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Atlantic 10 Tournament day 2: A few comebacks and a fired coach highlight the day

Only a couple of Thursday’s games were bad!

NCAA Basketball: George Mason at Penn State Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

After a first day of Atlantic 10 action that featured the league’s four worst teams playing some rather exciting games, we were treated to a day full of three boring games and one thrilling comeback. Now, while the final two games of the night featured comebacks, only one of those games was actually not a chore to watch.

If you were foolishly not watching these games tonight, I’m sure you’ll want to know which teams impressed and which ones fell flat, so you might as well go ahead and get caught up on Thursday’s games:

#9 Davidson 82, #8 La Salle 73

The early games today simply did not impress. In this one, Davidson jumped out to a large first half lead; most of the thanks for the 15-point lead they took into the locker room must be given to Peyton Aldridge. While the team as a whole shot 61.3% (!) in the first half, Aldridge was red hot, going 6-9 and scoring 15 points. If you were—like most people watching this game—streaming it on your office computer, you probably found something else to watch. At halftime, it seemed like this one was over.

If you did turn away, you probably came crawling back after the first fifteen minutes of the second half, as La Salle was able to mount a 29-17 run to pull within three points. That was the closest they would come. Aldridge took over the game once again, scoring 12 points in the final 3:10 of the game. He finished with 33 points for the Wildcats.

Now, the Explorers’ comeback set the tone for the rest of the day, with the two evening games featuring big-time rallies that—unlike La Salle’s—culminated in victories.

Davidson will take on top-seeded Dayton on Friday at noon.

#5 St. Bonaventure 73, #12 UMass 60

Early on, it seemed as if the Bonnies were in danger. While, in our minds, we might have known it was unlikely that UMass could continue operating at such a high level, it felt like they had a shot. After jumping out to an early lead that was due mainly to St. Bonaventure’s inability to defend the paint, it was looking as if that extra day of playing might have worked to the Minutemen’s advantage.

The tides quickly turned.

UMass began playing quite sloppily, leading to a myriad of turnovers. In the end, the Bonnies ended up with 19 points off of Minutemen turnovers. As usual, the game was dominated by Matt Mobley and Jaylen Adams, who finished with 19 and 17 points, respectively.

About an hour after the game, news broke that Derek Kellogg was fired by UMass. Kellogg, who played at the school under John Calipari, had been the coach of the Minutemen since 2008. In his time there, he had three winning seasons, making the NCAA Tournament only once.

The Bonnies will face Rhode Island on Friday at 2:30. If they are able to pull off a big victory against a heavily-motivated Rams team, they’re going to have to shore up their inside defense. Hassan Martin will run all over them otherwise.

#7 George Mason 82, #10 Fordham 71

This...this was the best game of the day. From the start, it looked like George Mason was going to have a fairly easy time coasting through the game, as they had a consistent lead against Fordham all throughout the first half. Now, the Patriots couldn’t hit a perimeter shot whatsoever, but they were able to get to the line incredibly often, going 17-18 from the charity stripe in the opening half alone.

In the second half, it took about 10 minutes for the Rams to draw even, due largely to a series of offensive plays made by Javontae Hawkins. He scored 11 of the 13 points earned by Fordham from the between the 9:00-4:00 minute mark, making his impact felt. Eventually, the Rams’ lead got up to seven points with a little under three minutes to play; the Patriots were in trouble.

Within the final minute, they made their run. A Marquise Moore three got it started, but it was a perimeter shot from Otis Livingston that made it seem like George Mason could actually pull off the comeback. Moore scored a layup, bringing the deficit to one. After Chris Sengfelder made one of two free throws, it was clear that George Mason had a great shot to extend this game or even win it. Take a look at what they did:

Once in overtime, the Patriots used the momentum they gained from the end of the second half to completely take over. From then on out, it wasn’t even close. In the end, it became clear that George Mason fans who were angry about Marquise Moore not winning A10 Player of the Year had a valid point: he put up 25 points and 19 rebounds today. He could not be stopped on either end of the court.

Just to put in perspective how impressive this comeback was, it’s worth taking a look at the win probability graph produced by KenPom.

George Mason will take on 2-seeded VCU on Friday at 6 pm.

#6 George Washington 53, #11 Saint Louis 46

Sitting through this game was a nightmare. It was excruciating. It was a chore. For most of the first half, the Colonials were on single digit alert. They didn’t even reach 10 points until there was less than 4 minutes in the half. At halftime, the Saint Louis lead was 25-13. I honestly can’t come up with anything positive to say. Everything was insane. For instance, George Washington—a team which typically shoots close to 38% from three—went 0-8 from behind the arc. This was game number one of the Bizarro Atlantic 10 Tournament.

Thankfully, George Washington managed to find its offense after halftime, leading to the evening’s second fulfilled comeback. Yuta Watanabe led the scoring charge for the Colonials, putting up 12 points in the final 20 minutes. George Washington’s skill in transition provided a huge boost, letting them coast to the victory in a game they’d surely like to forget.

Now, Saint Louis was certainly in a position to win this game for quite a while. Although they may have relinquished their lead, they definitely proved that—once they add the recruiting talent being brought in by Travis Ford—they will be a force in this league.

George Washington will take on 3-seed Richmond on Friday at 8:30 pm.