WHO: GW (12-2) vs. La Salle (7-6)
WHEN: Thursday, Jan. 9 @ 8 p.m.
WHERE: Tom Gola Arena
Case for La Salle:
After winning three games in last year’s NCAA Tournament and making it all the way to the Sweet 16, the Explorers have certainly suffered this season from the loss of senior guard Ramon Galloway.
“I think its always an adjustment when you lose your best player and its no doubt about it they lost maybe one of the best guards in the league in Galloway and maybe they missed him a little bit more than they thought,” head coach Mike Lonergan said.
Having played just two games over the last 17 days, though, La Salle returns home well rested for the Atlantic 10 opener, compared to a GW team that played three game in the last 11 days.
Under head coach Dr. John Gianinni, the Explorers like to come out in an unusual four guard set, with only big man Steve Zack there to patrol the paint. Zack has carried the inside load well this season, though, averaging almost a double-double at 9.8 points and 9.3 rebounds per game.
When the Explorers do decide to play big, joining Zack in the frontcourt is Jerrell Wright, who is second on the team in both points (13.7) and boards (6.3). Wright has been especially hot as of late, averaging 17.4 points over the team’s last five games. Look for Gianinni to test the waters early and see how his frontcourt matches up against forwards Isaiah Armwood and Kevin Larsen. More than likely, though, La Salle will find success creating matchup problems and limiting the impacts of Armwood and Larsen by playing small.
“I watch them on tape and they look really as good as ever, they get to the rim, they’re quick and there’s so much experience,” Lonergan added. “And like I said, they’re not all guards anymore. They can play their big lineup with Zack and Wright or just go with one post player.”
Leading La Salle in the very deep backcourt are seniors Tyrone Garland and Tyreke Duren. Garland paces the team at 13.8 points per game, while Duren leads the team with assists, at 46. Both players like to shoot from the outside, but have struggled to far this season. If the two of them can get hot shooting the ball, it will be a nightmare situation for GW, as Garland and Duren also possess great quickness at getting to the rim.
“They’ve got really talented guards,” sophomore guard Kethan Savage said. “I remember playing them last year and they returned eight of their first nine guys, so it’s going to be a fun game.”
Case for GW:
Case for GW:
What GW possibly lacks in rest, they certainly make up for in momentum, coming off a huge bounceback win over Georgia last Friday, 73-55.
Playing a lot of tough teams as La Salle has this season, the Colonials come into A-10 play having had much more success over their non-conference schedule. Manhattan and Miami, both teams GW defeated earlier this season, La Salle failed to get a victory against.
On the defensive side, look for Lonergan to mix up his defenses “and play a little 1-3-1 and try to put our height out there to take away there threes.” The Colonials, who give up just 65.6 points per game, could easily win this game with another strong performance on defense. The return of sophomore Patricio Garino certainly will add some energy, while Joe McDonald and Savage – who have 28 and 26 steals, respectively, this season – will try to pressure the La Salle guards.
“We’ve got to play defense, that’s one of our key goals, is to stop them on the other end because they’ve got four guards who play and they go four guards and one big and we want to make sure that we limit their touches and make sure that we play defense,” graduate student guard Maurice Creek said.
Both teams suffer from a lack of production off the bench, so if either squad gets into foul trouble, the game could easily come down to who’s reserve players show up for their team. In one of last year’s meetings, Garland and guard D.J. Peterson – coming off the bench – combined for 26 points to halt a Colonials three-game winning streak. GW will need some similar support from the likes of Garino or Mikic, to back up Creek and his team leading 16 points per game.
Finally, if the Colonials frontcourt can protect the paint and outrebound the Explorers to limit second chances for their backcourt, GW should find themselves with a win to start off conference play. Armwood’s team leading 7.4 rebounds and 37 blocks should certainly help here.