George Washington’s NCAA tourney chances drop with loss to Saint Joe’s

NEW YORK — George Washington shot 11-of-16 from 3-point range, scored 49 points and held a 14-point lead over second-seeded Saint Joe’s.

And it lost.

The Colonials were outscored 51-31 in the second half of Friday afternoon’s A-10 quarterfinal at the Barclays Center. SJU won 86-80 and not only unequivocally locked up a bid for itself in the NCAA Tournament, but also re-established why it’s so dangerous: the two-man duo of DeAndre Bembry and Isaiah Miles. The former is the Player of the Year in the league. He scored 21. The latter, Miles, is one of the best talents in the conference, and he added 15.

Saint Joe’s played well in the first half (shooting 56 percenet), it’s just that George Washington was so hot from 3. It went on runs and kept its distance throughout the first 20 minutes. It was as good as Mike Lonergan’s team looked all season.

“Those flurries felt like a street fight, and if you’ve ever been a street fight, you don’t know where the punches are coming from and you’re just trying to cover up — and that’s what that was,” SJU coach Phil Martelli said.

Lonergan said the team’s lack of a rim protector was a huge factor and the fact his team did not play well in the first four minutes — that’s when the game was lost.

“I think we maybe just relaxed a little too much,” GW’s Joe McDonald said.

The Colonials now have to sit and wait on Selection Sunday. It’s not looking too good; many think this team is firmly in the NIT because of this loss. GW entered the day with an RPI rank of 61. It has a great home win over Virginia, another home win over Seton Hall and a solid road victory against VCU. But nothing else of note aside from that.

“I’m really sad and heartbroken because we had a golden opportunity today and didn’t take advantage of it,” Lonergan said.

GW has losses at DePaul and at Saint Louis, two sub-200 teams in KenPom.

“I truthfully thought if we we won we were definitely in,” Lonergan said, adding that he’ll be rooting for Virginia and Seton Hall to keep winning in their league tournaments to keep GW’s numbers strong. “If our worst losses are at Saint Louis and at DePaul, a Big East team with Big East refs, then it’s out of our hands.”

Lonergan campaigned, but you could tell in the tone of his voice that there’s serious doubt about this group’s chances. If GW doesn’t get its named called on Sunday, Lonergan will have one NCAA Tournament trip in five years with the program.

This was the 400th victory of SJU coach Phil Martelli’s career. He said that never entered his mind, nor did any talk of needing a win on Friday in order to absolutely secure a bid to the Big Dance.

“We have not talked at all about next week at all,” Martelli said.

They can now. SJU will be playing on Thursday or Friday in the NCAAs. Now it’s a matter of seeding. The Hawks will get Dayton on Saturday in the A-10 semis. A win there would ensure this team is a single-digit seed.

One heck of a game on Friday. Is George Washington’s fate in the NIT? (USATSI)

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