There is little to no margin for error in the middle of the Atlantic 10 this season. Though Saint Louis still has to face VCU and Massachusetts on the road, the Billikens currently stand comfortably atop the conference, while five other teams have conference records ranging from 8-3 to 7-4. Tonight’s George Washington-Richmond contest was pivotal for both teams, and not just to break up that standings morass. Both teams have been beset by injuries, illnesses, or defections, and as the two continue to churn for a potential NCAA tournament bid, a win tonight was crucial.
A see-saw game swung to the Colonials’ favor, and Mike Lonergan’s squad was able to handcuff the Spiders for the final three minutes, allowing just two points during that time span. After winning nineteen games, on the verge of cracking twenty wins for the first time since the 2007 season, GW has stumbled as of late, dropping consecutive contests to VCU and UMass. However, the team has been without their lead guard, Kethan Savage, whose offensive pugnaciousness has been sorely lacking since he last took the court in mid-January. One would think the Colonials would need a win against Saint Louis (on Saturday) to safely assume the potential of a tournament appearance, and it has to be encouraging to Lonergan to fifth-year guard Maurice Creek seems to have found his long-range touch. Creek, who has managed to stay healthy after roughly three seasons of rehab, has converted 50 percent of his threes the last two games.
The Spiders still have opportunity to enter the A10 tournament with a strong resume, and a guard who could offensively boost the squad is freshman ShawnDre’ Jones. Before the season-ending injury to Cedrick Lindsay, Jones was using nearly a quarter of UR’s minutes, but has been a consistent scoring presence off Chris Mooney’s bench. In the last four games, Jones has played twenty or more minutes, and is making 58 percent of his threes (Jones dropped 25 points in the GW loss). If he can continue to create halfcourt spacing with his shooting, defenses won’t be able to sag and take away Kendall Anthony’s dribble-drives and penetration.