George Washington Colonials (12-3, 2-0 A10) at La Salle Explorers (8-7, 0-2 A10)
12:30 PM, Tom Gola Arena, Philadelphia, PA
Media Coverage: 1500 AM, NBCSN/NBC Sports Live Extra
A busy Saturday for GW Basketball tips off at 12:30 with the men in action on the road in Philly for the second time in as many weekends. This time, the Colonials trek to Tom Gola Arena to face off with reeling La Salle, a squad that has lost seven of their past 11 contests.
GW is off to a 2-0 start in the Atlantic 10 after surviving a late comeback attempt at Saint Joseph’s last Saturday and holding off Saint Louis 75-72 in their A10 home opener this past Tuesday. The Colonials had five scorers in double-figures in their win over the Billikens, led by Patricio Garino‘s 18 points and Kevin Larsen‘s 16. Yuta Watanabe also finished in double-digits for the fifth straight game, with 10 points in 21 minutes off the bench. GW needed all the help they could get on Tuesday as they were blindsided by a rebuilding Saint Louis team that had cracked the 70-point threshold just once coming in to the contest.
La Salle has dropped their first two A10 matchups, losing to George Mason down in Fairfax last Saturday and dropping a six-point decision at home to UMass on Wednesday. The Explorers have leaned on Jordan Price, a transfer guard from Auburn, who currently ranks third in the conference in scoring with just over 17 points per game. In addition, frontcourt mainstays Jerrell Wright and Steve Zack could create problems down low for the Colonials if Larsen, Watanabe, and John Kopriva fail to bring their A-games.
Due to logistical difficulties, WRGW will not be carrying the game in Philadelphia today. However, you can still listen to Byron Kerr’s call on federalnewsradio.com and 1500 AM, with tip off scheduled for 12:30.
George Washington Colonials (13-2, 2-0 A10) vs. Richmond Spiders (9-5, 1-1 A10)
2 PM, Charles E. Smith Center, Washington, DC
Media Coverage: WRGW, RaiseHigh Live, A10 Mobile App
Announcers: Cameron Rohde, Tyrique Wilson
Click Here to Listen Live
Approximately 90 minutes after the GW Men tip off in Philly, the GW Women will get underway in Foggy Bottom, looking to defend their Smith Center floor and extend their win streak to 12 against rival Richmond.
The Colonials defeated St. Joe’s 83-69 on Wednesday night in their A10 home opener to match the sixth-longest winning streak in program history. Caira Washington led the team and tied her season-high with 23 points on 9-15 shooting while Jonquel Jones collected her seventh double-double of the season with 16 points and 14 rebounds. Hannah Schaible also had a great all-around performance, filling up the stat sheet with 14 points, six rebounds, four assists, and three steals.
In addition to their season win streak, GW will also be looking to extend a team winning streak against Richmond. The Colonials have won the last three matchups between the two programs, the most recent of which was a 72-58 win down in Virginia’s state capital last season.
The Spiders come into Saturday’s contest red hot themselves, having won six of their past seven and most recently knocking off St. Bonaventure 67-61 this past Wednesday. GW will need to contain Janelle Hubbard, who is coming off a 24-point performance on 4-7 from beyond the arc against the Bonnies. The Colonials will also need to contain Preseason All-A10 Second Team selection Genevieve Okoro on the glass. Okoro is third in the conference in overall rebounding with 8.1 boards a game.
The women’s game will air on WRGW, with pregame coverage beginning at 1:45 and tip off scheduled for 2 pm on gwradio.com.
George Washington Colonials (8-3) vs. #11 Wichita State Shockers (10-1)
2014 Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic, Final
8:30 PM, Stan Sheriff Center, Honolulu, HI
Media Coverage: ESPN2/WatchESPN, 1500 AM, FederalNewsRadio.com
Diamond Head Classic Thus Far - GW has played consistently solid basketball over the first two days, beating Ohio and Colorado and playing well in both games. What should the Colonial faithful expect against the Shockers?
Opponent Preview – Wichita State
2013-2014 Record: 35-1 (18-0), Postseason – NCAA Third Round Loss to Kentucky 78-76
2014-2015 Record: 10-1; Ken Pom – 11, AP – 11, Coaches – 11. Defeated Hawai’i 80-79 (OT) in Diamond Head Classic semifinals.
Players to Watch
Ron Baker – GW will have their hands full with Baker, one of the best shooters in the nation. Baker can do much more than shoot, and has shown this year the ability to effectively create out of pick-and-rolls. Baker is not the most athletic player, but he has a sneaky quick first step and is able to get to the rim well. He makes the best basketball decision most of the time and only commits one turnover per game. He rates well amongst NBA scouts, and draftexpress.com has him as the 29th pick in next year’s draft.
