(Photo courtesy of GW_MBB)
FOGGY BOTTOM –
“Times Square on New Year’s Eve.” That’s the way the CBS Sports nationally televised broadcast described the atmosphere at the Smith Center as George Washington manhandled South Carolina 79-55 in what was unquestionably the program’s biggest victory since winning the 2016 NIT.
GW kicked off the scoring with a thunderous Hunter Dean dunk, and never gave up the lead. Anchored by a 23-2 run, the Buff and Blue went into the half up 20, and did not let up until the final whistle.
James Bishop led GW on the offensive end with 24 points, eight assists, and an efficient 5-8 from deep. His best play of the night came where he knifed through the Gamecock zone using a behind the back move reminiscent of Jamal Crawford’s signature “Shake ‘N Bake” and finished for an and-one to kick off GW’s 23-2 run.
— CBS Sports CBB (@CBSSportsCBB) December 1, 2022
Bishop’s backcourt mate and reigning A-10 player of the week Brendan Adams was not far behind, pouring in 18 of his own, recording five assists, and hauling in five rebounds.
Despite Bishop and Adam’s offensive prowess, the most impressive performance on the night was Ricky Lindo, who was the primary defender on projected NBA lottery pick GG Jackson. Lindo limited Jackson, who before tonight was averaging 17.2 points per game, to just 11 points on 4-17 shooting. Jackson also had his team’s second lowest +/- at -33.
“I was just following Coach Caputo’s game plan,” said Lindo. “Front him, make him work for whatever he gets, and execute.”
“We did such a good job of keeping that ball out of GG [Jackson’s] hands,” said GW head coach Chris Caputo. “We had a game plan for when he caught it and we never really had to execute because he never really caught it on the block.”
Lindo was also no slouch on the offensive end. He contributed 15 points of his own, scoring from deep, in transition, and throwing down some exhilarating slams.
Caputo’s game plan certainly worked, with the Buff and Blue dominating South Carolina on both ends of the floor the entire 40 minutes. On offense, GW was able to use their improved ball movement to break down the Gamecocks’ 1-3-1 zone. A season high 21 of GW’s 30 field goals were assisted. Perhaps the most impressive example of this was when Dean used a Jokic-esque pass to find a cutting Lindo for a jaw-dropping alley-oop.
Defensively, GW made sure not to let up, even when they were up big in the second half. Caputo implored his team at halftime to not let their feet off the gas, and let his starters run out the game instead of allowing the bench to play the final minutes.
“Against a team like this that has some offensive weapons like GG Jackson, Hayden Brown… I don’t want to start seeing how many shots they can make in the last 10 minutes of a game,” said Caputo.
As inspiring as the play on the court was, equally impressive was the energy provided by the well over 1,000 GW students who showed up. Despite this game being on a Wednesday at 9:00 PM just about a week out from finals, George’s Army made the Smith Center sound louder than it had in years.
IS IT 2016 IN THE SMITH CENTER TONIGHT?! IT FEELS LIKE IT
— Daniel Frank (@n1a2v3y4) December 1, 2022
Whenever Jackson would miss a shot, shouts of “overrated” would echo throughout the Smith Center. After controversial calls, profanities were being chanted so loud the radio and television broadcasts had to apologize to their audiences for the foul language. Signs featuring suggestive wordplay regarding South Carolina’s mascots scattered the arena. And, perhaps most importantly, the Gamecocks struggled at the free throw line, going 5-9. This continued the trend of teams finding little success at the Smith Center stripe. Going into this game, GW’s opponents were shooting the 6th lowest free throw percentage in the country.
Scenes from the wild Smith Center pic.twitter.com/YnnPbDfxxX
— Abe Rothstein (@RothsteinAbe) December 1, 2022
“Student section is incredible and gives you the chance to build a great program when you have that type of support,” said Caputo.
While South Carolina is certainly not one of the top teams in the country this year, they featured legitimate NBA talent and the pedigree that comes with any team from the SEC. GW did not give them a single opportunity to even come close to making this a competitive game and introduced themselves as a legitimate team on a national stage.
GW will travel to Radford on Sunday for their second and final true road game of conference play. The Highlanders look like a much better team than the one the Buff and Blue took down 67-58 last season, as they currently sit at 4-3 with two of their losses being narrow defeats to Marquette and Notre Dame.