Washington, D.C. (SportsNetwork.com) - Meeting for the second time in a little more than two weeks, the Virginia Commonwealth Rams and George Washington Colonials square off in a pivotal Atlantic 10 Conference clash at the Smith Center on Saturday afternoon.
Presently, there are six teams all within a game of each other in the race for the A-10 regular-season title, with VCU in a four-way tie for first place at 8-3, and GW and Davidson right there at 7-4.
Both teams are floundering a bit here in the month of February, with the Rams, who are currently the 20th-ranked team in the country, having lost two in a row and three of their last four, and the Colonials having suffered defeats in three of their last four outings as well.
In the first meeting between the two programs on Jan. 27, VCU blew out GW at home, 72-48. Terry Larrier pace the Rams with 15 points, and Kethan Savage tallied 18 to lead the Colonials, who shot just 26.9 percent from the field and connected on only one of their 17 3-point tries.
As a result of that lopsided decision, VCU's lead in the all-time series now stands at 7-1. The Colonials notched their lone victory by taking a 76-66 decision at the Smith Center last January.
VCU was upset at home by La Salle on Wednesday night, 74-69, in a double- overtime affair that saw the Rams knock down only 30.1 percent of their field goal attempts, missing 20 of their 23 3-point tries along the way. If it wasn't for a 22-of-29 showing at the free-throw line the final score would have been more lopsided. The Explorers shot 45.2 percent from the floor, drained six treys and used a 37-27 rebounding advantage to help offset the fact that they committed 17 turnovers. Jequan Lewis certainly did what he could to keep the home team in contention, as he poured in a career-high 26 points, while Melvin Johnson was the only other double-digit scorer for the Rams with 13.
Both players were helping make up for the recent loss of senior playmaker Briante Weber (8.1 ppg, 4.3 apg), who will miss the remainder of the season with a knee injury. Also missing in action against La Salle was scoring leader Treveon Graham (16.2 ppg, 6.6 rpg), and he is listed as questionable for this game as he continues to nurse a sprained ankle.
In addition to Graham, Johnson is netting double figures on a consistent basis as he produces 13.0 ppg. The team as a whole puts up 73.5 ppg while allowing 65.5 ppg, and it is shooting just about the same as its opponents across the board. Where the Rams really make a name for themselves in pressuring the basketball, as they force an average of 17 turnovers per tilt. Weber was logging nearly four steals per game prior to his injury, leaving Lewis as the active leader in that department now, but with only 1.4 per contest.
George Washington was also last in action on Wednesday, as it dropped a 78-62 decision at Duquesne. Savage and Kevin Larsen each scored 16 points for the Colonials, who hit just 31.9 percent of their total shots, which included a 7- of-25 performance out on the perimeter, and they went just 9-of-16 at the free-throw line. GW was only guilty of six turnovers, but allowed the Dukes to drain 50.9 percent of their field goal attempts, which featured 10 treys. Larsen also hauled in 11 rebounds to record his fourth double-double of the season.
Patricio Garino, who went just 2-of-10 from the floor to finish with a mere five points against DU, continues to lead the Colonials in the scoring column with his 12.9 ppg. Savage (12.2 ppg) and Larsen (10.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg) round out the double-digit scorers for a GW squad that is generating 67.5 ppg while permitting just 60.8 ppg. Joe McDonald (9.9 ppg) is close to joining them, and as a result of four players coming up with at least 5.1 rpg the Colonials typically win the battle on the boards by an average of 4.5 caroms per contest. Foes are connecting on only 40.1 percent of their field goal tries, which encompasses their 30.9 percent showing from long distance.