As March winds down without its usual flurry of March Madness moments, NBC Sports Washington takes a look back at the smaller DMV schools and their most recent NCAA Tournament appearances.
Despite some recent struggles, confidence was high in Foggy Bottom for the George Washington basketball program entering the 2013-14 season.
“I thought we could be good,” former GW head coach Mike Lonergan told NBC Sports Washington. “I thought we could win 20 games and have a chance to make the NCAA Tournament.”
The Colonials had not been to the tournament since 2007 and finished under .500 the first two years after Lonergan arrived from Vermont. However, the Bowie, Md. native, a former head coach at Catholic and assistant at Maryland under Gary Williams, was bullish thanks to the addition of Indiana graduate transfer Maurice Creek.
“I knew we needed someone like him,” Lonergan said. “I knew if he could play at even 80% that he would give us the scoring we needed.”
Creek averaged 16.4 points per game as a freshman at Indiana before numerous leg injuries derailed his time in Bloomington. The former Hoosier led the Colonials in scoring (14.1 ppg) that season.
The moment of arrival for George Washington occurred Thanksgiving weekend in Anaheim. In the third place game of the Wooden Classic, the Colonials faced 20th-ranked Creighton. George Washington beat the Blue Jays, 60-53, and held eventual consensus first-team All-America Doug McDermott to a season-low seven points.
“That’s when I knew we were pretty good because Creighton was fabulous,” Lonergan said.
The Colonials were the only team that season to hold McDermott under double digits. That was the turning point in their season.
After returning from California, the Colonials defeated Rutgers, Maryland, and Georgia even before beginning Atlantic 10 play. Creek buried a game-winning shot at the buzzer to defeat Maryland in the BB&T Classic, 77-75.
“Everything we did started in the summer time,” Creek told NBC Sports Washington. “We believed in each other.”
George Washington finished the regular season with a 24-8 record and an 11-5 mark in conference play. On Selection Sunday, the Colonials emerged as the No. 9 seed in the East Region. Lonergan will never forget that feeling of that day.
“It was definitely exciting,” Lonergan said. “When I got the job, I thought it was a five-year deal before we got really good. So we were ahead of schedule.”
George Washington headed to Raleigh, N.C. to play Memphis. Luck was not on the Colonials side that evening. In addition to second-leading scorer Kethan Savage being sidelined due to an injury, Creek needed stitches above his eye early in the game.
Creek finished just 2-for-13 from the field. Senior Isaiah Armwood finished with a season-high 21 points but was called for his fourth foul with 12:02 to play in the second half.
"It definitely changed my defense, because when I'm on defense, I'm usually active. I couldn't foul," Armwood said.
The Colonials still had multiple chances to tie the game in the final minute down by three but came up short and ultimately lost to the Tigers, 71-66.
“It was disappointing because we could really score and we only put up 66 [points] that game,” Lonergan recalled.
Despite the disappointing loss, George Washington basketball looked healthy once again following a successful season. The Colonials won a school-record 28 games and the NIT two years later, but they are still searching for a return trip to the tournament with a rebuilding plan in place under new coach Jamion Christian.
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