BY RAY FLORIANI
New York City- The second semifinal of the NIT featured a team Big Apple fans have seen a few times this season, George Washington. The Colonials, of the Atlantic 10, defeated San Diego State, 65-46. The Colonials will face Valparaiso for the NIT championship. Guaranteed, the champion cutting down the nets Thursday will celebrate the school’s first NIT title.
Three points of emphasis:
1. They fed off the crowd.
Admittedly, fans do not win games. Players win basketball games. There is something to be said with a devout, boisterous following behind you, though. George Washington seemed to feed off that following the first half when they built a double-digit lead. In the last four minutes of the first half, George Washington held San Diego State without a field goal. The Colonials took a 35-20 lead into the break. The vital first four minutes of the second half saw George Washington outscore the Aztecs 7-4 to open an 18-point lead. As mentioned, players win games. It doesn’t hurt when they are energized a bit by the crowd.
2. The 1-3-1 is tough to handle.
Mike Lonergan’s Colonials play that 1-3-1 zone with defenders capably disrupting the passing lanes. Steve Fisher’s club attacked it better the second half. In the opening twenty minutes, the Aztecs seemed to get themselves in poor positions, such as the corner, where defenders could easily trap and force turnovers. Through the NIT, the 1-3-1 has been a staple for George Washington.
Beyond the 46 points allowed and the 79 defensive efficiency, George Washington limited their opposition to 3-of-22 shooting from three. Overall, the Aztecs had a chilly 31 percent eFG percentage. Again, the 1-3-1 had a lot to do with it. It’s not all a scheme though, as Lonergan noted how his team has really bought in and embraced defense during this NIT run.
Possessions: George Washington 56, San Diego State 58
Offensive efficiency: George Washington 116, San Diego State 79
eFG%: George Washington 48, San Diego State 31
Free Throw Rate: George Washington 15, San Diego State 20
Offensive Rebound%: George Washington 41, San Diego State 41
Turnover Rate: George Washington 11, San Diego State 19
Final Note: Lonergan was very concerned with the Aztecs’ rebounding. The Colonials were even with San Diego State in offensive rebound percentage. In second chance points, SDSU had a slight 14-11 edge. A bonus for the Colonials was committing only six turnovers for an outstanding 11 percent turnover rate.