GW's next stop: consistency, BB&T Classic

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GW's next stop: consistency, BB&T Classic

For last year's BB&T Classic matchup, Mike Lonergan famously took his team from Foggy Bottom to Chinatown via the Metro - only to have VCU later ruin the ride by handing George Washington a 15-point loss.

For this year's matchup against Manhattan, the Colonials' coach is sticking with public transportation plan for the 15-block trip. However, he's hoping his new building blocks alter the game result.

"Hopefully, we'll play better this year," Lonergan said. The opportunity commences Sunday at 12:15 in the first game of the doubleheader, followed by Maryland versus George Mason.

Through six games, the Colonials (3-3) have been better in spots, especially regarding offensive efficiency and defense. However, scoring and overall inconsistency remain. That's hardly a stunner considering George Washington sports four new starters, including three freshmen.

That stands in contrast to a Manhattan (2-3) squad that returns five starters from a 21-win team, though the Jaspers have already suffered road losses at Louisville, Harvard and Dayton.

On Monday, George Washington couldn't take advantage of its home court advantage against Mount St. Mary's, falling 65-56. Two days later in Harrisonburg, Va., the Colonial kids led the way to a 55-54 triumph at James Madison. Guard Joe McDonald and center Kevin Larsen each scored 12 points while fellow freshman Patricio Garino drained a 3-pointer in the closing minutes during the decisive 7-2 run.

"The Mount game was definitely a heartbreaker, bad loss for us at home," Lonergan said. "That made the James Madison game that much more important. I thought we played pretty well...Our freshman made a lot of good plays late in the game. They've been inconsistent, which I thought they'd be, but they've played well."

The other new starter, junior transfer Isaiah Armwood, is George Washington's springy center not to mention leading scorer (11.5), rebounder (8.5) and shot blocker (2.5) plus anchor on both ends of the court. Wing guard Lasan Kromah is only recently returning to the opening lineup, but responding with aplomb. In his last three games, the Colonials leading returning scorer is averaging 14.3 points on 67.9 percent shooting (19-28) from the field with 2.7 assists and 1.7 steals.

Though scoring droughts remain an issue, collectively this unit has helped jump GW's field goal percentage from 42.5 last season to a healthier 45.3. Credit smarter shot selection and passing; even without last year's star point guard Tony Taylor the Colonials are averaging 15 assists per game, three more than a season ago.

"I think our basketball IQ is higher so we're going to get more assists," Lonergan said.

Defensively, GW is holding opponents to less than 60 points per game over the last five contests including three wins.

Lonergan noted, "I think we're a better defensive team. We play harder. We still struggle to score...Armwood has definitely brought a lot of energy. He plays so hard, he's intense and that's contagious. Joe and Patricio are two of our best defenders as freshman."

Senior swingman George Beamon (14.5 ppg) and junior guard Michael Alvarado (11.6) lead the Jaspers in scoring, though there hasn't been much scoring for Manhattan this year, yet to top 58 points in a game this season. The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference program is stronger than the record and point production suggests, yet a curious opponent considering the higher profile matchups over the BB&T's long history.

Lonergan, who grew up in the Maryland suburbs and played High School ball in the District, has heard gripes from others outside his program regarding the current event setup and distant rumblings about the future, though "no one has said it's the last year." If anything Lonergan, like others have wished over the years, would like to see the event become a true local college showcase.

"I wish we were playing a team like Maryland or Georgetown or George Mason because it would be good for local basketball," Lonergan said. "But we're playing a mid-major team that's got five starters back from a 21-win season. People might not know Manhattan, but we're actually playing a pretty good team. I want to play the best team we can play on a neutral court."

That is indeed where the coach's focus is now, the next game, the rest of this year -and not missing the Gallery Place Metro stop.

Virginia Tech lands four commitments Saturday

Virginia Tech lands four commitments Saturday

Virginia Tech had itself a day on Saturday as four prospects committed publicly to the football program. Three players are from the 2017 class while the Hokies also grabbed their first commitment for 2018.

Wide receiver Sean Savoy, linebacker Jaylen Griffin and offensive lineman Aiden Brown committed from the class of 2017. Wide receiver Bryce Thompson from the class of 2018 committed also committed. Savoy is a three-star prospect and Brown is a two-star. Both Griffin and Thompson are unrated, per Rivals.

