Game Preview: VCU at George Washington

Melvin Johnson will look to  have his second double digits game against GW in as many seasons after scoring 11 points against the Colonials as a freshman.
Melvin Johnson will look to post his second double-digit scoring game against GW in as many seasons after dropping 11 points against the Colonials as a freshman.

The Rams look to pick up their first Atlantic 10 road win of the season when they head just two hours north to take on the Colonials of George Washington in the heart of DC. The black and gold have won five straight since falling at Northern Iowa, but this will be their first road test since that nine-point letdown. The Colonials look to start a win streak of their own, having recently defeated Rhode Island after dropping their first A-10 matchup of the season, a 76-72 road L at the hands of the La Salle Explorers.

VCU (13-3)


George Washington jumped out to a great start to the season, winning 11 of their first 12 games including a neutral court upset of then No.20 Creighton. The Colonials have hit a slight rough patch of late however, going .500 in their last four games but have won both home contests (v Georgia and Rhode Island) by double digits. They’re led by senior power conference transfers, Maurice Creek (Indiana) and Isaiah Armwood (Villanova) as well as 6’3 sophomore, Kethan Savage, who’s having a breakout season for GW, averaging 10.7 more points than last year.  The Mike Lonergan led squad is solid on both sides of the ball, ranking in the top-100 in both offensive (82nd) and defensive (58th) efficiency. They defend well, holding opponents to 41.7% from the floor, good for third currently in the A-10, while also turning teams over fairly well. Their 8 steals per game ranks second to only VCU (13 spg) in the Atlantic 10. The Colonials lost a number of close games last season with a very inexperienced team but have begun to win those games (five wins by single digits) with the help of Creek, as well as a year of experience from sophomores Savage, Kevin Larson (10.5 ppg, 6.1 rpg) and point guard, Joe McDonald (8.3 ppg, 3.9 apg).


The Rams were challenged in their past two yet pulled out double digit wins over both Stony Brook and George Mason — VCU’s average margin of victory during their current five-game win streak is 19.2 ppg. The black and gold were tested by the experienced guards of both teams, but in the end forced an average of 20 turnovers in those two while holding the Seawolves and Patriots both under 42% shooting from the field. The Rams needed every bit of that defensive effort in their game against Mason in particular, as VCU struggled to shoot, connecting on just 33.9% of their attempts while being out-rebounded by Mason, 45-43. Rebounding has been an issue for VCU throughout the season. The Rams rank 12th out of 13 A-10 teams in rebounding margin and are just one of two teams with a negative margin (-1.1). The difference maker however has been their ability to turn teams over. Despite their rebounding deficiencies, the Rams are averaging 9.8 more field goal attempts per game than their opponents. Oddly enough, the only two games they have had fewer attempts than their opponents have been these last two. VCU averaged 4.5 fewer attempts than Stony Brook and George Mason.


Scoring Offense: VCU 75.6, GW 75.1
Scoring Defense: VCU 64.2, GW 65.7
Effective Field Goal% Offense: GW 50.9%, VCU 48
Effective Field Goal% Defense: GW 47.4%, VCU 48.5%
3-Point Field Goal%: GW 36.1%, VCU 34.5%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: VCU 31%, GW 33.1%
Rebounds per game: GW 37.2, VCU 35.7
Turnover Percentage Defense: VCU 28.5%, GW 21%
Turnover Percentage Offense: VCU 17.1%, GW 17.3%


They get anywhere close to last season’s effort against the Colonials. In the Rams’ first A-10 season they absolutely throttled GW, 84-57. They did so getting a combined 11 points from seniors Darius Theus and Troy Daniels (Daniels had all 11). In that game the Rams grabbed 19 steals and forced 25 turnovers while shooting a hot 53.3% from the field. They held GW to 38.9% from the field and star Isaiah Armwood to just six points in 34 minutes of play. Juvonte Reddic will have the tall task of matching his 2013 effort as the then junior posted 24 points on 11-13 shooting while grabbing 10 rebounds in the win. This year’s GW squad will no doubt remember that game, and do everything they can to reverse the outcome. They are a much improved squad, having already won two more games than they had up to that point in the season despite having played seven less games. Maurice Creek gives GW a major upgrade at the guard position as well, so it will be up to VCU to elevate their play to shut down the buff and blue’s new star. Over half of Creek’s attempts have been from beyond the arc so VCU guards will have the challenge of guarding tight enough to effect his range while staying in position to not get beat on the drive. On offense the black and gold could greatly benefit from some shots falling. As I mentioned earlier in this post, VCU is averaging nine more field goal attempts than opponents this season, and have three games where they had 20 or more. When you get those kinds of added attempts and connect, it’s a looooong night for your opponent.


Maurice Creek, Kethan Savage and Joe McDonald need poised games for the Colonials to get their first big A-10 win of the season. Without Creek, Savage and McDonald alone combined for 12 turnovers last season, eight by point guard McDonald. He’ll remember that, but how much of that will motivate and how much will spook remains to be seen. GW should have the advantage on the glass so if they can cut down on the turnovers while cleaning up on the boards they are off to a good start. Shutting down Reddic will no doubt be a point of emphasis after last year’s blowout but with the same personnel in the paint that may be easier said than done. GW needs to slow the game down while forcing VCU, the A-10’s third worst shooting team, to hit tough shots to beat them.


Watch: CBS Sports Network. Official watch parties at Baja Bean Co. in the Fan as well as Buffalo Wild Wings locations at Virginia Center and downtown on Cary Street in Shockoe Bottom.
Listen: 107.3FM
Live Tweets: @VCURamNation

A two-time graduate of VCU (School of the Arts '07, Center for Sport Leadership '10), Mat is a co-founder of VCU Ram Nation and a longtime fan as the ...