GW victory over Florida secures spot among National Invitation Tournament's final four teams Tuesday at New York's Madison Square Garden.
In its first-ever appearance in the NIT quarterfinals, the George Washington University men's basketball team ensured that its season wasn't going to end on its home floor. In extending its home court winning streak against non-conference opponents to 24 games, GW downed the Southeastern Conference's Florida Gators 82-77 to advance to the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden in New York.
The Colonials will play at 9 p.m. Tuesday on ESPN against the winner of the last NIT quarterfinals matchup between San Diego State and Georgia Tech.
With the victory, GW notched win number 72 over the last three seasons to tie for the program's best-ever three-year stretch (2004-2007). The team's 26 wins this season are one shy of equaling the 2005-2006 team's record 27 wins. Tyler Cavanaugh led the way for GW with a game-high 23 points on 7 of 14 shooting including 4 of 5 from three-point range. Frontcourt mate Kevin Larsen's monster double double of 19 points and a game high 13 rebounds--his 13th double double of the season--keyed the Colonials' interior advantage. GW topped the Gators on the boards 40-35, including 15-12 on the offensive glass to secure a 21-15 edge on second chance points.
The big man tandem also limited the Gators' leading scorer Dorian Finney-Smith to nine points on 3 of 9 shooting after he entered the game averaging nearly 15 points per contest.
The nail-biting affair had all the makings of two teams scrambling to get to the Big Apple. The squads matched each other shot for shot throughout a contest that featured 14 ties and 19 lead changes. Neither team led by more than eight points.
GW led 39-36 at the end of the first half in which the Colonials shot 16 of 31 from the floor while limiting Florida to 15 of 35 field goals. The teams matched each other with 34 points in the paint and each hoisted 65 shots with 24 three-point attempts, but GW's three additional made baskets from the field (sinking 31 of 65 field goal attempts) was the difference.
Patricio Garino also netted double figures for GW with 13 points on 6 of 9 shooting, while the Colonials once again rode their sextet of career 1,000-point scorers for 73 of the team's 82 points, including 8 from Joe McDonald in his final home game, 5 from graduate student Alex Mitola and 5 from Matt Hart.