When the A10 schedule came out before last season, the Rams likely thought little of the January 14th trip up I-95 to Washington D.C. A lot has changed since Shaka Smart first saw this game on the schedule. Most surprisingly, the VCU team picked to win the Atlantic 10 has the same record as the George Washington team picked to finish tenth (in the inappropriately named 13 team conference).
This game was a defensive display from the first possession as George Washington stifled the Rams for 35 seconds. Shot clock violation, VCU.
That play set the tone for the entire game, George Washington came to play defense.
In the first half the Colonials absolutely dominated in the paint, on both ends of the floor. They recorded four blocks, 22 rebounds and 22 points in the paint during the first half. Kevin Larsen was unstoppable down low. The sophomore's 17 points were nearly half of the team's total of 36.
While the Colonials were dominant in the paint, VCU lit it up from deep. 18 of the Rams' 29 first half points came from beyond the arc. That performance was not too surprising because VCU is a good, though not great, three point shooting team.
What was absolutely not surprising in the least were the Rams' six steals and Colonials' ten turnovers. That's because VCU isn't a great team at forcing turnovers, they're the best in the nation.
After the break, the Colonials started taking over. It took just four minutes for them to pull out to a double digit lead, a cushion they'd hold for much of the half. A cool down in three point shooting from the Rams didn't hurt the Colonials, either.
With their offense sputtering, the Rams returned to their calling card defense. Shaka Smart had his team run a diamond press defense on the Colonials during the middle of the half.
The defensive change turned the table on the Colonials. VCU held George Washington scoreless over three minutes, from the 9:30 mark to 6:27, and went on a 7-0 run. While they weren't able to pull even, the Rams did scare the Colonials into calling all but one of their timeouts.
George Washington had one timeout for the final 3:29 of the game.
No matter, the Colonials were on fire after that timeout. They outscored the Rams seven to four from that point on. They also neutralized the HAVOC press. George Washington's only turnover during the final five minutes came after the shot clock had been turned off.
It was all Kevin Larsen in the first half. But Patricio Garino's second half performance makes him player of the game. The sophomore reserve scored a game and career high 25 points, 18 of which helped keep the Colonials ahead during the scary second half.
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