Cavanaugh leads George Washington past Penn State 76-66

WASHINGTON (AP) If there was ever any concern as to how Wake Forest transfer Tyler Cavanaugh would fit into a George Washington program with so many leaders already on coach Mike Lonergan's roster, those concerns have been put to bed just nine games into the season.

Cavanaugh scored 18 points and had 10 rebounds and George Washington never trailed in the second half Tuesday night in a 76-66 win over Penn State.

After sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, Cavanaugh is the only Colonial to score in double figures in each game this season but he got off to a slow start and needed some encouragement from Lonergan.

''I thought in the first half he dropped some easy layups he would have had so I got on him a little bit about being weak with the basketball,'' Lonergan said. ''But in the second half I thought he was much more assertive.''

Cavanaugh – who had GW's first seven points after the break – has felt right at home since day one in the nation's capital mainly because of his teammates.

''They get me in good spots where I feel comfortable to score and that's impressive because I've only played, what, nine games with them so far,'' said Cavanaugh.

The Colonials (8-1) led by 18 after two Joe McDonald free throws made it 56-38 early in the second half.

The victory was George Washington's first over a Big Ten team at home since a 77-74 triumph over Wisconsin in 1977. George Washington has now defeated teams from three of the Power Fiver conferences this season: Virginia (ACC), Tennessee (SEC), and Penn State (Big Ten).

Shep Garner led Penn State (5-3) with 22 points as the Nittany Lions could get no closer than 71-62 in the second half on 3-pointer by Brandon Taylor with 4:09 remaining.

McDonald scored 15, Yuta Watanabe had 14 points and Paul Jorgensen 11 for the Colonials.

The Nittany Lions had a three-game winning streak snapped which included a victory at Boston College in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

After trading lead changes over the first six minutes, George Washington took the lead for good at 13-12 on Alex Mitola's 3-pointer with 13:24 left. George Washington hit on 7 of 14 first-half 3-pointers in taking a 40-33 advantage into halftime.

HOT START

Watanabe came into the game shooting 8-of-30 from 3-point range on the season. After banking in an early 3-pointer from the top of the key, Watanabe went on to finish the first half by connecting on 4-of-5 shots from deep. Watanabe scored all 14 of his points early on to get the Colonials cooking.

''I'm happy for him because he takes a lot of pride in his shot,'' said Lonergan. ''He's in the gym every night working on it.''

MINI GOALS

Last year George Washington played road games at Virginia, Seton Hall, Penn State, and Rutgers going 1-3 with the lone win coming against the Scarlet Knights. The Colonials have reversed the script this season by going 3-0 with Rutgers still to come.

''We want to go 4-0 it's one of the mini goals we had,'' Lonergan explained. ''Scheduling is tough, it really is tough. We'll play anyone anywhere.''

FORMER FOES

Before last season GW and Penn State hadn't played since the Colonials took a 71-57 decision in the 1991 Palm Beach Classic. After tonight's loss, Penn State – which was a member of the Atlantic 10 for a majority of the time from 1976 to 1991 – still holds a 19-12 all-time series lead against GW.

TIP-INS

George Washington: The Colonials hadn't hosted a Big Ten school since losing to Michigan State in 1986. George Washington won't have to wait nearly that long again as the Rutgers Scarlet Knights come to the Smith Center over the weekend.

Penn State: The Nittany Lions doubled up GW in points in the paint (32-16) but shot just 56 percent from the free throw line.

UP NEXT

George Washington hosts Rutgers on Saturday.

Penn State hots Canisius on Thursday.