Preview: Men’s basketball at Princeton

Media Credit: Madeleine Cook | Senior Staff Photographer

Sophomore guard Terry Nolan Junior dribbles past a defender during Wednesday's game against Vermont.

Who: Men’s basketball
Where: Jadwin Gymnasium, Princeton, N.J.
When: Saturday, Dec. 1 at 4 p.m.

After back-to-back contests at the Smith Center, men’s basketball (1–6) hits the road Saturday to take on Ivy League opponent Princeton (3–2).

After breaking their season-opening losing streak against Manhattan earlier this month, the Colonials mounted a second-half comeback against a sharp-shooting Vermont squad, but ultimately fell 69–53.

When Princeton and GW met in Foggy Bottom last season, the Colonials came away with a 71–60 victory spurred by 25 points from then-sophomore guard Jair Bolden, who transferred to South Carolina at the start of the academic year.

Case for the Colonials:

The Colonials’ greatest asset heading into the game is their play under the basket. Although GW has struggled on the glass in most matchups this season, the Colonials may have an advantage down low over the Tigers.

Princeton’s 34.8 rebounds per game fall above the Colonials’ 32.9 rebounds per game average, but junior forward Arnaldo Toro’s 9.3 rebounds per game position him atop all players on both squads.

Princeton’s top rebounder, senior guard Myles Stephens, averages just 6.2 rebounds per game. At 6 feet 5 inches tall, Stephens stands 3 inches shorter than Toro and 2 inches shorter than GW’s second leading rebounder, junior redshirt guard DJ Williams.

The Colonials pounced on balls under the glass against Princeton last season, out-rebounding the Tigers 37–23, to help the Colonials win the game despite shooting at a lower percentage and collecting fewer points in the paint than Princeton.

Toro has posted double-doubles in GW’s last two games and he sparked the team’s second-half comeback against Vermont with his tough play down low. If he carries over the same level of play into the matchup against the Tigers, he should be able to control the glass and secure the ball for GW.

As a team, the Colonials have also tallied more offensive rebounds than the Tigers, grabbing 63 offensive rebounds on the season to Princeton’s 57. With the Tigers shooting a comparable 39.2 percent from the field to GW’s 39.8 shooting percent, the Colonials’ offensive rebounding capabilities should lead to extra possessions and more scoring opportunities for GW.

While GW has struggled to hold off opponents at the three-point line, allowing other teams to shoot nearly 40 percent from deep, the Colonials should look to make Princeton take the outside shot.

The Tigers are shooting 29.5 percent from beyond the arc on a 39-for-132 clip. With Princeton struggling to convert from the three-point line, GW’s defense should pack the paint and force the Tigers to play to their weakness. The payoff of making the Tigers take the harder shot should balance out the risk of the Colonials defending their weakest spot on the court.

Case for the Tigers:

The Tigers took down Maine – a squad that has yet to take home a win in seven games – to earn their second consecutive win and third victory of the season Wednesday night. But Princeton’s only other wins have come against Monmouth and Desales, a Division III squad.

Princeton’s offense packs the punch of senior guard Devin Cannady. He dropped 23 points against the Colonials last season and has been just as hot to open the year. After missing the Tigers’ first two games due to a hamstring injury, he has averaged 23.3 points per game and is shooting 59.5 percent from the field.

Cannady has also been shooting at a 58.3 percent pace, good for 14-for-24, from the three-point line. The Colonials have struggled to contain their opponents on the perimeter this season, allowing them to sink 39.8 percent of their threes while only making 30.8 percent themselves.

With the rest of the Tigers shooting comparable numbers to the Colonials’ this season, if Cannady plays to his strengths and heats up from beyond the arc, the Tigers will be in a much better position to outscore the Colonials. Myles, who is averaging 15.8 points per game, also poses a threat to GW on offense.

As a team, the Tigers shoot at 39.2 percent, which is below what GW has allowed its opponents to shoot on the season at 44.8 percent.

But head coach Maurice Joseph said the Colonials struggled to communicate on defense in their last game against Vermont, which led to an uptick in shooting opportunities and increase in field goals for the Catamounts. Vermont is shooting 46.6 percent from the field this season but boosted its production to 52.1 percent against the Colonials.

If GW’s defensive miscommunication carries over against Princeton, the Tigers may be able to take advantage and score significant points off mid- to long-range jump shots.

Bottom line:

Shutting down Princeton’s star on offense, Cannady, will be the key to victory for GW. In the Colonials’ last game against Vermont Wednesday, the team held the Catamounts’ top-three scorers – who all averaged more than 15 points per game – to below average scoring performances and they will need to repeat that defense for a chance at shutting down Princeton. If the Colonials can’t hold Cannady down and allow him to get hot from beyond the arc, it could spell trouble for GW.

But if the Colonials can limit Cannady while converting offensive rebounds to extra points on the scoreboard, they could be looking at their first win on the road.

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