George Washington Colonials 82 Florida Gators 77
Tyler Cavanaugh was clutch for George Washington down the stretch, helping propel the Colonials to the win, and earning GW their first ever berth in the NIT Final Four. The win for GW was their 6th this season against the “Power 5” conferences (having beaten Virginia, Seton Hall, Penn State, Rutgers, Tennessee, and now Florida). This was a true team effort, and the Colonials out-battled the Gators for 40 minutes in front of 3,399 at the Charles E. Smith Center.
Cavanaugh had a game-high 23 points, including a dagger three with 54 seconds left to give GW a 77-73 lead, before knocking down two late free throws to ice the game. Not to be outdone, Kevin Larsen had 19 points and 13 rebounds in arguably his best game in his four years in Foggy Bottom. Patricio Garino also had 13 points and eight rebounds, while Joe McDonald had eight points. KeVaughn Allen was the lone Gator to make a real impact in the game, scoring 22 points.
This game was a seesaw battle throughout, with neither team ever leading by more than eight points. To say that ESPN got their money’s worth would be an understatement, as GW got their second largest home win of the season (sorry, this doesn’t beat the Virginia game), both of which were on the ESPN family of networks.
As Patrick Nero (GW Athletic Director) put it pre-game, this was the third time that the four seniors (Larsen, Garino, McDonald and Mitola) would be playing their final game at the Smith Center, and this will be the last time. The NIT Semifinals and Finals are both held at Madison Square Garden, and this senior class leaves a legacy of defending their home court, not having lost to a non-conference opponent at the Smith Center since December 8th, 2012 to Kansas State 65-62.
GW will face San Diego State at approximately 9:30 PM on Tuesday night in Madison Square Garden, following the other semifinal of BYU vs Valparaiso. The Colonials are playing as well as any of the final four team left standing in the NIT, and are very capable of winning two games in New York. And as I said after the Colonials’ Quarterfinal win over Monmouth, why not GW?