Colonials tangle with Rams in A-10 semifinals

Brooklyn. NY ( - The second-seeded Virginia Commonwealth Rams and the third-seeded George Washington Colonials will battle for the second spot in the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament final game, as the two duke it out this afternoon at the Barclays Center.

VCU had the luxury of a bye through the first two rounds of the tournament as the second seed. The Rams were action for the first time in the event in Friday's quarterfinals when they rolled Richmond in a 71-43 final. With Saint Louis losing to St. Bonaventure in the same round, the Rams now have the inside track to the title as the highest remaining seed. They are seeking their first A-10 crown after falling to Saint Louis in last year's championship game.

George Washington was also idle in the first two rounds after earning the third seed with a mark of 11-5 in conference play. The Colonials' first matchup of the tournament came in the quarterfinals, where they overcame Massachusetts in an 85-77 verdict. They have won three straight dating back to the regular season. A fourth consecutive victory would give them their first A-10 title since winning a pair over a three-year span from 2005-07.

These teams traded decisions during the regular season, with George Washington upsetting the Rams (76-66) on Jan. 14, and VCU responding with a 92-75 triumph on Feb. 12. The Colonials' win was the first in six all-time meetings against the Rams.

Patricio Garino and Isaiah Armwood each scored 15 points as six players scored in double figures for George Washington in the quarterfinals against UMass. The Colonials sank 50.8 percent of their shots from the floor to make up for some sloppy play with the ball. They had 19 turnovers in the contest.

George Washington finished fifth in the A-10 in scoring (74 ppg) and third in field goal percentage (.465) during the regular season. The Colonials are also one of the top teams in the league on the boards, ranking second at 37.7 rpg. Armwood (12.4 ppg, 8.5 rpg) and Kevin Larsen (11.3 ppg, 7.1 rpg) eat up space on the interior, with Armwood also responsible for 1.6 blocks per game. Creek (14.5 ppg) is the top scorer and the leader on the wings, while Garino (12.3 ppg) and Joe McDonald (8.4 ppg 4 apg) fill in the gaps in the backcourt.

As is so often the case, VCU was dominant on defense in its quarterfinal-round win over Richmond. The Rams allowed only 34 percent shooting to the Spiders, while logging a 50-28 advantage on the glass. Briante Weber scored 18 points to pace three players in double figures for the victors.

Shaka Smart's Rams have burst onto the national scene in recent years in large part because of the coach's HAVOC defensive scheme, which puts a premium on pressuring the ball. Nothing has changed this season, as the Rams are having plenty of success in forcing turnovers, leading the country in steals (11.5 spg). Weber (9.1 ppg, 3.6 spg) may not be scoring at a rapid pace, but he is a great defender, leading the nation in steals. Treveon Graham (15.6 ppg, 7.1 rpg) and Juvonte Reddic (12.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg) handle the scoring as the primary options, while Melvin Johnson (10.5 ppg) adds depth off the bench.