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George Washington looks like NCAA caliber team in win over VCU

By Jon Rothstein | CBS Sports

WASHINGTON -- High-level competition is bringing out the best in George Washington.

And the Colonials at their best resemble a team that could play in the NCAA tournament.

Playing in front of a raucous home crowd, Mike Lonergan's team made a major statement on Wednesday night, beating Atlantic 10 favorite VCU 76-66.

"It's a special win for us," Lonergan said. "One of our goals is to go undefeated at home. I told our guys we could accomplish our goals. This was a great win against a great program."

The Colonials now have victories over the Rams and Creighton along with several quality mid-majors such as Manhattan and Boston University.

At 14-3 and 2-1 in the A-10, George Washington looks more than capable of contending for a bid to the field of 68.

"We're just more mature this year," Lonergan said. "We're older and we have a better sense of what's at stake every time we play."

George Washington led by seven at the half against VCU and held off the Rams despite 21 turnovers.

The biggest thing that stood out from Wednesday night's win? The Colonials have as good a front line as anyone in the Atlantic 10 with Isaiah Armwood and Kevin Larsen.

Armwood was huge defensively and finished with 11 points along with 14 rebounds and four blocked shots.

"When the ball was up there and loose he went and got it," VCU coach Shaka Smart said of Armwood after the game. "He was a huge factor."

In addition to Armwood, Larsen had a memorable night himself.

The 6-foot-10 sophomore finished with a career-high 22 points along with seven rebounds. Larsen scored 17 points in the first half.

"He set the tone early," Lonergan said. "When he plays like that offensively, we're a different team."

Armwood and Larsen have been mainstays for George Washington, but the real wild card for this team is 6-6 sophomore Patricio Garino.

After missing seven games with a finger injury earlier in the season, Garino was the best player on the floor against VCU.

In 28 minutes of action, Garino scored 25 points, grabbed seven rebounds and was an integral part of handling the Rams' full-court pressure.

"He's great defensively," Lonergan said of Garino, who also made two 3-pointers. "He's more focused than anyone I've ever coached. I've always said that if he can shoot he's going to be a pro. That's what he did tonight."

UMass and Saint Louis have separated themselves up to this point in the Atlantic 10, but the Colonials look like a team that's bound to be in the conversation at the top of the league moving forward.

"I came to George Washington for this," Lonergan said. "I came for the chance to coach at a high level. That's what this was tonight."

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