The George Washington Colonials waltzed to an NIT semifinal victory over the San Diego State Aztecs on Tuesday night. The Colonials led the game from start to finish, dominating the Aztecs in all facets of the game.
George Washington was able to take control of things early on in the first half. The Colonials flipped the script by beating the Aztecs at their own game. George Washington locked down on defense and took advantage of nine first half turnovers by San Diego State, converting those turnovers into 14 points. They also packed the lane with defenders, forcing San Diego State to take unwanted threes or heavily contested shots in the paint. The result was just 24% shooting from the field for the Aztecs in the first half. These factors combined with some success shooting the three ball allowed the Colonials to open up a 35-20 lead heading into halftime. Tyler Cavanaugh led the charge for George Washington with 9 points and 6 rebounds in the first half.
The Colonials never allowed San Diego State a sniff of the lead in the second half. George Washington slowed things down offensively. By limiting the number of possessions in the second half, the Colonials prevented the struggling Aztec offense from mounting a run. Ultimately, the Colonials were able to increase their lead to 19 and finish off a 65-46 victory.
Cavanaugh ended the evening with a double-double of 20 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Colonials. Patricio Garino joined Cavanaugh in double digit scoring with 13 points of his own. As a unit, the Colonials ran an efficient offense, shooting 43% from the field. But, most importantly, George Washington only turned the ball over 6 times against one of the staunchest defenses in the nation.
The Aztecs were led offensively by Dakarai Allen, who scored 13 points on just 3-10 shooting from the field. Allen was the only Aztec in double figures scoring-wise, as the team was held to just 29% shooting for the game. San Diego State only turned the ball over 11 times themselves, which is not a number that jumps out by itself. However, the fact that George Washington was able to manufacture 15 points off of those turnovers was crucial in the outcome of the game.
George Washington advances to the NIT championship game against Valparaiso on Thursday night. The Crusaders clung to a two-point win over BYU in the evening's first semifinal. Valparaiso boasts a strong defense similar to that of San Diego State's. The Colonials will likely employ a game plan on Thursday similar to the one used tonight to combat a strong defense. If George Washington can force turnovers and convert them into points, they could see success.
The loss ends San Diego State's season. The Aztecs were regular season champions of the Mountain West Conference and close the year with a 28-10 record.