UMass (16-6, 5-3 Atlantic 10) looks to avoid its first losing streak of the season when they conclude their mini road trip against George Washington (8-14, 3-5 A10) Saturday at 7p.m. at the Charles Smith Center. (TV: None/Radio: UMass Sports Network)
The Minutemen are coming off their worst and most surprising loss of the season, when they fell 81-78 in overtime to 5-18 Rhode Island Wednesday. After earning their biggest win of the season Saturday against St. Louis, UMass saw their tourney chances take a crushing blow, when they couldn't put away the pesky Rams. Sophomore Jesse Morgan had a chance to win the game in regulation but was blocked, and junior Freddie Riley's three at the buzzer in overtime was off the mark, as the Minutemen fell to Rhode Island.
Today's game might not be any easier, against a Colonials squad that has beaten the Minutemen twice in a row and holds a 35-26 advantage all time. Last season at the Mullins Center, George Washington used a 17-0 run late in the second half, to earn a 59-51 victory. Senior center Sean Carter finished with six points and a game-high 11 rebounds and Javorn Farrell filled the stat-sheet with five points, seven rebounds and four assists in the losing effort.
George Washington has struggled under new head coach Mike Lonergan this season, a year after earning the fifth seed in the A10 Tournament. Wednesday they had a painful loss of their own, as Tu Holloway's basket with 30 seconds remaining gave Xavier a 59-58 victory at the Charles Smith Center. The Colonials dropped the contest, despite getting 50 combined points from senior and leading scorer Tony Taylor, sophomore forward Nemanja Mikic and junior guard Lasan Kroham.
Kroham finished with a double-double (11 points and 14 rebounds), as he tried to make up for the absence of junior forward David Pellom, the team's third-leading scorer and second-leading rebounder. Pellom is questionable for tonight's game with an injury that has forced him to miss the past three conference tilts.
The Colonials could desperately use Pellom back, as they have the worst scoring offense in the conference (61.6ppg) and our among the bottom half of the league in rebounding margin (-1.1). UMass on the other hand leads the conference in points per game (76.8), are fourth in rebounding margin (+2.8) and are also first in steals (9.5 per game).
Prediction: UMass has struggled on the road all year but can ill afford another loss against a sub .500 team. The problem is that this George Washington team is extremely talented and have been playing extremely well at home as of late (4-1). The phrase is getting old, but if Chaz Williams can play his game (avoiding turnovers, shooting a high percentage), UMass should roll, otherwise the Minutemen could see their postseason hopes continue to fade.
UMass 68, George Washington 65