George Washington head coach Mike Lonergan directs his players during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against VCU at the Siegel Center in Richmond, Va., Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. George Washington won 72-69. (Mark Gormus/Richmond Times-Di
AP Photo
February 06, 2016

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) Patricio Garino was looking at statistics in the morning before George Washington's game at VCU and saw that the Colonials had only won once in their last nine meetings against the Rams.

''I was a little embarrassed, to be honest,'' Garino said.

That's not an issue any more.

Garino scored 27 points and Joe McDonald made a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:11 remaining Saturday and the Colonials won 72-69, ending the Rams' 12-game winning streak.

''I think we came with the right mentality,'' Garino said. ''We knew that this team was definitely beatable for us. ... We've never won here before and that was something that we really wanted to accomplish today.''

McDonald and Tyler Cavanaugh each scored 11 for the Colonials (18-5, 7-3 Atlantic 10), who took their first lead of the second half on a basket by Kevin Larsen with 3 minutes to play.

After the Rams went back ahead, Cavanaugh banked in a tough jumper in traffic, VCU turned the ball over and McDonald found himself all alone for a 3-pointer that made it 71-69.

''The defense was just collapsing and I had a chance to get a wide-open shot,'' the senior guard said. ''Thankful that it went in. My 3 hadn't been falling lately.''

JeQuan Lewis scored 16 to lead VCU (17-6, 9-1), which lost for the first time since Dec. 15 at Georgia Tech. The Rams led by as many as nine in the second half, but were outscored 13-5 over the final five minutes. They did have a chance in the final moments, trailing 71-69, but Melvin Johnson's 3-pointer was off the mark, and Korey Billbury rebounded but missed a layup in the final seconds.

''I almost had a heart attack,'' Garino said of seeing Billbury collect the rebound right under the basket with Yuta Watanabe there to bother his shot. ''It was a clean layup but luckily he missed it.''

George Washington pulled even at 58 on a 3-point play by Cavanaugh with six minutes remaining. The Rams scored the next six points, but the Colonials forced back-to-back turnovers and pulled even again on Garino's fourth 3-pointer from right in front of his bench.

After Justin Tillman made 1 of 2 free throws for VCU, Kevin Larsen scored inside, giving the Colonials their first lead of the half at 66-65. Two free throws by Mo Alie-Cox and a driving basket by Melvin Johnson gave the Rams the lead back at 69-66, setting up the final sequence.

''These games come down to two or three possessions, and we didn't win those two or three possessions today,'' Rams coach Will Wade said. He said VCU didn't run the right play leading up to Johnson's 3-point shot at the end, but that he opted to go for the win because he didn't like his team's chances if the game went to overtime.

VCU used an 11-2 burst early in the second half to open a 42-33 lead, its biggest to that point. Lewis had a pair of 3-pointers and eight points in the run, but the Colonials answered with their own 11-4 surge.

Neither team led by more than five in the first half. There were five ties and six lead changes.


George Washington: The Colonials came in ranked 11th nationally in free-throw percentage at .761, but missed 5 of 7 from the line in the first half. They finished 10 for 18.

VCU: Justin Tillman started the day having made 40 of his last 48 field-goal attempts. He missed 3 of 5 shots against the Colonials.


George Washington is at home against Saint Joseph's on Wednesday.

VCU plays at Massachusetts on Thursday.

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