In addition to the four commitments, there is more good news out of Blacksburg as four-star defensive end TyJuan Garbutt also visited the school over the weekend.


Garbutt is the eleventh ranked defensive end in the country. He was previously committed to Virginia Tech, but decommitted earlier in July. Despite the decommitment, Virginia Tech remains the leader to land the prized prospect.

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Mendenhall provides little clarity on QB race

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USA TODAY Sports

Mendenhall provides little clarity on QB race

If you were hoping for some clarity from Bronco Mendenhall at the ACC Kickoff on Virginia's quarterback race, he provided none.

Matt Johns returns for his senior season, but he is competing with transfers Connor Brewer and Kurt Benkert to remain atop the depth chart in 2016. Mendenhall is certainly in no hurry to name a starter.

"We currently have three quarterbacks in contention that we will carry through fall camp before we make a decision," Mendenhall said.

Despite starting for the past two seasons, Johns did not do enough to entrench himself as the starter. Johns threw for 2,810 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2015, but he also threw 17 interceptions. Mendenhall praised his poise and experience, but his play has left an opening for Brewer and Benkert.

Brewer served as Johns' backup last season after transferring from Arizona. He appeared in only two games for the Cavaliers, completing 4-of-8 passes for 34 yards and an interception. His progress in the offseason, however, has pleased the coaches and has thrust him into the midst of the quarterback competition.

"Connor Brewer had a very good spring, much more efficient and effective than any of us expected," Mendenhall said. "He was just grateful for a chance. But he made the most of it."

The newest quarterback of the three to Charlottesville, Benkert may also be the most intriguing. He transferred to Virginia from East Carolina in the spring after missing the entire 2015 season with a knee injury. ECU head coach Ruffin McNeil, now the defensive line coach at UVa, named Benkert the starter before he suffered the injury.

Unlike the other two quarterbacks, Benkert also has two years of eligibility remaining which is a very appealing prospect to the head coach.

"We're very intrigued by what we've seen from [Benkert] with the upside that he has two years of eligibility,' Mendenhall said. "There is a nice bridge there that could be formed with the possibility of more experience."

As Mendenhall begins rebuilding the Virginia program, having too many options at the quarterback position is potentially a positive development for the Cavaliers. UVa may need help in a lot of areas, but if they come into the season feeling confident under center it will make the transition to a new coach that much easier.

Because of the importance of the position, however, it's a decision Mendenhall has to get right and he intends to take his time before he makes it.

"I won't know until fall camp is over," Mendenhall said. "We'll have to do a masterful job of orchestrating fall camp to distribute the repetitions enough to be clear enough as to who is the uncontested leader."

RELATED: MENDENHALL NOT INTERESTED IN 'HONEYMOON PERIOD' AT UVA

Fuente ready to take Virginia Tech back to prominence

Fuente ready to take Virginia Tech back to prominence

Taking over for a legend is never easy, but that's the position Justin Fuente now finds himself at Virginia Tech.

Frank Beamer built the football program at Virginia Tech into a national power during his 29 seasons in Blacksburg. Fuente now takes over looking to preserve the Hokies' 23-year bowl streak and return to the team to the heights reached during Beamer's peak.

“I feel pressure to do a good job because Virginia Tech football means a lot to a tremendous amount of people," Beamer said. "It’s important."

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With that comes a lot of expectations. Fuente wouldn't have it any other way.

"It’s great to coach at a place with expectations," Fuente said at the ACC Football Kickoff. "There is a lot that comes with that and I understand that. That’s just the way it is. But it’s fun to coach at a place that means so much to so many people."

Fuente's task is made more difficult as Virginia Tech finds itself at a crossroad of sorts. After eight straight seasons of 10 or more wins, the Hokies have not won more than eight since 2011. Rather than competing for ACC Championships, Virginia Tech has had to battle just to reach bowl eligibility.

For Fuente, he recognizes that fans do not just expect him to extend the bowl streak. His job is to return the Hokies to national prominence

"We’re taking over a program that is not where we want it to be," Fuente said. "When I say ‘we,’ I mean Hokie Nation. We want it to be back to where it was ... but we will get it there. I know that for a fact.”

MORE VIRGINIA TECH: Hokies driven to 'get the job done' during the offseason