About a month ago it appeared the overachieving Colonials could have been the favorite going up against host Temple this Saturday. Temple was heading into January on a six-game losing streak, while GW had just beaten St. Bonaventure for its first conference win.
Now, with GW (10-11, 3-7 Atlantic 10) staggering into the game on its own six-game losing streak and Temple (8-12, 5-3 A-10) coming off an impressive win against St. Joseph’s last weekend, Saturday’s game at the Smith Center will likely be among the toughest of the year for the Colonials.
While the Colonials who played on last year’s team do not forget their last meeting with Temple, in which Lynn Greer sank three last-second free throws for the Atlantic semifinal win, guard Greg Collucci said the game is not about redemption.
“Temple is as good a team as anybody to beat,” he said. “But right now we’re just trying to get a win any way we can.”
The Owls are attempting to turn around what has been a disappointing season.
The game will be televised on ESPN, marking GW’s only scheduled national appearance. Saturday is the most anticipated home game according to more than half of the 918 respondents on a Sports Information poll.
Temple, which ranked 14th in ESPN.com’s preseason poll, fell out of the Top 25 rankings early in the season and has been woeful at times, compiling losing streaks of six and four games this season.
But the Colonials (10-11, 3-7) have not been any more successful recently, losing six of their last seven including an embarrassing home loss to Rhode Island.
History is also in Temple’s favor, as GW has dropped four straight contests to the Owls since 1998 and has won only 11 of 54 games against Temple all time. This is also the time of year when Hall of Fame coach John Chaney’s team is known to get hot, as demonstrated by its 10-game winning streak that began around this time last season.
The Owls are led by Greer, the seventh-leading scorer in the nation at 23 points a game and last week’s A-10 Player of the Week. The senior point guard is one of the most prolific players in the country and has scored more than 30 points in four games this season, including a 47-point effort at Wisconsin on Dec. 3.
With both teams relying heavily on their leading scorer, a significant factor in the game will likely be the scoring duel between Greer and GW’s Chris Monroe. Monroe has led the team in scoring in 18 of its 21 games, and his 22 points a game rank third in the conference and 14th in the country.
Collucci said Darnell Miller will likely cover Greer for much of the game, but whoever guards him is going to need help.
Supporting Greer for the Owls are two D.C. natives, David Hawkins and Kevin Lyde. Averaging nearly 15 points a game, Hawkins has emerged into a standout player in his sophomore year.
Lyde is a 6-foot-10 center who gives the Owls important second-shot opportunities and establishes an inside presence to complement Greer and Hawkins. Lyde leads his team in rebounding with nearly eight boards per game.
Ron Rollerson is another 6-foot-10 center that makes up for a lack of quickness inside by filling the entire lane without moving at his listed weight of 290 pounds.
GW forward Jaason Smith said he respects Temple’s big men but believes he can use his quickness to combat their size.
“I’m not going to try to outmuscle them, because I’ll lose that battle,” Smith said. “So I’m going to have to play smart.”
The combination of Lyde and Rollerson poses a significant threat to the undersized Colonials, who have been out-rebounded in three of their last four games. Smith said rebounding will have to be a team effort for his team to establish itself inside.
“I’m going to take it upon myself to try to get every rebound I can because that’s my job,” he said. “But I’m definitely going to need help.”
The two could also make matters worse on the offensive end for a GW team that scores many of its points by driving and drawing fouls.
If the Colonials don’t get help from the referees inside, they may have to rely mainly on their perimeter threats against Temple’s zone defense, which could make the game a long one if GW’s perimeter players are not on target.
Temple is a mediocre offensive team, averaging less than 70 points per game, but with Greer the Owls are never an easy defensive assignment. Since it is unlikely the Colonials can completely shut down Greer, the biggest defensive factor for Karl Hobbs’ squad will be limiting Greer’s supporting cast and staying aggressive in the paint against Temple’s massive big men.
Despite the losing streak, Smith said the team still believes it can beat anybody if everyone plays well.
“Everyone is still working hard, no one is giving up, and we still believe we can win,” he said.”