Junior Kevin Larsen named MVP of the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic after victory over Wichita State.
The George Washington University men's basketball team rallied in the second half for the second straight tournament game to upset 11th-ranked Wichita State 60-54 to win the 2014 Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu late Christmas night.
After erasing a five-point deficit in the second half in a semifinal victory over Colorado on Tuesday, GW (9-3) whittled away an eight-point hole with 7:45 remaining to stun Wichita State (10-2) and capture its first regular-season tournament title since the 2004 BB&T Classic. The upset of the Wichita State Shockers is the Colonials' best win over a nationally-ranked team since the team’s victory over 9th-ranked Michigan State in the opening game of that BB&T Classic on Dec. 4, 2004.
GW set a record for fewest points allowed in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic's six-year history. The team surrendered just 153 points over the three games to break the record of the tournament’s 2009 champion, the University of Southern California, which held teams to 156 points over three games.
The Colonials win snapped Wichita State’s 41-game regular season win streak against unranked, non-conference opponents.
The Colonials set the Diamond Head Classic's defensive record for three games despite 11 three-pointers from the Shockers. The team held Wichita to 10-of-34 shooting (29.4 percent) inside the three-point line. GW also countered with a season-high nine three pointers and shot 51.1 percent (24-47) overall, the highest allowed by Wichita State this season.
Larsen capped his MVP performance with 10 points, five rebounds, four assists, two blocks and a steal against Wichita State. The forward from Copenhagen, Denmark, averaged a team-best 11.3 points and 8.3 rebounds over the tournament’s three games.
Junior Kevin Larsen accepts MVP honors after Colonials win over Wichita State in championship game of the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii.
Junior Kethan Savage led the Colonials with 12 points and three steals against the Shockers, including seven points and two steals that fueled a 20-6 game-deciding run over the final 7:29.
Freshman Yuta Watanabe, who finished with 10 points and four rebounds off the bench, played an equally critical role in that run, hitting the initial three pointer to spark the rally and another three pointer that put GW ahead for good at 54-52 with 3:33 remaining.
Larsen cemented his MVP effort with a three pointer on the Colonials' ensuing possession for a five-point lead, then classmate Joe McDonald clinched the upset with a driving layup for a 59-52 advantage with 1:06 left. McDonald finished with nine points and a game-high five assists.
Along with Watanabe, GW also got solid bench contributions from sophomore Nick Griffin (six points, two rebounds) and freshman Paul Jorgensen (three points), who combined to shoot 3-for-3 from the three-point line for a total of nine points and three rebounds between them.
There were 10 lead changes and three ties in the game. GW battled back from a 16-9 deficit with a 9-1 run for an 18-17 lead, and the teams went back-and-forth before ending the first half in a 28-28 tie.
The Colonials led 32-31 early in the second half on back-to-back baskets from McDonald and Larsen, but the Shockers went on a 17-8 run aided by five 3-pointers for a 48-40 advantage with 7:45 to play.
GW made eight of its next 10 shots, while limiting WSU to 3-of-9 shooting and causing four Shockers' turnovers during the closing 20-6 run.
GW Colonials return to D.C. on Saturday to prepare to host VMI at the Charles E. Smith Center on Dec. 30. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.