Led by Shawnta Rogers, who has specialized in the improbable, the GW men’s basketball team will try again Saturday to do something that, four times out of five, has seemed impossible: beat Temple.
The Colonials will journey to the land of the match-up zone defense (and Bill Cosby) to do more than keep pace with Xavier in the Atlantic 10 West Division race, and to continue their three-game winning streak. They will try to solve what is easily the most lopsided series in which GW has recently been involved.
Although GW has won three of the last six, the Owls still lead the 83-year-old series 38-11, including GW’s brutal streak of 21 straight losses to the Owls from 1983 to 1993. And if a road game at Temple seems tough, consider that GW is 1-14 all-time at the Smith Center versus the Owls, including last season’s 56-49 loss when the Colonials were ranked 25th in the nation.
GW (16-6, 10-2 A-10) is nursing a one-game winning streak against Temple after the 78-64 win against the 24th-ranked Owls last season in the A-10 tournament semifinals in Philadelphia. GW has not beaten Temple twice in a row since 1960, but since three of its last four wins against Temple have come in Philadelphia, the Colonials would seem to have reason to be optimistic. This game also will be the Colonials’ first at the Owls’ 2-year-old facility, The Apollo of Temple, where the Owls are 18-4.
The Owls come into the game leading the A-10 East Division and tied for the conference lead with a record of 17-8, 11-2 in the A-10. Temple is coming off a blowout win at Virginia Tech Tuesday night. The Owls played their trademark tough schedule this year (their current Ratings Percentage Index strength of schedule is 51st), and at 24th, they are the highest ranked A-10 team in the RPI. The Owls were ranked in the Associated Press top 10 earlier this season, but several non-conference upsets knocked Temple out of the rankings, and the latest AP poll puts them at 33rd.
The Owls are led by last years’ A-10 Defensive Player of the Year, junior guard Pepe Sanchez (eight points per game, six assists, five rebounds) and the duel between Sanchez and Rogers promises to be the highlight of the game.
Temple has a balanced offense led by sophomore forward Mark Karcher (12.8 ppg), senior guard Rasheed Brokenborough (12.4 ppg) and junior forward Lamont Barnes (12 ppg, 6.5 rpg).
Another interesting trend to look for is the battle to control the tempo. GW leads the A-10 in scoring at 79.6 points per game, while Temple leads the league in scoring defense, holding opponents to 58.4 ppg. As the saying goes, something will have to give.
Xavier’s win over Temple Sunday puts pressure on GW to keep pace with the Musketeers and set up a winner-take-all match-up at the Smith Center Feb. 27. The Colonials will be hoping when the ball is tossed up Saturday that history will not continue to repeat itself.