Preview: Men’s basketball vs. Massachusetts

Media Credit: File photo by Olivia Anderson | Photo Editor

Sophomore guard Maceo Jack faces off against two Richmond players during a game earlier this month.

Who: Men’s basketball
Where: Smith Center, Washington, D.C.
When: Wednesday, Feb. 20 at 7 p.m.

In the midst of a four-game skid, men’s basketball will take on Massachusetts at home in front of a crowd of students off on a snow day.

The Colonials (7–18, 3–9 A-10) most recently fell to Duquesne Saturday 85–69 in a contest that was tight at times, but ended up as a blowout in favor of the Dukes. Massachusetts (9–16, 2–10 A-10) currently sits at 13th place in the Atlantic 10, while GW is positioned in the 12th spot, and is coming off of an 80–75 overtime loss to George Mason.

The two squads have yet to face off this season, and their last contest was an 83–72 decision in favor of GW last season.

Case for the Colonials:

Despite the stretch of losses, GW has been shooting the ball well lately. In the team’s loss against Duquesne, the Colonials finished the game shooting 50.0 percent from the floor, well above their season average of 41.1 percent. Massachusetts’ defense has been one of the most lenient in the A-10 this year, allowing opponents to shoot at a 43.5 percent clip, which seems promising for a hot-shooting GW squad.

Although their shooting has been efficient, the Colonials have struggled to get high-volume shots off during their losing streak, averaging 60.0 points per game, lower than both their season average of 64.2 points per game and their conference play average of 67.3 points per game.

But the Minutemen are ranked as one of the worst scoring defenses in the league and their 70.5 points allowed per game is above only Duquesne at 74.3 points per game. The Colonials will need to get more shots off against Massachusetts than they have in their recent losses to secure a win, and the Minutemen’s high point yield improves GW’s chances at accomplishing that.

The Colonials should also look to prod at the holes in Massachusetts’ offense as the Minutemen give the ball up an average of 13.4 times per game. If GW can implement its fast-paced defense to force turnovers and convert them to points, it will give the squad a good chance to break the game open.

Case for the Minutemen:

Massachusetts is coming off of two of its strongest conference performances after taking George Mason to overtime and beating Davidson – the top team in the conference – 54–51 earlier this month.

Two of the three best three-point shooters in the conference belong to the Minutemen squad. Redshirt junior forward Jonathan Laurent and sophomore guard Carl Pierre sink their three-pointers at averages of 45.3 percent and 40.4 percent, respectively, good for No. 1 and No. 3 in the A-10.

Three-point defense has been problematic for GW in its string of recent losses, even against teams that do not boast a historically strong bunch of sharp-shooters from beyond the arc. The Colonials have given up 78 points off three-pointers in their last four games, but on the season allow their opponents to score 24.9 points per game from the three. If Laurent and Pierre get off to a hot shooting night, GW’s defense may not be capable of reigning them in.

Massachusetts also scores an average of 13.0 points per game off turnovers, which have been another weak area for GW. The Colonials turned the ball over 17 times against Duquesne and if their ball security is lacking again, combined with a strong showing from the three from the Minutemen, Massachusetts will be able to put some substantial points on the board.

Bottom line:

The contest will likely be tight and the deciding factor will be if GW can limit its turnovers and keep the Minutemen contained beyond the arc, which have been the two biggest issues with the Colonials’ play of late.

With Massachusetts coming off some of its best games of the year so far and GW struggling to string together consistent play, the Minutemen seem poised to steal this contest from the Colonials.

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