Rebounding, perimeter defense plague men’s basketball to start season

Media Credit: Olivia Anderson | Photo Editor

Freshman forward Mezie Offurum drives through Virginia's defense during a men's basketball game Sunday.

Three games into the 2018-19 season, men’s basketball is struggling to play well underneath the glass and while defending the three-point line.

The glaring issue for the Colonials (0–3) has been rebounding. GW has been out-rebounded in all three of its matches this season and has been unable to prevent teams from getting hot beyond the arc.

“You play a few games, the numbers are going to start to identify some strengths and some weaknesses for everybody,” head coach Maurice Joseph said after the game against Siena Thursday. “And right now the glass is hurting us.”

While GW has been outplayed under the glass across the board, the Colonials have particularly struggled with offensive rebounding. The Colonials have been beaten by an average margin of 5.3 offensive rebounds per game in their last three outings.

In an exhibition game against Catholic last month, the Colonials let the Cardinals, a Division III team, grab two more rebounds than GW while also beating the Colonials in offensive rebounds.

Outplaying GW under the glass has allowed opponents to pick up a total of 49 second-chance points to the Colonials’ 24.

“We’re a little bit undersized, but we better have a gang mentality on the glass and go rebound as a unit,” Joseph said. “We’re not quite doing that, we’re letting other guys get the ball from us.”

Against Siena, the Colonials were at a significant height disadvantage as three of the Saints’ starting players came in at 6 feet 9 inches tall. GW’s tallest starter was junior forward Arnaldo Toro at 6 feet 8 inches. The shortest starting Saint was 6 feet 4 inches and still taller than three of GW’s starting five.

In order to match up against taller teams, Joseph said he would have to compromise experience for height.

“A lot of times, the game is happening really fast, it happens really fast for freshmen, for freshmen it’s like playing in a beehive,” Joseph said. “As you get older, the game slows down naturally for everybody, but to play bigger we’re going to have to play some younger guys.”

Three of the team’s tallest players are underclassmen who are yet to be fully tested in collegiate play, and the Colonials continue to favor a shorter lineup in games.

Freshman forward Marcus Littles, tied for the tallest rostered Colonial at 6 feet 9 inches, only saw seven minutes of play in the team’s game against Stony Brook and did not get time on the court against Siena. Against Virginia Littles saw nine minutes on the court and committed four turnovers.

Sophomore forward Javier Langarica has logged 11 minutes on the court, but has picked up just six points and zero rebounds in his time.

But freshman forward Mezie Offurum also comes in on the taller end at 6 feet 6 inches, and played heavy minutes against Stony Brook, logging a team-leading 40 minutes in his first collegiate start. He grabbed six defensive rebounds, but none on the offensive glass.

GW showed signs of improvement on the offensive glass against Virginia, matching the Cavaliers with six offensive rebounds.

Joseph said Sunday’s rebounding performance signals a shift in attention to detail under the glass for the Colonials.

Joseph said he will continue testing lineups in order to find the right combination of height and speed.

On the perimeter, the Colonials have fallen victim to sharpshooting offenses, allowing opponents to garner 9.0 threes per game, 2.3 more than the Colonials’ average.

In the Colonials’ outing against Siena alone, the Saints picked up 39 of their 69 points on 13 made threes in the night, and two Saints went a combined 9-for-16 from the perimeter.

In their exhibition game against Catholic, the Colonials allowed senior guard Jimmy Golaszewski, who tallied 28 points total, to go 4-for-9 from beyond the arc.

Sophomore guard Terry Nolan Jr. said after the game against Siena that all five players on the court need to be able to defend the perimeter.

“It starts with us locking and trailing on ball screens, pulling out on down screens,” Nolan said. “Starts with us being present on the catch, starts with us closing gaps to make up getting clipped on the screens.”

Nolan has been the only Colonial to tally more than three three-point shots in a game after he dropped four against Siena.

The team has shown in spurts it has the ability to score well. The Colonials’ 22–0 run to open the season against Stony Brook and their scoring runs to keep up with Siena down the stretch show glimmers of the fast-paced offense Joseph has been preaching. The Colonials outscored Virginia 40-34 in the second half of their game Sunday after picking up just 17 points against the Cavaliers’ defense in the first frame.

But the Colonials have been unable to capitalize on wide-open shots and multiple trips to the free-throw line to continue their momentum on the court. Joseph said the team cannot rely on making shots to control the game, but instead needs to make the “tough plays” to beat opponents.

“True character is defined when things aren’t going well for you and we’re not handling tough moments well enough right now,” Joseph said. “That’s a sign of an inexperienced team.”

The Colonials return to action Saturday when they face off against No. 19 Michigan in Uncasville, Conn., at noon as part of the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament.

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