For the first time ever, the George Washington Colonials ended their season with a win, and took home their first ever NIT championship. GW won a major postseason tournament, and this team has secured a lasting legacy, especially for the four departing seniors Joe McDonald, Kevin Larsen, Patricio Garino and Alex Mitola. Let’s take a look back at an incredible season, and some of its highlights.
November 16th: George Washington 73 #6 Virginia 68
Under the bright spotlight of ESPN’s tip-off marathon, in front of a sold-out Smith Center, the Colonials put together their most complete game of the season, knocking off Sweet 16-bound and #6 ranked Virginia. It was GW’s first win over a ranked opponent at home since 1998 (#18 Xavier), and their first win against a top-10 opponent since 2004-05 (#9 Michigan State). It was at this early juncture of the season, that we knew this season could be something special.
November 27th: George Washington 73 Tennessee 70
This was a quality win against a power-five school, which later went on to beat Kentucky and Texas A&M. It wasn’t the prettiest game, but one that GW held on to win. It bode well for the Colonials to be able to close out games, especially down the stretch of the season.
December 2nd: George Washington 72 Seton Hall 64
At the time, this did not appear to be that impressive of a win. That is, until Seton Hall defeated eventual national champion Villanova to win the Big East Tournament, as well as beating Xavier twice. Plus this was one of many revenge-games that GW won this year, after falling on the road at Seton Hall last year.
February 6th: George Washington 72 VCU 69
For the first time ever, GW beat VCU on the road. It took a near perfect storm, but the Colonials withstood every VCU run, and ultimately held on to secure their biggest win in Atlantic 10 conference play. Patricio Garino went off for a career-high 27 points. Joe McDonald grabbed an enormous defensive rebound in the waning seconds to secure the win for the Colonials.
March 10th: George Washington 73 Saint Louis 65 (A10 2nd Round)
In their first game of the Atlantic 10 Tournament, the Colonials avenged their earlier loss to the Bilikens on the road, and advanced to the quarterfinals. This was not their best game, but one they had to win to keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive, and they did just that.
March 11th: George Washington 80 Saint Joseph’s 86 (A10 Quarterfinals)
It is easy to look at this game and feel like pulling your hair out in frustration. The Colonials dominated the first half, and took a 49-35 lead into halftime. Everything seemed to be going GW’s way, until the wheels fell off just seconds into the second half. True, GW did blow a big halftime lead, and the loss effectively ended all realistic hope for making the NCAA Tournament. But I take pride in fact that GW played Saint Joseph’s closer than any other team did the entire tournament. The Hawks went on to win the A10 Championship, defeat Cincinnati in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, and took a 1-seed, Oregon, down to the wire in the second round.
March 16th: George Washington 82 Hofstra 80 (NIT 1st Round)
This game, too, had Colonials’ fans pulling their hair out, and saw GW nearly pull a UNI, but an Alex Mitola buzzer-beater propelled GW into the second round of the NIT. Survive and advance is all that matters in March, after all.
March 21st: George Washington 87 Monmouth 71 (NIT 2nd Round)
This game was special, because not only did GW beat America’s sweetheart Monmouth on the road, the Colonials destroyed the Hawks, systematically picking apart their defense, and cruising to advance to the NIT quarterfinals for the first time in school history.
March 23rd: George Washington 82 Florida 77 (NIT Quarterfinals)
In the first meeting between the two teams since 1996, GW took full advantage of the opportunity, and took down the Gators to advance to the NIT Final Four. Tyler Cavanaugh drained a dagger three with 54 seconds left, that gave the Colonials a four-point lead, and ultimately was the nail in the coffin for Florida. Just like that, GW was heading back to Madison Square Garden for the first time since 1961.
March 29th: George Washington 65 San Diego State 46 (NIT Semifinals)
GW finally avenged their loss to Coach Steve Fisher in the 1993 Sweet 16, as the Colonials defeated San Diego State in the teams’ first ever meeting. GW absolutely coasted in this one, and sat one game away from their first ever postseason championship.
March 31st: George Washington 76 Valparaiso 60 (NIT Finals)
GW finished the season with the most wins in program history, posting a 28-10 record, and took home the first NIT title in program history. It was an extremely special night, as GW completely dominated Valpo, and the night ended with the team cutting down the nets, and leaving the arena to see the Empire State Building lit up buff and blue.
Despite missing the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive season, Mike Lonergan did a great job refocusing the team, and taking advantage of a golden opportunity to get the program national attention. The season itself was another great one, and featured six wins over Power-5 conference teams. In addition, National Champion Villanova only had 5 losses, two of which were to teams GW beat (Seton Hall & Virginia). The future is very bright for this program, and I look forward to next season!
Featured Image credit to: Mitchell Layton, GWSports.com