With the number of quality programs in the greater D.C. area, the District is no stranger to high-caliber men’s basketball. Yet for a multitude of reasons – certainly not lack of interest – they don’t always meet on the court.
But this Sunday’s BB&T Classic marks the return of one such series, as GW (3-1) and Maryland will renew their recent rivalry at 7:30 p.m. at the Verizon Center.
Though the Terrapins enjoy a slight edge over the Colonials in the all-time series, which dates back over a century, GW has knocked off their College Park counterparts in the last two meetings, both at the BB&T. Maryland was nationally ranked at the time of both losses – in December of 2004 and 2005 – giving GW momentum and credibility in their own ascensions through the national rankings.
Recent encounters between the two near-neighbors have been marked by close, high scores, as each side has tended to bring out the best in the other.
“Over the years, they’ve always been a tough game for us,” said GW head coach Karl Hobbs, who is 2-1 against the Terrapins. “It’s always been a game that we have to play our very best to win.”
In order to play at that level, Hobbs singled out two key areas that have been a cause of concern over the GW’s first four contests: rebounding and free-throw shooting. The Colonials have shot a meager 60 percent from the charity stripe this season, hitting just half their attempts in last week’s win over UMBC. Sophomore Xavier Alexander, though shooting nearly 54 percent from the field, has made only four of 16 free throws.
As Hobbs points out, the Colonials have struggled on the glass as well. They were able to beat Binghamton Nov. 19 despite being outrebounded 46-31, while their double-digit deficit on the boards undoubtedly contributed to the team’s blown lead at Auburn Nov. 22.
Luckily for GW, Maryland has struggled collecting rebounds as well. The Terrapins had been outplayed on the glass three times entering Wednesday’s game against Michigan, including their last two games.
“It definitely is going to play a big factor,” Hobbs said. “I think whichever team does the better job rebounding, whichever team gets the most offensive rebounds, is going to have the better chance to win.”
Maryland’s leading rebounder is 6-foot-6 guard Greivis Vasquez, who also paces the squad in scoring, assists and steals. The Venezuela native has become the Terrapins’ greatest threat in nearly all respects, something Hobbs is certainly aware of as he prepares his team for Sunday.
“He’s the strength of the basketball team,” Hobbs said. “We most certainly have to pay a lot of attention to him.”
Not having played since their home victory over UMBC the night before Thanksgiving, Sunday’s matchup will end a 10-day lull in GW’s schedule without game action. Hobbs said the time off has been useful in working out the aforementioned kinks in the Colonials’ play and that he expects a strong effort Sunday night.
“I expect us to go out and play hard,” he said. “I expect us to execute and I expect us to improve in those areas we talked about.”