Baker didn’t come to Wichita State with high expectations and actually had to pay his own tuition as a walk-on freshman year. He has consistently improved each year and was an x-factor in the Shockers’ Final Four run two years ago. He scored 16 points to knock off top-seeded Gonzaga and scored 11 points in their loss to Louisville in the Final Four.
Baker has had a much larger role the last two years. This year the Shockers depend on him as their leading scorer and if he struggles, it drastically affects the team. Against Hawai’I, he scored 17 points, but was 5-19 from the field. If Savage and Garino do a solid job defending Baker, they most likely pull off the upset.
Fred VanVleet – VanVleet is Baker’s backcourt mate and dominates the ball much more than Baker. VanVleet is a true point guard and leads the Shockers in assists per game. VanVleet was a Preseason Third Team All-American and has lived up to the hype this year.
VanVleet does not have three-point range but is deadly from mid-range just as Colorado’s Askia Booker was. GW shut down Booker, but VanVleet is a much better overall player and will not force shots like Booker did. VanVleet has not been that efficient this year, but most of the time he does well in picking his spots ( Draftexpress.com had him first last year in Points Per Possesion among point guards).
In Tuesday’s article I mentioned how great of a rebounder Joe McDonald is, but pound-for-pound, VanVleet is every bit as good of a rebounder as McDonald. VanVleet is averaging four rebounds per game this year and last year he averaged 3.9 rebounds.
VanVleet is a great defender and may disrupt GW’s half court sets by applying pressure to McDonald or Savage. VanVleet averages two steals per game, but his defense goes beyond the stats as he moves his feet well and consistently provides the Shockers with terrific closeouts.
Darius Carter – Wichita State’s center is very undersized at 6-7. Carter is a junior college transfer and has been very good in his time with the Shockers. Carter isn’t much of a threat to block shots, but has done a solid job defensively this year against other teams’ top big men. Larsen will have to be careful as Carter does an excellent job drawing contact, and averages 5.0 fouls drawn per 40 minutes. Despite his size, Carter is one of the best offensive rebounders in the nation and if GW cannot hold the Shockers to one shot per possession, they will most likely lose. Boxing out Carter will be a difficult task looming for Kevin Larsen and John Kopriva.
GW 66-62 – I think the run continues for the Colonials. GW is playing their best basketball of the year right now and is starting to look like the tournament team they were last year. Wichita State is not playing well right now and almost lost to Hawaii on Tuesday, needing a put back from Rashad Kelly in overtime to win. I think the Colonials match up well with the Shockers on defense and neither VanVleet nor Baker should be able to dominate. Offensively, I think Larsen should have a solid game as he should be too big and strong for Carter. It may come down to coaching in this matchup and Gregg Marshall is one of the best in the nation. Yet, I think Lonergan has enough to provide GW fans with a Christmas miracle.
Assistant Sports Director
The Colonials edged out the Buffaloes today for a 53-50 win. In honor of Festivus, I bring you my observations.
“Airing of Grievances”
Post Passing/ Interior Passing – GW struggled to start the second half, committing three turnovers all related to interior passing or post passing. For a team that heavily relies on inside production you would think that they would have superb post entries, but it seems to be a constant weak spot for this team. GW was bothered today by the length of Josh Scott, and when they drove to the basket, they would often pass out of their attempted layups, and turn the ball over. As the game progressed, the offense ripened up, and they didn’t commit a turnover for the last six minutes of the game. For GW to make a tournament run, they will need to cut down the turnovers.
Three-Point Shooting - This is, by far, the weak point of the offense. Yuta Watanabe was the sole Colonial to make a three-pointer, and the other attempts were not even close to going in. GW needs to continue taking the shots to keep the defense off balance, but after a strong shooting performance yesterday, attempts from Kethan Savage and John Kopriva were way off the mark today. I’m not sure Nick Griffin is the answer as he has struggled on defense this season, but Savage, McDonald, and Garino need to improve their shooting.
Referees – The block/charge call needs to change next year as there are far too many charges being called and it is proving very detrimental to the game. The excess of charge calls limits drives to the basket and turns the game into a defensive struggle. The game today was a nail-biter and all-around very enjoyable. However, most 53-50 games are a snore-fest, and there have been too many low scoring slugfests the last few years. The best approach to block/charges is to only call it a charge if it is, without a doubt, a charge and to stop calling charges when it is up in the air. The refs reward floppers with the current system and it needs to be changed.
