Preview: Men’s basketball vs. Dayton

Media Credit: File Photo by Tyara Estrada | Hatchet Photographer

Redshirt junior guard DJ Williams attempts a basket during a game against Towson in December.

Updated: Jan. 9, 2019 at 4:14 p.m.

Who: Men’s basketball
Where: Smith Center, Washington D.C.
When: Wednesday, Jan. 9 at 7 p.m.

After stringing together two consecutive wins for the first time this season, men’s basketball (5–9, 1–0 A-10) will return to the Smith Center to face off against Dayton (9–5, 1–0 A-10).

The Colonials are fresh off a comeback victory against Saint Joseph’s on the road to open conference play Sunday. The Flyers also earned a win in their first Atlantic 10 matchup of the season with a decisive 72–48 win over Richmond.

Dayton claimed a double-digit win last season to close out regular season play and GW’s leading scorers from last season’s game – 2018-graduate Yuta Watanabe, South Carolina transfer Jair Bolden and junior forward Arnaldo Toro – will not take the floor this time around for the Colonials.

Case for the Colonials:

GW is playing its best basketball of the season after wins against Saint Joseph’s and American over winter break.

The Colonials have maintained a balanced offensive attack in both of their recent wins, with four players reaching double-digit scoring in each contest. Sophomore guard Terry Nolan Jr. put up career-best numbers against Saint Joseph’s and was named A-10 Player of the Week following his 23-point performance. The Flyers bring a high-scoring offense to the Smith Center and the Colonials will need to match their effort on offense to stay in the game.

If the Colonials’ offense does not heat up like it did against Saint Joseph’s and American, GW will rely on its defense for a chance at a win. GW has held its last two opponents to below-average scoring, but the Flyers average 75.3 points per match, 10.9 points more than GW’s average.

With the Flyers averaging 53.5 points in the paint in their last four contests, GW’s defense should crowd the key and force Dayton to take three-point shots, where the Flyers have averaged 30.9 percent shooting.

Free throws hindered the Colonials early in the season, but have been crucial in keeping them competitive in close matchups. The team has gone 28-for-33 from the charity stripe in the past two games, good for 84.8 percent – far better than its 63.7 percent season average. GW should not hesitate to attack the rim and try to pick up points from the line against Dayton.

GW posted one of its strongest rebounding games of the season against Saint Joseph’s, earning a 41–39 advantage on the boards – marking only the third time this season the Colonials have outrebounded their opponent. The squad will need to continue this type of production on the glass to come out with a win against Dayton.

The Flyers have been outrebounded by opponents on the offensive glass this season, and while GW collects 8.1 offensive rebounds per game to Dayton’s 8.4, the Flyers’ defense has allowed opponents to grab extra possessions. If GW can secure missed shots on offense and capitalize on second-chance points, the Colonials could be able to keep the Flyers from pulling too far ahead.

The Colonials also will need to secure a solid number of defensive rebounds to limit the Flyers’ second-shot opportunities. Sophomore forward Javier Langarica, who has recently become a fixture in GW’s starting lineup, will need to shoulder this role for the team.

Case for the Flyers:

Dayton’s offense is one of the toughest units GW will guard against in conference play. The Flyers enter the match on a four-game win streak averaging 83 points per game and the squad leads the A-10 with a 51.3 percent field goal average on the year.

Dayton’s roster houses four players – redshirt senior forward Josh Cunningham, sophomore guard Jalen Crutcher, redshirt freshman forward Obi Toppin and junior guard Trey Landers – who average more than 10 points per game.

Toppin has been a force coming off the bench for the Flyers, averaging 13.6 points per game and establishing himself as one of the most prominent first-year players in the conference. His 71.4 percent shooting average makes him the second most efficient shooter in college basketball.

Cunningham – Dayton’s leading scorer with an average of 16.8 points per game – has scored at least 25 points in three of Dayton’s last four contests. If any of Dayton’s shooters get hot, the Flyers should be able to handily outshoot the Colonials, whose leading scorers are picking up 12.9 points per game individually.

Although GW’s defense held Saint Joseph’s redshirt junior guard Lamarr Kimble to just three points Sunday, the team still allowed the Hawks’ leading scorer, redshirt sophomore forward Charlie Brown, to rack up 20 points.

The Flyers boast a taller starting lineup, something that has caused problems for GW this year. Although the Flyers average 35.4 rebounds per game to the Colonials’ 33.7 rebounds per game, Dayton’s height advantage could allow them to up their production on the boards and score second-chance points against the Colonials. With the Colonials undersized on the post, Dayton should be able to continue picking up the majority of its points from the paint.

Bottom line:

GW is on a bit of a hot streak, but Dayton has been playing some of the best basketball in the A-10 all season long. Wednesday’s game should be a high-scoring match for Dayton if the Colonials’ defense does not stamp out the Flyers’ shooting early.

The majority of Dayton’s points come from the key, and with GW undersized on the post, the Flyers’ high octane offense seems positioned to overpower GW’s defense and take home the win.

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly identified DJ Williams as a sophomore guard in a photo caption. He is a redshirt junior. We regret this error.

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