Created: 11/29/2013 6:05 PM
(AP) FULLERTON, Calif. - Being undefeated has a nice ring to it. For George Washington coach George Lonergan, though, getting better is more important.
The Colonials took a 5-0 record into the semifinals of the Wooden Legacy, but lost 76-60 Friday to No. 25 Marquette.
The Colonials (5-1) had plans to contain Marquette center Davante Gardner. They couldn’t.
"They played harder than us," Lonergan said. "They were tougher than us. We didn’t battle like we thought we would."
Things went sour early for the Colonials.
Marquette (5-2) used a 12-2 run early in the first half to build a double-digit lead, and never trailed.
The Colonials tried to stage a couple of comebacks in the second half but never got any closer than 12 points in the second half.
George Washington hurt itself by shooting just 35 percent from the floor, and making just 15 of 25 free throws.
Gardner had 14 _ matching his scoring average _ of his game-high 20 points, when the Golden Eagles built a 21-point halftime lead. Jake Thomas added 13 points for the Marquette.
The Colonials were led by Kethan Savage and Maurice Creek, who scored 15 and 14 points, respectively.
Gardner led the charge in separating the Golden Eagles from the Colonials in the first half, using his big body to create space in the paint while allowing his outside shooters to get open.
"His minutes have been limited this year," Longergan said of Gardner. "We came into this game trying to make him run but he played 35 minutes against us.
"We got to get a little tougher. I know they’re one of the tougher teams in the country," Longergan added. "We didn’t play physical enough inside, especially against Gardner."
Taking advantage of a miserable start by the Colonials, the Golden Eagles used a 12-2 run to stretch a three-point lead into a 17-4 advantage.
The Colonials (5-1) went into the game with a 52.1 field goal percentage and 47.1 percent on 3-point shots. In the first 20 minutes against Marquette, the Colonials hit only 8 of 28 field goal attempts (28.6 percent), and were 1 for 7 from 3-point range.
"I think George Washington is really good," Marquette coach Buzz Williams said. "I think playing against multiple defenses is always hard to prepare for. We did a good job contesting their 3s. When Creek and (Nemanja Mikic) get hot, they’re a completely different team. That helped."
Marquette shot 47 percent from the floor in the first half but was still able to score twice as many field goals as Washington (16-8).
The Golden Eagles got 21 of their first-half points from 3-point range, connecting on 7 of 11 attempts.
The Colonials scored the first two baskets of the second half, but even that wasn’t easy. A short jumper by Maurice Creek was disallowed because of an offensive foul that was called on Kethan Savage. The call was changed to a foul against Marquette’s Juan Anderson, so Creek was awarded his basket.
The foul on Anderson gave the ball back to George Washington, and Isaiah Armwood scored on the possession to cut Marquette’s lead to 46-31.
Creek added a 3-point basket from the top of the key to complete a 9-1 run and get the Colonials to within 13 points.
The closest George Washington got to Marquette was 12 points. That was when McDonald scored on a layup, cutting the Golden Eagles’ advantage to 51-39 with 15:20 left in the game.
Marquette stretched its lead back to 18 points when Gardner scored on a layup midway through the second half.
"I think we move the ball," Williams added. "Rarely is the ball getting stuck. Since last Friday, we’ve been doing it right. We are preparing to do it right."
George Washington continued its effort to get back into the contest, and had a chance to trim its deficit to 10 points with 5:51 remaining in the game, but Patricio Garino missed two free throws.
The Colonials made just 16 of 26 from the free throw line for the game.
Lonergan said games like Friday’s will make his team better.
"We’re excited about playing good teams," he said. That’s why we entered this tournament. I’d rather be playing for third place than eighth place, so we have a lot to play for."