“Feats of Strength”
2-3 Zone – GW had to go to a 2-3 Zone in the first half due to foul trouble, and it was very effective. GW held the Buffs to 9-27 shooting, and did not allow a three-point field goal the entire half. The Colonials also ran the zone against Ohio and it helped them hold the Bobcats to 49 points (Ohio scored 99 points against DePaul). The 2-3 Zone seems to be the zone Lonergan goes to this year instead of his patented 1-3-1 defense (the 1-3-1 was inconsistent today and Colorado was able to move the ball effectively in spurts). The Colonials rebound the ball well in the zone (usually a weakness in the 2-3), and do an excellent job of defending the three. Look for the 2-3 Zone to continue to be a weapon for the Colonials this year.
Bench Production – When Savage picked up his second foul early in the first half, it was interesting to note that Paul Jorgensen and Darian Bryant received heavy minutes, not Nick Griffin. Griffin only played one minute the entire first half while Jorgensen logged 10.9 minutes, and Bryant played five minutes. It seems that even though Nick Griffin is, by far, the best shooter on the team, he is deficient enough in the other areas to not receive time.
Jorgensen and Bryant both were solid in the first half and provided GW with tough defense. Jorgensen can handle the rock nicely, and can rebound surprisingly well for his size, grabbing three rebounds in the first half. GW is going to win games with defense and rebounding, and Jorgensen and Bryant are much better on that end than Griffin.
Lonergan didn’t go to his bench in the second half and the only bench player to log any minutes was Yuta Watanabe. Yuta hit a key three-pointer with 10 minutes left in the game to cut the Buffs lead to three. Watanabe has consistently been one of GW’s best offensive players and the Colonials need all the offense they can get. This game was a defensive battle, and Yuta was solid on that end of the court. He manned the top of the 1-3-1 in the second half and his length disrupted the passing lanes for Colorado.
Joe McDonald’s Rebounding – McDonald had a terrific game in all aspects but what stood out for me was McDonald’s ability to rebound. Lonergan said earlier this year that McDonald might be the best rebounding guard he has ever coached, and he had six rebounds today. McDonald has great anticipation, and is able to use his quickness to grab long rebounds. GW struggles to rebound the ball when Larsen is on the bench, and if were not for McDonald’s rebounding they probably would have lost.
Assistant Sports Director
- Kevin Larsen is on fire right now
Larsen pummeled Ohio for 10 points in the first half. He was far too strong for Ohio’s bigs, and had no trouble creating space around the basket. Larsen also showed off his nifty passing in the first half, and was a brick wall on defense with two blocks. The domination continued in the second half and he finished with 19 points, 15 rebounds, and two blocks. Larsen’s dominant performance caps off a five-game span, where he has averaged 15.2 points,9.6 rebounds, and two blocks per game.
- Kethan Savage is the team’s most important player
Savage had his most impressive first half of the year against Ohio. He was a beast on both ends and his dunk over Wadly Mompremier was one of the finest dunks I have seen in person. Take a look for yourself, but I think it should easily be in contention for dunk of the year.
Savage also showed flashes of his potential, hitting his fifth and sixth three-pointers of the year. When Savage can knock down his outside shots, he is unstoppable and the offense, which is usually below-average, quickly becomes great.
- Kopriva’s contributions cannot be measured by stats
Kopriva was the most vocal GW player by far, helping the refs when GW pressed by counting to five, calling switches out on defense, and providing positive words for his teammates. Kopriva did not have a bad game statistically (10 points, including two three-pointers, along with six rebounds and a charge) but his contribution cannot be measured just by stats. It is important to remember this when discussing an increase in minutes for Yuta Watanabe. Kopriva always seems to be in the right place on both ends, and his ability to take charges has a huge positive impact on GW’s interior defense.
- The 1-3-1 Zone doesn’t look as dominant as last year
The zone has not seemed to work this year. Javarez Willis had no problem finding open spaces and hit a trio of three-pointers against it. Most overlooked Isaiah Armwood’s contributions to the zone, and instead focused just on his shot blocking. It is still early on in the year but it doesn’t seem like GW has the length to run the 1-3-1 this year.
- The Colonials were not bothered by Ohio’s length inside
GW did not have any trouble scoring inside against Ohio’s lengthy front line of Maurice Ndour and Wadly Mompremier. GW scored 26 points in the paint during the first half and relentlessly attacked the key each possession. This is a great sign for GW, who seemed to have trouble in the past against lengthy frontlines, particularly UMass last year, (The Minutemen return Cady Lalanne and Maxie Esho).