Second place in A-10 at stake as GW faces VCU

Second place in A-10 at stake as GW faces VCU
February 12, 2014, 12:45 am
Share This Post

Matchup: George Washington Colonials (19-4; 7-2 Atlantic 10) at VCU Rams (19-5, 7-2)

When: Wednesday, 7:00 p.m.

Where: Siegel Center

Broadcast: TV - NBC Sports Network; Radio - 1500 AM. 

Last time out: GW went 2-0 last week, including Saturday's 93-67 rout over Fordham.

KenPom: George Washington 36, VCU 29

RPI: George Washington 27, VCU 28

Coaches: George Washington - Mike Lonergan; VCU - Shaka Smart

Leaders: GW - Scoring (Maurice Creek, 14.0), Rebounding (Isaiah Armwood, 8.5), Assists (Joe McDonald, 4.1); VCU - Scoring (Treveon Graham, 15.3), Rebounding (Juvonte Reddic, 8.4), Assists (Briante Weber, 4.0)

What's at stake: In the short term, outright second place in the A-10 and a jump-start on a brutal upcoming schedule for both teams. The Colonials open a four-game stretch against teams with winning conference records: at VCU, UMass (19-4, 6-3), at Richmond (15-8, 5-3), at No. 12 St. Louis (22-2, 9-0). Do more than just survive this span and GW keeps its regular season title hopes alive while likely jumping into the national rankings and boosting its NCAA Tournament résumé. 

After GW, the Rams face St. Louis in the first of two meetings followed by UMass.

When last we met: Kevin Larsen dominated the first half, Patricio the second as GW downed VCU 76-66 on Jan 14. The power-packed Larsen scored 17 of his career-high 22 points before halftime while Garino's all-court game included a career-best 25 points. GW shot well over 50 percent from the field while holding the Rams to 37 percent. 

Protect the house: Just like the Colonials at the Smith Center this season, VCU is a perfect 12-0 at home. The Rams' overall winning streak at the Siegel Center is 17 straight, the ninth-longest active home win streak in D1.

Key matchups: As with any game against VCU, handling the Rams full court "Havoc" pressure defense is a top priority. Though the Colonials committed 21 turnovers in the first meeting, they avoided letting any miscues lead to major momentum shifts. The challenge will be repeating that on the Rams home court against a team that ranks second nationally in turnover margin.

GW also had guard Kethan Savage in that first meeting. No such luck in the rematch as the sophomore is sidelined with a foot injury. That means one less ball handler for the Colonials and eliminates their top penetrating threat. It also places a greater importance on guards Joe McDonald, who is battling a hip injury, Maurice Creek and Patricio Garino avoiding foul trouble. That's often easier said than done when VCU's tempo reaches overdrive. 

Look for the 6-foot-10 Larsen, GW's top passer, to serve as an outlet against the pressure defense. He'll also likely take turns initiating half court sets when Lonergan takes the ball out of McDonald's hands to limit the thieving Weber's chances for a steals.

* Often defended by the lengthy and taller Armwood, Graham went 1 of 6 on 3-point attempts and 5 of 15 overall for 12 points in the first meeting. Three games later, the Temple Hills native scored a season-high 34. The 6-foot-6 Graham will see another heavy dose of the shot blocking Armwood whenever the Colonials are not using their effective 1-3-1 zone defense.