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George Washington Takes Out Wichita State for Diamond Head Classic Championship

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George Washington coach Mike Lonergan changed course at the perfect moment to throw No. 11 Wichita State off its game and secure the Diamond Head Classic title.

Marco Garcia-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Lonergan 1, Gregg Marshall 0.

Sometimes a coaching change in the middle of the game makes all the difference. Sometimes the change that no one is expecting flips the game and puts it on its ear.

Mike Lonergan made that change Christmas night in the championship game of the Diamond Head Classic, and George Washington walked away with a win 60-54 over Wichita State.

It didn't matter that Wichita State had their five minutes of perfection in the second half. Lonergan turned the tables and found a way to stem the tide that had gone Wichita State's way.

The first half was Wichita State's time, and they didn't take advantage of it. They forced the turnovers, they converted them into points. They just couldn't stop George Washington enough. That is why the game was tied at halftime.

But you may want to look at Tekele Cotton sitting on the bench for that. Here is the best defender for the Shockers, and here he is with two fouls early, and that really hurt Wichita State in extending the lead they created with him on the floor.

Cotton committed his second foul with 11 minutes left in the first half, and the Shockers held a seven-point lead. and yet the half ended tied. Correlation, for sure. Causation? Let's go with yes, too.

That was before the five minutes of perfection, the time when normally Wichita State closes out games. Yes, they Shockers still managed to do in the second half what they do against all opponents: they play perfect for enough time that teams get discouraged and go away.

Now imagine that eight-point push that comes after that perfection is combined with the seven points that Wichita State had led by in the first half. Imagine that we have George Washington down by 15 points in this one.

That is game over. That is the 2013-14 vintage Wichita State.

But this isn't that. This is Mike Lonergan saying "No Mas," or however that translates into Hawaiian.

Out came the 1-3-1, and out came Yuta Watanabe. If it was a defensive switch that screwed with Wichita State, it is one thing. When a freshman causes them so many issues, that is another.

Watanabe went off for eight points over a four minute stretch in the second half after the defensive switch. He hit two gigantic 3-pointers -- a hole in the Shockers defense that will continue to confound them -- to bring the Colonials back and give them the lead into the final four minutes of the game.

Domo Arigato Mr. Watanabe.

Everything else was defense. What other team has ever held Wichita State to just a single basket over the final six minutes of a ball game?

What other team can find a way to avoid the turnovers and the mistakes that so often turn the momentum in favor of the Shockers?

None, that is the answer. George Washington did in six minutes what so many other teams fail to figure out.

Mike Lonergan made the coaching change, and the players did the rest on the floor, including a freshman that showed no fear when faced with the Shockers.

This shouldn't surprise anyone looking at the box score though. The Colonials shot 51.1 percent overall, and an amazing 9-for-15 from 3-point range.

If they learned anything from scouting the Hawaii game that Wichita State barely pulled out, it was that the Shockers are vulnerable when you take a step back and let it go.

Just ask Mr. Watanabe.

George Washington was best on Christmas night in Hawaii. They executed in a way that gave Wichita State the fits. They gave other teams a pattern to exploit. And they likely gave themselves a win that will help them find a way back to the NCAA Tournament, no matter the state of the Atlantic 10 conference this season.

Mike Lonergan made the move that Gregg Marshall couldn't anticipate and pushed Wichita State down a road of never-ending check after check after check, until it was too late.

Checkmate George Washington. Marshall knocks over his king. The Colonials reign.