This post was written by contributing sports editor Sean Hurd.
Who: Manhattan Jaspers
Where: Draddy Gymnasium
When: Saturday at 7 p.m.
Case for Manhattan:
Boasting the same 2-0 record as the Colonials, the Manhattan Jaspers should prove to be the toughest opponent GW has played so far in this young basketball season. Selected as the favorite to win the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the Jaspers were just a game away from making the NCAA tournament last season, after losing the MAAC championship – and their chance at an automatic bid – to Iona by a slim three-point margin.
The Jaspers have already impressed through their first two games of the season, defeating Atlantic 10 contender La Salle in double-overtime and then pulling out a one-point win over Columbia. Manhattan currently holds the second highest RPI in the country, according to CBSSports.com.
Manhattan has proven to be a formidable offensive team, averaging 85 points while shooting 46.4 percent from the field. The Jaspers have found their biggest strength behind the arc where they are averaging 11 three-point field goals per game, shooting an astounding 56.4 percent – also second best in the country.
Manhattan returns 10 players from last season’s roster, four of whom earned All-MAAC preseason honors. The Jaspers are led by senior guard/forward George Beamon who returned to the roster after sustaining a season-ending injury just four games into last season where he had been averaging 16.8 points per game. Through two games this season, Beamon, who was selected to the All-MAAC first team, is averaging an impressive 26 points per game.
Along with Beamon is the Jaspers frontcourt presence Rhamel Brown, a senior forward who, like Beamon, was named to the All-MAAC first team. For the second season in a row, Brown earned the MAAC defensive player of the year last season, and finished 10th in the nation in blocked shots with 3.3 blocks per game.
Case for GW:
In the first two games of the season, the Colonials have shown their capability of being offensive and defensive threats – but they’ve done so on separate occasions. For the Colonials to put the Jaspers away, they will have to combine their defensive prowess from the Radford game with their 100-point effort against Maine.
Look for GW to pressure the ball against a Manhattan team that struggles to maintain possession, averaging 17.5 turnovers a game thus far. Much like the home opener versus Radford, it’s likely that head coach Mike Lonergan will try to stifle the Manhattan offense by keying in on the Jasper’s top player in Beamon.
GW will look to stretch the floor with graduate guard Maurice Creek and senior Nemanja Mikic, who have both showed early signs of returning to their sharpshooting form. Creek is coming off his best game as a Colonial, earning 19 points and six rebounds against Maine.
As usual, though, the offense will need to run through senior forward Isaiah Armwood and sophomore center Kevin Larsen. Armwood continues to lead a well-rounded attack, averaging 12.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game, while Larsen has been quietly dominating the paint, averaging 14.5 points and 6.5 rebounds a night.
The difference could be the Colonials newfound ability to attack the basket and draw in the defense with penetration from sophomore guard Kethan Savage. Savage leads the Colonials offense averaging 18 points per game.