This post was written by Hatchet sports editors Sean Hurd and Nick Ong.
Who: GW (7-1) vs. Maryland (6-3)
What: The 19th annual BB&T Classic
Where: Verizon Center
When: Sunday at 3:30 p.m.
GW and Maryland have a long history together. Sunday’s game will be the 68th meeting between the two teams and the first since a 76-53 Terrapins’ win in 2008. Maryland holds a 36-31 advantage in the matchup, but will be looking to increase that margin against a much stronger Colonials team than in past years.
Case for Maryland:
At the beginning of the season, not many would have expected the Colonials to be coming into Sunday’s game as the favorites – especially not the Terps.
Maryland, though, has had arguably an even tougher non-conference schedule than the Colonials, taking on two Top 20 opponents, including a 76-60 loss to No. 5 Ohio State most recently. A win over a now-imposing GW team could do great things for the Terps, as they prepare for the always strong Atlantic Coast Conference.
To do so, Maryland will need big games from its trio of double-digit scorers: Jake Layman (14.6 points per game), Evan Smotrycz (13.9 ppg) and Dez Wells (13.6 ppg). Forwards Layman and Smotrycz have struggled in the post this year, but have both been lights out from beyond the arc, shooting 46 and 44 percent, respectively.
If the Colonials defense is able to keep Maryland’s scorers in check, head coach Mark Turgeon has a deep bench that he can turn to for production. Seven Terps currently average over 18 minutes of playing time per game – a type of seven-man rotation that head coach Mike Lonergan is still trying to perfect with his squad.
Maryland ranks second in the ACC with 14.8 offensive rebounds per game and is out-rebounding opponents 40.4 to 32.1 on the season. Led by forward Charles Mitchell, who averages 7.3 rebounds per game, the Terps frontcourt will look to steal some boards away from forwards Kevin Larsen and Isaiah Armwood and take advantage of second-chance opportunities.
After taking a hard foul and injuring his hip at the end of GW’s game against Rutgers, point guard Joe McDonald is listed as day-to-day. Combine that with the still injured finger of forward Patricio Garino and the Colonials may find themselves with problems running the offense and matching up on defense.
Playing at a neutral site, Maryland – whose average attendance sits at 11,137 per home game – will look for some of its faithful fans to make the short journey into the District.
Case for GW:
After improving their season record to 7-1 Wednesday with a 93-87 victory over Rutgers, the Colonials are presented with yet another chance to pad their non-conference resume against a formidable opponent out of a major conference.
But a win against Maryland Sunday will not come unless GW is able to execute on both sides of the court, as it’s unlikely that the Colonials will be able to beat the Terrapins by simply outshooting them. With three Maryland players averaging double figures in scoring and two other Terrapins at nine points per game, it will be a strong defensive showing that is most likely going to be one of the deciding factors Sunday.
GW has shown that it has the ability to lock down defensively throughout the season, allowing opponents 67.2 points per game while ranking third in the Atlantic 10 in field goal defense, holding teams to just 39.8 percent from the field. Against the Terrapins, the Colonials will have to make sure they are guarding the perimeter to slow down the hot hands of Smotrycz and Layman.
If GW is unable to find success stopping the Terrapins, they do have another way to disrupt the Maryland offense, send them to the line. The Terrapins are shooting an abysmal 60.5 percent from the charity stripe. If the Colonials don’t find themselves in foul trouble down the stretch, head coach Mike Lonergan may tell his team to take a foul over allowing a bucket in certain situations.
That said, GW has not been much better from the line this season either, shooting just 69.3 percent themselves. It’s possible that the better free throw shooting team could find themselves with a late lead in Sunday’s game.
Over the course of the season, GW has proven to be the more efficient offensive team of the two, turning the ball over 11.8 times per game, compared to Maryland’s 13.8 turnovers per game. Additionally, the Colonials have shown success with moving the ball, leading the A-10 in assists per game at 15.9. The Terrapins on the other hand are averaging 12.9 assists the game.
GW enters Sunday’s matchup leading the A-10 in field goal percentage at 48.1 percent and three point percentage at 43.2 percent. The Colonials will need continued success from beyond the arc from graduate guard Maurice Creek, who shoots 45.7 percent from three, and senior guard Nemanja Mikic, who has come off the bench to shoot 48.6 percent. GW will be able to find open outside shots if they get the ball inside early to Armwood and Larsen, and get perimeter penetration from sophomore Kethan Savage.