Noah Fleischman, Sports Editor
After a Feb. 2 win over George Mason, 79-63, coach Mike Rhoades turned his attention to Feb. 6 as the Rams prepare to travel to Washington, D.C., to play George Washington.
“When you win an A-10 game, it makes the next one bigger,” Rhoades said after the win. “So now we got to go on the road, won the last two, and this is a really big one because it’s the next one — period.”
Last season, VCU (15-6, 6-2 Atlantic 10) split its meetings with the Colonials (7-14, 3-5 A-10) as the Rams won at home 87-63 and lost 80-56 on the road.
“It’s a tough place to play and they smacked us last year,” Rhoades said. “So we got some work to do.”
In the latter meeting, current Memphis Grizzlies two-way player Yuta Wanatabe scored a game-high 23 points. Terry Nolan Jr. added 18 points in the second meeting as well.
The Colonials are a young team this season, as they do not have any seniors on the roster.
Rhoades said that Illinois transfer DJ Williams will be a tough cover, but VCU’s defense is going to make it hard for him.
“He’s just such a versatile player,” Rhoades said during his weekly press conference. “He can shoot it, he can really get to the rim, find ways to score, draws a lot of fouls. He’s a guy we’re going to pay a lot of attention to.”
Williams leads the Colonials as he averages 14 points this season after sitting last season due to NCAA transfer rules.
Nolan Jr. averages 11.7 points this season in his sophomore campaign for the Colonials.
“He really hurt us last year,” Rhoades said. “He made shots and he made plays against us last year. We are well aware of him and we got to make sure that we don’t let him get easy one’s early in the game again and get a ton of momentum.”
Justin Mazzulla, also a sophomore, is third on the team in scoring as he averages 10.3 points. He leads George Washington in assists with 70, steals with 26 and a shooting percentage of 44 percent.
The Rams counter the Colonials with the No. 7 defense in the nation, according to Kenpom, holding opponents under 60 points nine times this season.
VCU held George Mason 2-for-19 from beyond the arc Feb. 2, the Patriots’ second-worst night shooting from three this season.
The Rams’ HAVOC defense forced 15 George Mason turnovers and logged seven steals and six blocks.
“It’s hard to replicate [VCU’s defense],” Patriots coach Dave Paulsen said after the Feb. 2 game. “I think more than anything, they wore us down in the half court … that’s an outstanding complete defensive group.”
The Rams held George Mason star Justin Kier 1-for-10 from the field as he finished with five points. He was 3-for-7 from the free-throw line.
Men’s Basketball is in action against the Colonials Feb. 6 at 7 p.m. in Washington D.C. and on the road at St. Bonaventure Feb. 9 at 2 p.m.