Preview: Men’s basketball vs. Maryland Eastern Shore

Junior forward Yuta Watanabe scored a team-high 19 points in GW's 86-80 exhibition win Saturday. The Colonials officially open the season Friday when they play host to Marlyand Eastern Shore. Ethan Stoller | Hatchet Photographer
Junior forward Yuta Watanabe scored a team-high 19 points in GW’s 86-80 exhibition win Saturday. The Colonials officially open the season this Friday when they play host to Marlyand Eastern Shore. Ethan Stoller | Hatchet Photographer

What: Men’s basketball (28-10 in 2015-2016) vs. Maryland Eastern Shore (10-22)

Where: Smith Center, Washington, D.C.,

When: Friday, Nov. 11 at 7 p.m.

Less than one week after an exhibition win over Bowie State, GW officially begins its regular season Friday night in Foggy Bottom.

Men’s basketball will open up its 2016-2017 season against Maryland Eastern Shore, taking on the Hawks for the sixth time in program history (GW leads series 5–0). The Colonials’ clash with the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference opponent will also mark their first official game with new interim head coach Maurice Joseph at the helm.

Here’s what to expect from the game:

Case for the Colonials:

GW is the more deep, experienced and talented team in this matchup. Graduate student forward Tyler Cavanaugh, who was named to the Lute Olsen Award watch list on Monday, is considered one of the best players in the Atlantic 10 and will likely be the most dominant player on the floor.

Returners junior Yuta Watanabe, redshirt senior Matt Hart, and sophomore Jordan Roland each provide an experienced scoring threat down the lineup, while the Hawks only return one consistent starter from last year’s squad that finished 3–17 on the road.

Friday provides the Colonials an opportunity to work on mistakes made in a tight exhibition last week. GW ended up edging the Bulldogs and outrebounding them considerably, but its Division-II opponent led for 15 minutes and shot a higher percentage.

Redshirt junior guard Jaren Sina struggled in the exhibition, his first time starting at point guard on the Smith Center floor. He shot only 1–5 from the field and picked up four turnovers and only three assists. Against an inexperienced Hawks team however, Sina has a chance to fine-tune his game and improve before the season gets into full swing.

Case for the Hawks:

Maryland Eastern Shore will count on senior forward Bakari Copeland to make an impact on the scoreboard. He is the only player on the roster who was a solid offensive contributor last year after averaging 10.5 points per game while shooting 43 percent.

Copeland has an opportunity to take his 6-foot-6-inch, 235-pound frame up against the young Colonials’ frontcourt. If he is able to control the interior against GW freshmen big-men Colin Smith and Kevin Marfo, it could change the momentum of the game significantly.

This game will also be an early test for the Colonials defensive ability under Joseph. They struggled to stop Bowie State from scoring easy baskets during the first half Saturday and there has yet to be a player step up as the go-to perimeter defender. 

Although the Hawks finished last season with one of the worst defenses for points-against in the MEAC, they average 5.9 steals per game, good enough for sixth-best. It will be difficult for the Colonials to get any kind of lead if they continue turn the ball over like they did against the Bulldogs, racking up ten giveaways in the first half alone and 13 total. 

Bottom line:

All signs point to a GW win in this one, but the same was true of its exhibition which came down to the wire. Now that the games count, the Colonials should be able to find offensive production from Cavanaugh, Watanabe, and others while holding the less experienced Hawks team at bay.

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