the last 6 minutes.

“It’s an unusual defense. You don’t see it every day,” Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said. “It’s kind of a 1-3-1, but they really go all the way to half court. We talked about it in shootaround today that we wanted to attack the middle. I don’t know. We didn’t make the right decisions, we didn’t make the shots.”

Wichita State, which had to rally in the final minute of overtime to beat Hawaii in the semifinal, didn’t make much all week and couldn’t crack the zone. The Shockers were 34 percent from the field for the game.

Fred VanVleet led the Shockers with 11 points, six of them in the first 4 minutes. He was 4 of 15 from the field. Ron Baker, their leading scorer, was held to nine points on 4-of-12 shooting. He made only one 3-pointer in six attempts.

George Washington coach Mike Lonergan had Watanabe and Savage trade off at the top because of all the running involved. Savage was there at the right time.

“He’s deceptively quick,” Lonergan said. “He’s good at guessing, predicting where they’re going to pass it. Those were huge. He got us points when we were struggling to score.”

The Shockers led by as many as seven points in the first half until George Washington tied at 28 at intermission. They led by as many as eight in the second period, and the Colonials refused to fold.

Reserve guard Ria’n Holland appeared to send the Shockers on their way with three consecutive 3s for a 45-37 lead, and then Darius Carter hit a 3-pointer when the shot clock was about to expire for a 48-40 lead with 7:42 remaining. Carter had made the only 3-pointers he has attempted all season.

But after VanVleet drove for a score and a 50-43 lead, that was it for Wichita State. Savage took over with his defense, the hallmark of the Colonials.

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