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Chris Caputo Era Begins with Decisive 85-58 Victory Over Virginia State

(Photo courtesy of @GW_MBB)

FOGGY BOTTOM – It’s a pretty fun night when the worst part is getting soaked during a locker room celebration. That’s what happened with new George Washington head coach Chris Caputo in his debut, after his team easily handled D-II Virginia State in dominant fashion, winning 85-58. 

The Smith Center was rocking from the tip as GW got off to a fast start against the Trojans. While the game was never truly in doubt, the first half ended with GW up only 13 despite appearing to significantly outplay their opponent, and at one point in the second half, Virginia State went on a 9-0 run to cut their deficit to just nine. However, GW quickly responded by going on their own 10-0 run featuring a James Bishop and one, two Noel Brown layups, and an E.J. Clark three. After that, GW never looked back.

“I think we did a good job running and taking advantage of them there. Anytime [James Bishop] has the ball, good things happen,” said Caputo. “He’s gotta be off the ball some, but when he has it… we have to make sure he’s in situations like pick and rolls.”

Looking more at that balance between playing on and off ball, the first half was all Bishop and Brendan Adams as the backcourt partnership got their first extended run together as a ball handling partnership. Adams excelled in this role, especially early, scoring all 15 of his points in the first half and tying his career high in 3 pointers. 

When asked about playing alongside Adams, Bishop said, “It makes my job easier because I trust him when I’m off the ball, and vice versa when I’m on the ball.” 

Bishop had this year’s first of what will likely be many signature performances tonight, contributing a team high 23 points on a relatively efficient (for him) 6-13 shooting, went 8-12 from the line, tied his career high with 9 assists, and stuffed the stat sheet with four rebounds, one block, and one steal.. Bishop showed off his vast offensive skillet, scoring on step-back threes, pull up midrange jumpers, layups, and lots of free throws. 

“It was great, just the spacing on the floor, having really good shooters out there, everyone moving and playing off each other,” said Bishop. “It’s easy to play and easy to find guys when they’re moving in the right spaces.” 

While he didn’t score a ton, only adding in four points, Ricky Lindo was potentially the most impactful player on the court for GW. He finished the night at +30 while adding 10 rebounds, three steals, and two blocks in only 26 minutes. 

“I thought he made some really good defensive plays: Blocks, steals, had a few assists,” said Caputo. “We have to continue to help him offensively and he needs to continue to help himself offensively. There are not a lot of guys running around our league with his size and athleticism.” 

Something to look for going forward will be for GW to run more designed plays to get Lindo involved on the offensive end, both from perimeter and down low.

Another bright spot was the play of centers Noel Brown and Hunter Dean. Brown got the start tonight due to Dean being on a minutes restriction as he recovers from a lingering knee issue, but both played exceptionally well, most notably on the offensive end. Neither Dean or Brown missed a shot, both going 4-4 from the field. Dean looked especially impressive, showing off a versatile offensive skill set featuring a more refined post game and his signature leaping ability. 

One of tonight’s only negatives, Max Edwards’ collegiate debut did not necessarily live up to the lofty expectations set for him going into the year, as he registered the lowest +/- of all started by 15 with +6, and scored a majority of his 12 points at the end of the game in garbage time. 

“[Edwards] made some great plays tonight, and he made some freshman type plays,” said Caputo. “You’re flying the plane a lot, you should be able to land it.” 

Despite GW putting together a very solid effort on the court, perhaps the most impressive performance of the night came from George’s Army, GW’s student section. The Smith Center was as full and loud as it has been in years. Virginia State was committing shot clock violations, messing up defensive assignments, and missing free throws all because of the engaged student section. More importantly, GW was inspired by the support they received from their classmates.

“We came out at halftime and a lot of guys were talking about the environment,” said Adams. “We noticed it. It felt great, and gave us all of our energy coming into the game.” 

GW returns to action on Friday when they host intercity rival Howard at 6:00 PM.