(Photo courtesy of GW_MBB)
“Pretty heartbreaking in the locker room.”
Those were some of George Washington head coach Chris Caputo’s first words after his squad narrowly lost 64-66 to Pac-12 opponent Washington State.
After a dominant defensive performance and timely shot making, it took some factors that were out of GW’s control for the Cougars to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in the first round of the Diamond Head Classic.
With 26.6 seconds left on the clock and GW up 63-61, Washington State’s Mouhamed Gueye went up for a tip-in, but despite no call by the officials, appeared to make contact with the rim while the ball was in the cylinder.
If this is called, GW gets the ball back up 63-61 with 26.2 seconds on the clock. pic.twitter.com/XGcfdVo0eB
— David Korn (@david_korn4) December 23, 2022
Because there was no call on the floor, it was not eligible to be reviewed.
On the next possession, GW point guard E.J. Clark was fouled, then made one of two free throws, giving GW a 64-63 lead.
The lead would not hold, as the Cougars were able to take advantage of a chaotic final possession to find Jabe Mullins open behind the arc. He nailed the shot, and gave GW just 3.1 seconds to try and get a shot of their own off, which they were unable to convert.
“A couple of the guys have said it was a goaltend,” said Caputo after being asked if he had a chance to watch the replay himself. “We asked for a review, didn’t get one, so disappointed in that.”
Washington State held the lead for most of the game, but was never able to create much separation from GW. Both teams played excellent defense, especially in the first half, which led to neither side being able to string together many consecutive scoring possessions.
Before the controversial ending, GW got a major boost with the return of center Hunter Dean, who played 28 minutes off the bench, scoring 10 points, grabbing five rebounds, and recording GW’s second highest +/- at +3. Dean was a gametime decision and had missed the previous two games with an undisclosed injury. He spent the majority of the game banging down low with Gueye, Wazzu’s star big man.
“He [Dean] gives us another element,” said Caputo when asked about what Dean’s return meant to GW.
Guard Brendan Adams once again had another stellar night, scoring 17 points, including some especially strong finishes inside the paint.
— GW Men's Basketball (@GW_MBB) December 23, 2022
GW’s other star, James Bishop, had a bit of a quieter, but still effective outing. Washington State was frequently doubling or forcing Bishop into the corners to prevent him from penetrating or creating his own shot. This forced him to take on more of a facilitating role. He ended the night with five assists, along with 10 points.
“I thought he [Bishop] played well,” said Caputo. “He’s going to get that type of attention all the time.”
In what looks like a recurring theme for the Buff and Blue, forward Ricky Lindo found himself in foul trouble early, and fouled out with just over two minutes left in the game after only playing 25 minutes. Lindo also fouled out in GW’s loss to Radford, and picked up four fouls in their other two most recent games, a loss to American and win over Coppin State.
“Ricky understands it’s something he needs to work through,” said Caputo. “Bottom line, it’s very very important to us that we get him on the floor.”
While GW obviously would have loved to come away with the upset victory and been able to compete for the Diamond Head Classic championship, they showed that their performance earlier in the season against South Carolina wasn’t a fluke, and that they have what it takes to go toe to toe with legitimate power five teams. One of Bishop’s seven missed threes goes in, Lindo is able to finish off the game and provide that extra bit of defense and rebounding, the officials are able to review the goaltending non-call, if any of these happened, we’re likely seeing a different end to the game.
GW plays Pepperdine, who lost 70-76 to hosts Hawaii, on Friday at 10:00 PM ET on ESPN2 in the consolation bracket.