Inconsistent ball movement costs men’s basketball tight contests

Media Credit: Olivia Anderson | Photo Editor

Sophomore guard Justin Mazzulla goes up for a layup during a men's basketball game against Duquesne.

Updated: Jan. 22, 2019 at 6:24 p.m.

After 18 games of the 2018-19 season, men’s basketball is still working to solve issues on the offensive end.

The Colonials (6-12, 2-3 A-10) have scored fewer points per game than any other team in the Atlantic 10, even while playing at an above average pace. The team’s inability to secure baskets consistently has especially failed them in two of their last three losses against Dayton and Duquesne – where missed opportunities during final minutes turned second-half leads into single-digit losses.

Head coach Maurice Joseph said he continues to look for opportunities to increase offensive output and after the team’s overtime loss to Duquesne Sunday, he highlighted the need for his squad to move around the ball if they want to remain competitive as conference play rolls on.

“We’re better when we’re passing up good for great,” Joseph said after the team’s game against Duquesne Sunday. “We’re not very good when we try to do it on our own, we’re just not that type of team.”

GW is the lowest scoring team in the Atlantic 10 averaging 64.9 points per game and also trails in passing with 11.1 assists per game, the team’s lowest tally through 18 games since 2015.

During the Colonials’ most recent game against the Dukes, they showed signs of improvement – scoring a season-high 85 points behind 17 assists, matching the team’s season high mark. Sophomore guard Justin Mazzulla said the improved passing and much higher scoring boosted the team’s energy.

“When we’re driving and kicking and just feeding off each other, that creates more chemistry and it gets us fueling our defense as well,” Mazzulla said.

But the outlier performance wasn’t enough for the Colonials to collect another win and GW fell in its seventh home game of the year.

The increased passing presence against Duquesne was seemingly aided by the reemergence of redshirt junior guard Armel Potter, who was sidelined for nearly the entire month of December with an ankle sprain.

Mazzulla and freshman guard Shandon Brown – who were entrusted to handle the ball in Potter’s absence – turn the ball over nearly as many times as they assist and rank 36th and 37th in the A-10 in assist-to-turnover ratio, respectively.

Mazzulla averages 3.3 assists per game, a mark that ties him at 14th in the conference. But his average of 2.5 turnovers per game – the 12th most in the league – gives him a 1.3 assist-to-turnover ratio.

But Potter has averaged 23.7 minutes per game over the last three contests, scoring 26 points, dishing nine assists and committing just two turnovers and his 2.5 assist-to-turnover ratio slots him at No. 6 in the A-10.

“What you see now is what we would have seen if he didn’t get injured,” Mazzulla said. “So it’s not a surprise what he’s doing. He’s extremely helpful to our team.”

With Potter on the floor, Mazzulla – who has seen an uptick in scoring in conference play – has been able to move into an off-ball position on the court while Potter runs the offense.

Mazzulla has averaged 11.6 points per game in conference play, compared to his 9.8 points per game average across the season. Against Duquesne, Mazzulla picked up 16 points against the Dukes and played part of the game on the wing with Potter running the offense.

“We’re going to keep acclimating him back, he’s finally getting his wind under him,” Joseph said. “He has a little more pop to him, athletically still not quite there yet, what we’ve seen him be but he’s close, he’s getting there, so having him back is certainly a bonus for us.”

The Colonials return to action Wednesday on the road against Davidson. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m.

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that sophomore guard Justin Mazzulla and freshman guard Shandon Brown commit turnovers at the same rate they pass. Mazzulla and Brown have nearly as many turnovers on the season as they have assists. An additional sentence was removed that misstated Mazzulla’s ranking in the A-10. We regret these errors.

 

 

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