Colonials head to Brooklyn without much pressure

George Washington's Mike Lonergan put the sometimes glamorous, often mundane life of a basketball coach in perspective after practice Monday, talking about how his life will change if the Colonials lose this weekend in the Atlantic 10 tournament.

One day he will be coaching at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The next he will be scouting at the Alhambra Catholic Invitational at Frostburg State. So with apologies to the high school players of DeMatha, O'Connell and Gonzaga, Lonergan hopes to see as little of them as possible this weekend.

His first order of business is to guide 11th-seeded George Washington (13-16) against No.?6 Massachusetts (19-10) in the opening round of the conference tournament Thursday night.

Up next
No. 11 GW vs. No. 6 UMass
When » Thursday, 9 p.m.
Where » Barclays Center,
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Getting into the tournament was a modest goal for the Colonials considering 12 of the league's 16 teams qualified. But making the trip is a nice reward, especially for the seniors of George Washington. Each of the last three years, the Colonials lost in the opening round of the tournament, one game shy of a trip to Atlantic City for the quarterfinals.

This year, with the addition of two teams to the A-10 and a change in venue to the new Barclays Center, 12 teams make the trip instead of eight. Senior guard Bryan Bynes says making the trip is the realization of a goal, but there's work to be done in Brooklyn.

"We made it every year, but we've never won a [tournament] game," Bynes said. "Going into this game, we really are talking about taking the next step."

GW hopes it goes as well as its first trip north to play UMass, a 79-76 victory in Amherst in which freshman point guard Joe McDonald (16 points, 10 assists) hit the clinching free throws with 13 seconds left.

With defensive help from Bynes, McDonald also outplayed Minutemen dynamo Chaz Williams, who hit five of 17 shots from the floor. Williams is the top scorer (15.4 ppg) and playmaker (7.6 apg) for UMass. The Minutemen have won seven of eight games in which the 5-foot-9 junior has tallied 20 or more points.

"Chaz Williams is the most talented point guard in the league," Lonergan said. "We went under screens on him, which is a risk. We just feel you have to pick your poison. We'd rather have him shooting over screens and try to get a hand out late than letting him get to the rim."

There are other players to be concerned with in the tall, athletic rotation of UMass, which features three D.C.-area products -- 6-7 Terrell Vinson (Montrose Christian), 6-8 Maxie Esho (Wise) and 6-9 Raphiael Putney (Woodbridge) -- all wing players.

UMass was an NCAA bubble team much of the year but has drifted off and probably needs a deep tournament run to refuel consideration.

"We're trying to sell our players on, 'Hey, the pressure's on them,'?" Lonergan said.