A-10 Tourney Day 1: GW & Richmond Win Nail-Biters

(GW’s Justin Mazzulla looks to drive down the outside of the lane – Photo by Jason Schott)

The first day of action at the Atlantic 10 Tournament at Barclays Center on Wedneday afternoon featured two thrillers, as 12-seed George Washington beat #13 UMass, 68-64, in overtime, and #11 Richmond outlasted #14 Fordham, 52-50.

George Washington 68, Massacusetts 64 (OT):

George Washington overcame a six-point deficit, 53-47, with 5:55 remaining, to send the game to overtime tied at 56. In the OT, the combination of Terry Nolan Jr. (6 points) and Justin Mazzulla  (4 points) powered the Colonials to the win.

Nolan, Jr., led GW with 20 points on 6-8 shooting, including 2-3 from behind the arc, with 2 rebounds, an assist, and a steal. Maceo Jack had 19 points (5-12 FG, 2-7 threes), with 5 rebounds, 3 steals, and 2 assists.

Mazzulla finished with 7 points (1-10 FG, 0-2 threes, 5-6 FT), with 9 rebounds, 2 assists, and a block, but 4 turnovers. Javier Langarica hauled in 11 rebounds (4 offensive), along with 3 points (1-4 FG), 3 blocks, an assist, and a steal.

For UMass, they were led by Keon Cleregot, who had 25 points on 8-18 from the field, including 5-10 on three-pointers, with a rebound and an assist. Carl Pierre had 12 points (4-17 FG, 3-14 threes), 7 rebounds, and an assist. Rashaan Holloway had a double-double with 11 points (4-10 FG) and 12 rebounds (5 offensive), with an assist and a block, but 5 costly turnovers.

GW Head Coach Maurice Joseph said, “I want to give credit to UMass first. I thought they did a great job. They came out extremely prepared. We came out in our 2-3 zone which was very successful for us in the first game, and they made some tremendous adjustments, so credit to them for that.

“They shot us out of our zone really quickly. Clergeot came out, played really, really well for them but our guys were gritty, when went down double-digits we didn’t waver, and continued to guard and we did a great job just weathering the storm. We talked about every four minutes, just chop away at it, chop away at it, chop away at it, and our guys did that, and so I am really, really proud of them. It’s a monster win for us.

“I told our guys, we’ve got to go 1-0, whatever’s next. So UMass was our Super Bowl. Now we get a chance to compete against Mason again, and we’re excited about that opportunity. So we’re going to get back. We’re going to prepare, try to get healthy, get some food in us and get right back to the grind. Really proud of our guys.”

Joseph said of the value of playing the first day of the tournament, “This time of year as you guys know, you have to go 1-0 and whatever’s next. You can’t worry about byes or seeds. You play the regular season for that and at the end of the regular season, you evaluate everything and attack with everything you have, and that’s what we’ve been able to do in these last three days of preparation leading up to this game.

“So we’re just excited that we had an opportunity to come out here and I think playing gives us an upper hand a little bit. You think about fatigue and all that, but now that we have one under us, we’re going to go and prepare for the next one and try to go 1-0 again but the byes and the seeds and all that kind of stuff, obviously you don’t want to be playing on Wednesday.

“Nobody wants to be playing on Wednesday, let’s be honest but that’s where we were. We had to attack where we were and attack that obstacle and we did that. Really proud of our guys for winning on the defensive end and winning with grit and winning with toughness because those are things we’ve been preaching from day one. Obviously didn’t shoot the ball well. We shot 31 percent but we limited them to 35 percent shooting and we outrebounded them by five. You know, they had more turnovers than we did, so we did a lot of really good things out of — obviously we didn’t shoot the ball well. But just proud of our guys, their effort.”

Richmond 52, Fordham 50:

This one was a defensive battle from the start, as Richmond led 23-18 at halftime despite shooting just 26.5 percent (9-34) from the field in the first half. The Rams were held to 25 percent shooting (8-32).

Fordham rallied in the second half, and took a 38-36 lead on an Antwon Portley three-pointer with 8:58 remaining.

Richmond responded with a 7-0 run to take a 43-38 lead at the 5:25 mark on a layup by Nathan Cayo. They held the lead until the end, but Grant Gordon made just one of two free throws with 10 seconds left to give them just a two-point edge, 50-48.

This was plenty of time for Fordham to tie it or win it, and Antwon Portley took it down the right side for a layup. Richmond wasted no time fouling him just inside the arc, and Portley drained both of his free throws to tie the game at 50 with 6 seconds remaining.

Richmond had to go the length of the floor, and they did it with ease, a Jacob Gilyard received the inbounds pass, went right down the lane and dished it to Nathan Cayo for the winning layup with 0.2 left, leaving just a late heave from Fordham.

Cayo said of the winning basket, “The ball was in Gily’s hand. He just beat everyone on the court and he usually gets that pass to me down near the basket, so I was trying to get ready trying to shoot as quickly as I can.”

Gilyard said of having to go the length of the floor without any time-outs and what his thought process was, “Just to get a shot off, obviously. We couldn’t turn it over — we couldn’t afford a turnover right there. We just had to get something going towards the cup because hour threes weren’t falling, so just trying to make sure we could get a shot off.”

Richmond was led by Cayo, who had 15 points on 7-15 from the field, with 7 rebounds, 3 blocks, and an assist. Gilyard had 6 assists, including on the winning basket, along with 4 points (2-14 FG, 0-8 threes), with two steals, a rebound, and a block.

Noah Yates had 10 points (4-8 FG, 1-5 threes) off the bench, along with 5 rebounds, a block, and a steal. Grant Golden nearly had a double-double, as he had 9 points (4-14 FG), 11 rebounds, and 7 assists.

Fordham was led by Antwon Portley, who had 17 points (6-15 FG, 3-8 threes), with 7 rebounds and 2 assists. Jalen Cobb had 11 points (4-8 FG, 1-4 threes), with 3 rebounds and a block. Chuba Ohams hauled in 13 rebounds and 6 blocks, but could not get a point as he shot 0-7 from the field.

Richmond Head Coach Chris Mooney said of the win, “Obviously I’m pleased with the win. Those games can be difficult sometimes and challenging. But I thought that we hung in there. We missed a ton of shots. You know, we finished with 18 assists, five turnovers, 14 offensive rebounds. Those are great numbers, but we missed so many shots and when they played zone, it’s tough to — it’s tough to just continue to score two-point baskets as the zone shrinks.

“But I thought we were resilient, and continued to fight and probably played one of our best defensive games of the year. Proud of our group and look forward to playing tomorrow.”

Richmond will take on No.6 Saint Louis at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday night.

Mooney said of his thoughts on playing the first day of the tournament, “One thing that’s pretty good is we’re in the late game tomorrow so we’re pleased with that. At least we’ll have some time, not quite a day off, but we’ll have some time. And then we’ll probably meet maybe three times during the course of the day tomorrow.

“So we’ll be together tonight, start to introduce scouting report and Saint Louis and things like that and then probably breakfast midday and pregame meal tomorrow, we’ll meet. We considered maybe going to a gym to do a walk-through but it takes a long time to get to the gym from the hotel. So I think we’ll stay in the hotel, use the ballroom and probably have three meetings during the course of the day tomorrow.”

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