George Washington downs Fordham after trailing by 12 in A-10 tourney
George Washington reserve forward Bo Zeigler ran up the floor and pumped his fist near midcourt as a timeout was called.
The graduate student from Detroit had just scored on a layup to give the Colonials a 71-68 lead with 2:50 left Wednesday night at Capital One Arena.
Minutes later Zeigler made a pass to Yuta Watanabe that led to two free throws for a five-point lead, and the Colonials came back from a 12-point deficit to beat No. 14 seed Fordham 78-72 in the Atlantic 10 Conference Championship tournament.
Zeigler, averaging 6.8 points before the game, scored all 16 of his points in the second half for GW and made 7 of 8 shots. He entered the game averaging just 6.8 points per contest.
“I knew I had foul trouble in the first half,” said Zeigler, who picked up two fouls in two minutes of play in the first half. “I ended up in the right place at the right time. My energy carried over to the rest of the team. I tried to drive the ball every time I had a chance.”
“We paid attention to the game plan,” said GW guard Jair Bolden, who had 22 points. “When it gets closer to crunch time we have to pay attention to the game plan.”
“They stayed the course,” GW coach Maurice Joseph said. “Jair was a huge part of that. I am really proud of our guys. I am happy to be moving on and getting ready for St. Louis” on Thursday at 8:30 p.m.
The Colonials won the battle of the boards 39-22 and got 12 points from Yuta Watanabe, 11 points and 15 rebounds from Arnaldo Toro, 10 points from reserve Maceo Jack and seven assists from freshman point guard Justin Mazzulla.
GW led 48-43 with 15:10 left in the game on a basket by reserve Zeigler. But Fordham led 63-61 with 8:05 left on a basket by Joseph Chartouny (18 points, 8 assists) before Zeigler helped lead the charge after the Colonials had trailed by 12 in the first half.
Zeigler had a defensive rebound with 10 seconds left and his free throw made it 76-70 to seal the win.
George Washington, playing just a few miles from campus, had most of the numbers in its favor going into the contest.
The Colonials had won the previous seven contests against the Rams, including a 16-point victory a week ago in Foggy Bottom. And GW is now 14-5 in games played this season in The District, including a win over Temple at Capital One Arena in December.
But GW, the No. 11 seed, fell behind by 12 points during a lethargic first half before taking a one-point lead at intermission.
The Colonials regrouped in the second half.
GW senior Yuta Watanabe, who didn’t score until midway through the first half, had six points in each half in a game that had 16 lead changes and 11 ties.
GW, in its regular-season home finale, beat Fordham 72-56 as Watanabe had a career-high 31 points on Senior Night.
Fordham was also paced by forward Prokop Slanina, who had all 15 of his points in the first half, and forward Ivan Raut, who had 15 points and seven rebounds.
The Rams led 32-20 on a basket by Slanina before GW rallied to lead 39-38 at the break.
Saint Louis beat GW 62-53 on Feb. 24 in Missouri. In the first game Wednesday, UMass beat La Salle 69-67 and will No. 5 seed George Mason at 2:30 p.m. Thursday.
“We got some (stops) late and we pulled it out,” Joseph said. “We came out with a huge win against a team that is tough to play against. We knew we would be able to get some opportunities on the glass.”