This post was written by contributing sports editor Sean Hurd.
Who: GW vs. Georgia (6-5)
When: Jan. 3, 7 p.m.
Where: Smith Center
Case for UGA:
The story for the Bulldogs all season long has been their ability to make up for the production of former standout Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who left Georgia for the NBA draft after his sophomore season. Pope, who now plays for the Detroit Pistons after being the eighth overall selection in last year’s draft, averaged 18.5 points and 7.1 rebounds for UGA last season, and was the second leading scorer in the SEC.
Despite a 1-4 start to the season, the Bulldogs have rebounded nicely, winning five out of their last six, dropping their most recent game to No. 20 Colorado on Dec. 28.
In a closer examination of UGA’s game against Colorado, it appears that it’s not the Bulldogs’ offense that struggles, but rather their defense that is the area of weakness. While losing to the Buffs by 14, UGA still shot 50 percent and made four more field goals than Colorado. The Bulldogs were also incredibly efficient with the ball, only turning the ball over 10 times. But Colorado had five players in double figures, and if they hadn’t been a perfect 26-26 at the line, an upset could have very likely occurred in Boulder.
The Bulldogs have four players averaging double figures, led by sophomore Charles Mann who averages 13.2 points per game. As a team UGA has averaged 50 percent shooting in five of their last six games. On the defensive end, Donte’ Williams – the lone senior on the UGA roster – averages 5.5 rebounds per game and will look to make things tough for forwards Isaiah Armwood and Kevin Larsen.
Case for GW:
After coming off one of their worst all-around performances of the season against a tough Kansas State team, the Colonials will look to rebound at home, where they are 6-0 so far this season
To win, the Colonials will need to beat the Bulldogs on the defensive side of the ball. GW will have to pressure the UGA guards with their stingy defense that has led to an average of 7.9 steals per game and forced 14.5 turnovers per game. The battle between the two teams may come down to rebounds. The GW frontcourt of Armwood and Larsen need to have strong defensive games in the paint against a physical Bulldogs team like Kansas State.
On the offensive side, the Colonials will look to find success from behind the arc after going 3-15 against the Wildcats Tuesday. The Bulldogs are not particularly good defending the longball, allowing opponents to make 6.8 three-point field goals a game. Graduate student Maurice Creek, who ranks third in the Atlantic 10 in three-point field goal percentage, will need to provide the offensive spark for GW.
Perhaps the two keys for GW on Friday will be free throw shooting and bench production – their two achilles heels thus far this season. Over the last three games the Colonials have shot 55.7 percent from the line, a worrying stat for head coach Mike Lonergan. All season long, especially against Kansas State, the GW bench has been virtually non-existent, forcing GW starters to play extended minutes. If the Colonials find themselves in early foul trouble, reserve players will have to make plays off the bench for GW to pull out a win Friday.