George Washington coach Mike Lonergan broke protocol and let his team watch Tuesday’s Wichita State-Hawaii game. He wanted to demystify the Shockers and figured Hawaii would play them tough.
Hawaii did and helped wash away Wichita State’s air of perfection left over from last season. George Washington watched and liked its matchups. On Thursday, the Colonials knocked off the 11th-ranked Shockers 60-54 in in the championship game of the Diamond Head Classic.
“When we watched them play, we knew they were beatable,” George Washington guard Kethan Savage said.
Especially when the Shockers shoot 34.4 percent from the field. And commit eight second-half turnovers. And when the starting backcourt of Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker and Tekele Cotton combine to shoot 11 of 35 from the field.
“We’re going to have to shoot it better,” Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said. “I don’t know if we took a bunch of bad shots. I know there were a couple I didn’t like. The percentages just aren’t good.”
George Washington, 9-3, finished the game on a 20-6 run, doing to the Shockers, 10-2, what they have done several times this season.
Wichita State shot 34.4 percent for the game and made one of two free throws, negating an 11-point edge on second-chance points. VanVleet scored 11 points, the only Shocker in double figures.
Savage led the Colonials with 12 points and his steals spurred a rally.
Darius Carter made a three-pointer with 2 seconds on the shot clock for a 48-40 lead. Instead of finishing strong, however, the Shockers wobbled.
A switch to a zone helped the Colonials, because Savage swiped careless passes by Carter and Cotton and turned both into layups. Playing at the top of the key, Savage deflected both passes and chased them down for baskets that pulled George Washington within 52-51.
“We knew they were going to switch their defenses,” Cotton said. “I threw a bad pass and it got the momentum going and it went downhill.”
That forced Marshall to call timeout. George Washington changed its zone again and the Shockers committed a shot-clock violation. Yuta Watanabe’s three gave the Colonials a 54-52 lead. A three-pointer by center Kevin Larsen made it 57-52 and George Washington went on to the victory.
▪ Isaac Fleming scored 18 points off the bench and helped Hawaii past Colorado 69-66 in the third-place game.