A lot was on the line Wednesday night on Broad Street as a pair of 7-2 clubs squared off. The VCU Rams were looking for a little revenge over a George Washington Colonials squad that beat them 76-66 in Foggy Bottom last month. Both squads also embraced the importance of this match up in snowy Richmond as both teams have big games this weekend with GW hosting UMass and VCU heading to play Saint Louis.
Mike Lonergan's Colonials were still without Kethan Savage for this one who posted just 4 points and 5 rebounds in Round 1 of this match up. It was Patricio Garino who torched the Rams in the Charles Smith Center last month with 25 points, 7 boards, and 3 steals off the bench.
The initial wave of nerves and intense pressure that subdues some visitors to VCU early did not seem to both the Colonials as they had a 6-2 lead thanks to two Karl Larsen buckets at the first media timeout of the first half. Things tightened up a bit when Lonergan's start guard Joe McDonald picked up an early second foul at the 14:13 mark. Lonergan decided to roll the dice and play McDonald while hiding him in GW's 1-3-1 zone.
VCU was not without early foul trouble as well as Rob Brandenburg picked up his second foul at the 12:17 mark.
McDonald's foul trouble wasn't the only problem as GW went nearly four minutes as VCU built a 17-10 lead and forced seven turnovers in the first ten minutes of the game. Larsen finally ended GW's drought with a layup at the 9:32 mark. Unfortunately for GW fans the bucket would be the only one for awhile as VCU proceeded to cap off an 18-2 run.
VCU was on full "blowout mode" for the ladder portions of the first stanza, but a 10-1 run late from George Washington would draw the Colonials a little closer. It was energy waste as Juvonte Reddic had a monster throwdown in the last minute of the first and Melvin Johnson ended the half with a beautiful baseline floater to give the Rams a 45-28 lead at the half.
Johnson would finish the half with 15 points and was a the main reason for the Rams 25 first half bench points (GW just had 2 bench points in the first half). GW finished the first half with 15 turnovers and was just 10-for-29 from the field. The Colonials were visibly frustrated for much of the first half before their 10-1 run and really had an opportunity to go into halftime with a little momentum.
George Washington didn't decide to give up during halftime and came out firing in the second half. A Nick Griffin three pointer at the 16:09 mark would get the Colonials within 13 points of the Rams, but GW's real hope came when Jarred Guest picked up the Rams seventh team foul at the 10:44 mark.
Quick and big back-to-back to-back three pointers from Maurice Creek and Nemanja Mikic would get GW within five points with 9:16 left in the game. Rob Brandenburg and Melvin Johnson quickly responded with three pointers of their own to expand the Rams lead to 72-57 and force a Mike Lonergan timeout with 7:16 to go.
With five minutes remaining the Colonials started a final comeback attempt as Patricio Garino showed off his scoring and passing skills as he had two dishes to Isaiah Armwood and Mo Creek nailed a three point to bring GW within 79-71 with 3:25 left.
Every time GW seemed to build momentum VCU would counter with their patented defensive pressure. Frustration boiled over at the three minute mark when the Colonials were nailed with a ten second violation and Lonergan picked up a technical after a no-call on Joe McDonald that forced the ten second call. It was a four point swing that the Colonials couldn't rebound from eventually losing 92-75. Lonergan also picked up a second technical and was ejected with 43 seconds remaining.
Treveon Graham was the story for VCU as he posted 25 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists. Melvin Johnson finished the game with 21 points of his own. Briante Weber did what he usually does on defense with 7 steals, but on offense Weber had 5 turnovers and just 6 points. Weber did however have six assists.
The 6'6 Argentine freshman Patricio Garino had six turnovers, but he was impressive as the Colonials primary ball-handler in the loss. Despite the turnovers Garino had 16 points, 5 assists, and 4 rebounds. Armwood and McDonald both added 17 points, while Larsen had a double-double with 10 points and 13 boards for GW.
The final score won't reflect the fight that GW put up given the halftime score. Without the ten second violation and technical on Lonergan their is no telling where this game would have ended up. We can just now sit and hope for a rubber match in Brooklyn.
GW will look to rebound back in Foggy Bottom against UMass on Saturday, while VCU has an Atlantic 10 Championship rematch at Saint Louis.