Welcome back to our weekly look at what just happened and what's coming up in the local college basketball scene. Check CSNbaltimore for all things Maryland. ...
Georgetown (3-2): Not sure what specific gifts Puerto Rico Tip-Off organizers handed out to the participating teams. We do know the Hoyas headed home with a mixed bag worth of results. Blowing a 14-point lead in a setback versus a Northeastern squad that opened the season by losing to Boston and Stony Brook, thumbs down. Showing resiliency in the next two games by thumping Kansas State and No. 10 VCU in what essentially was a foul shooting contest, two thumbs up. Struggling to score with ease against zone defense (Northeastern), concerning. Thrashing man-to-man schemes (Kansas State) and not wilting against never-ending full court pressure (VCU), encouraging. Big man Joshua Smith continues to show he's an offensive force inside - when he can stay on the court, something he did in Sunday's finale but not otherwise. Guards D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Markel Starks showed they can score 40-plus points a game combined. That's good because after five games it remains uncertain who consistently can generate points behind those three. Following Friday's 27-point win over the Wildcats, coach John Thompson III told the media, "I hope, I pray, that today is more indicative of who we are." One game later, the positive continued - even the team brought back a bit of uncertainty with them.
George Mason (4-1): The short-handed Patriots 58-46 win over St. Francis last Tuesday provided an opportunity for the first 5-0 start to a season in program history. That quest ended scant minutes into Saturday's game at Iona. George Mason surrendered the game's first 14 points and trailed by 29 in the first half before losing 89-73. Turnovers bit coach Paul Hewitt team in those stark early minutes against the Gaels. The reality is miscues have been an issue most games. Per KenPom.com, the Patriots rank 337th nationally in turnover percentage. Expect improvement with the return of senior guard Bryon Allen, who had 10 points and five assists against Iona after missing the previous two games with an injury. As for forward Jonathan Arledge (sore back), all we know for sure is that last season's second-leading scorer remains sidelined for at least one more game. Actually, we also know Hewitt directed his team to a 4-1 start despite the absences. That's worth noting even if the team came up just shy of rewriting the record books.
George Washington (4-0): The Colonials only played one game last week, but they scored enough for two. With six double figure scorers including area natives Isaiah Armwood and freshman Nick Griffin, GW throttled Delaware State 94-50 on Tuesday for the program's largest margin of victory since 2006. Credit the undefeated start to the team's significant improvement shooting from the perimeter. In 30 games last season, the Colonials made 84 3-pointers. They already have 32 in four games this campaign including 10 against DSU. The presence of graduate transfer Maurice Creek stands as the primary upgrade, but Griffin (Magruder) made all four of his attempts on Tuesday. With improved shooting from deep combined with the potent interior tandem of Armwood (17 points, three blocks against DSU) and Kevin Larsen, the Colonials rank seventh nationally in effective field goal percentage.
American (1-3): Losing three of four games doesn't sound that great and American's new head coach Mike Brennan probably doesn't want much in the way of moral victory talk. We're going down that path anyway. The Eagles dropped both of their games last week, 63-52 at No. 8 Ohio State and 68-64 at Mount St. Mary's despite 21 points from guard Jesse Reed. AU trailed by five points at halftime and 51-44 with just over six minutes remaining against the Big Ten's Buckeyes, who pulled away late with a 9-0 run. Realistic heartbreak occurred Saturday. The Eagles led 59-58 with 1:47 remaining until the Mountaineers pulled ahead for good with a 6-0 spurt. Again, we're not offering AU a participation trophy, but all three losses have come on the road and the Eagles have been close in all, including the season opener at George Mason. Considering a new coach, key players to replace and new faces to integrate, this 1-3 isn't so bad.
Player of the Week: D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Georgetown
The stats are obvious; in three games at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off the sophomore guard averaged 21.7 points, shot 62.5 percent (10 of 16) from beyond the 3-point arc and made 24 of 27 free throws. What adds heft to the overall performance, specifically his 25 points against Kansas State and 26 versus VCU, is that it came in arguably must-win games. Guaranteed Georgetown coach John Thompson III would argue with that stressed sentiment. After the team's loss to Northeastern and with uncertainty about where the Hoyas would pick up RPI-helping non-conference wins, others would not. The only player to score in double figures in the loss, the 6-foot-3 DSR sank 9 of 11 3-pointers in the two wins.
Last week: Maurice Creek, George Washington
Georgetown: The Hoyas lone game this week is Saturday (12 p.m.) against Lipscomb (3-3), the first of four straight home dates. Before anyone rolls their eyes over the Atlantic Sun foe, realize that the Bisons defeated Florida Gulf Coast last season, twice. Earlier this season Lipscomb led at Vanderbilt with 11 minutes remaining before losing by 11 points.
George Mason: Hewitt takes the Patriots to the Garden State for a matchup against Princeton (3-1) on Tuesday (8 p.m.) before returning to host Rhode Island on Saturday. While the Patriots and Rams are now conference brothers-in-arms, this is not an actual Atlantic 10 game. The matchup is part of a series between the two programs that pre-dates George Mason's switching conferences. The Patriots won the previous two meetings, including last season's 55-52 win at Rhode Island behind Sherrod Wright's 14 points and Erik Copes' career-high 11 rebounds. Ironically, Copes will be eligible to return Saturday after serving a six-game suspension.
George Washington: The Colonials will spend Thanksgiving week in Fullerton, California. Not because coach Mike Lonergan wants his players out the D.C. cold - though talk about your fringe benefits. That's where the Wooden Legacy tournament takes place. On Thursday (2 p.m., ESPNU), the Colonials face Miami (Fl.) then either Marquette or Cal-State Fullerton on Saturday followed by a final game on Sunday. As for the Hurricanes (3-2), former George Mason coach Jim Larranaga's team is clearly in rebuild mold after losing several players from last season's highly ranked squad. They have already lost two home games starting with St. Francis in their season opener and last Thursday to Central Florida.
American: The Eagles wrap up their four-game road stretch at Columbia (3-3) on Tuesday (7 p.m.) and St. Francis on Saturday (2 p.m.)
Howard (2-4): The Bison have lost five straight including Monday night at South Dakota State. William & Mary visit Burr Gymnasium on Saturday (7 p.m.).