The primary question all season for the La Salle basketball team has been: How will it react when the situations in a game change?

On Wednesday against George Washington, the Explorers weren’t shooting well but had played tough enough defense to take a 23-14 lead into the second half.

Then the Colonials discovered their shooting touch. A team that couldn’t throw the ball in the ocean for the first 20 minutes could hardly miss.

GW made five straight shots to start the second half to cut a nine-point deficit to two, and then it was game on.

With just over two minutes remaining, the Colonials took their first lead of the game.

How would the Explorers respond? Not yet with enough maturity to pull out a close game.

Armel Potter scored a layup with 1:10 remaining and the Colonials pulled out a 59-56 victory at Tom Gola Arena.

Pookie Powell, right, of La Salle dribbles the ball off his foot and out of bounds on La Salle’s final possession against George Washington on Jan. 16, 2019. La Salle lost 59-56. Justin Mazzulla of GW is left and Terry Nolan center.
CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
Pookie Powell, right, of La Salle dribbles the ball off his foot and out of bounds on La Salle’s final possession against George Washington on Jan. 16, 2019. La Salle lost 59-56. Justin Mazzulla of GW is left and Terry Nolan center.

After holding George Washington to 16 percent shooting in the first half, La Salle saw the Colonials score 45 points on 19-for-28 shooting (67.9 percent) in the second.

The Explorers (3-13, 1-3 Atlantic 10) lost a comfortable lead and then couldn’t make enough critical plays when the game got close to remain winless at home.

Isiah Deas had 11 points and was the only Explorer to finish in double-digit scoring. The Explorers shot just 34.4 percent for the game, including 5-for-32 on three-pointers.

“It’s a disappointing loss,” La Salle coach Ashley Howard said. “George Washington showed a lot of guts. They just went at our guys the entire second half. Our guys didn’t come out with the sense of urgency that we needed to close the game. Once it became a close game, our guys played too much on their heels."

Ed Croswell, left, of La Salle and Justin Mazzula, center of George Washington battle for a rebound in the 1st half on Jan. 16, 2019.
CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
Ed Croswell, left, of La Salle and Justin Mazzula, center of George Washington battle for a rebound in the 1st half on Jan. 16, 2019.

Had La Salle shot even 35 percent in the first half, the Explorers would have possibly led by close to 20 points.

Their lone solace was that while they could barely hit the side of a barn, George Washington (6-11, 2-2) couldn’t hit a side, the roof or the silo next to it.

La Salle made just eight of 32 shots from the floor but led by nine because George Washington shot just 16.0 percent (4-of-25).

Much of the credit for that goes to the tough defense that La Salle played. The Explorers contested everything to make shots difficult and also forced the Colonials into committing 12 turnovers. La Salle finished with 12 steals and four blocks.

Traci Carter, left, of La Salle looks for a teammate to pass to after coming up with a steal against Justin Mazzulla of George Washington in the 1st half on Jan. 16, 2019.
CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
Traci Carter, left, of La Salle looks for a teammate to pass to after coming up with a steal against Justin Mazzulla of George Washington in the 1st half on Jan. 16, 2019.