GW-UMass preview: A-10 showdown tips at 2 p.m. on CSN

GW-UMass preview: A-10 showdown tips at 2 p.m. on CSN
February 15, 2014, 1:15 am
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(Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports)

Matchup: George Washington Colonials (19-5; 7-3 Atlantic 10) vs. Massachusetts Minutemen (19-5, 6-4)

When: Saturday, 2:00 p.m.

Where: Smith Center

Broadcast: TV - CSN; Radio - 1500 AM.

Last time out: VCU knocked off the Colonials 92-75 on Wednesday as the teams split the regular season series. Isaiah Armwood and Maurice Creek each scored 17 points, but GW committed 22 turnovers.

History: GW leads the all-time series 36-28

KenPom: George Washington 36, UMass 48

RPI: George Washington 26, UMass 20

Coaches: George Washington - Mike Lonergan; UMass - Derek Kellogg

Leaders: GW - Scoring (Maurice Creek, 14.1), Rebounding (Isaiah Armwood, 8.4), Assists (Joe McDonald, 4.0); UMass - Scoring (Chaz Williams, 15.7), Rebounding (Cady Lalanne, 8.7), Assists (Williams, 7.4)

Links: Joe McDonald has no time for snow day fun with Chaz Williams and the Minutemen coming to town

What's at stake: GW's stretch of four straight against teams with winning A-10 records started against VCU. Following UMass, the next two games are on the road, including at first place St. Louis. Not that the Colonials can't win away from the Smith Center, but finishing this four-game span with even a 2-2 record seems unlikely without a victory on Saturday. Considering the level of competition, splitting these games won't damage the Colonials NCAA Tournament resume.

When last we met: UMass avenged a regular season home loss to GW with a 77-72 win in the A-10 Tournament quarterfinals last March. The Colonials triumphed 79-76 in Amherst last January behind 16 points and 10 assists from then freshman McDonald.

UMass: Last month the Minutemen weren't just an A-10 contender, but thanks to a 16-1 start, they were also ranked No. 13 in the country. Since then, they've gone 3-4, fallen out of the AP top-25 and out of the regular season title chase. That's not to say UMass isn't formidable. Using essentially a seven-man rotation, the Minutemen lead the conference in scoring, rebounding and assists. GW tops the A-10 in field goal percentage while ranking second in assists.

Stepping up: Without second-leading scoring Kethan Savage (foot) in the lineup, Patricio Garino returned as a starter. The 6-foot-6 swingman, who averaged less than nine points per game last season, also stepped his scoring. Over GW's last four games, Garino is averaging 17.5 points on 54.5 percent shooting. Oddly, he's made exactly six field goals in each contest. 

Matchup: The idea sounds simple, the plan is not: stop Chaz Williams, stop UMass. An A-10 Player of the Year candidate if not the front-runner, the 5-foot-9 senior ranks third nationally in assists. McDonald will serve as the primary defender. "Chaz is a great player. Even though he's a small guy on the court, he plays with so much energy and such a competitive spirit"