Colonials come calling on 14th-ranked Rams

Jan 27, 2015 - 3:26 PM Richmond, VA ( - The 14th-ranked Virginia Commonwealth Rams put an 11-game win streak on the line against a formidable foe on Tuesday night, as they entertain the George Washington Colonials in a pivotal Atlantic 10 Conference clash at the Stuart C. Siegel Center.

George Washington is on a nice little run of its own, the team winning each of its last four bouts, the most recent being a 74-59 decision versus visiting Duquesne on Saturday. As a result, the Colonials come in at 16-4 overall, which includes a 6-1 league ledger. GW is presently tied with Dayton for second place in the A-10, just a half game behind first-place VCU. The Rams are 8-1 at home this season.

The Rams haven't lost a game since falling to ACC power Virginia on Dec. 6 (74-57), and then enter this contest sporting a 16-3 mark overall, which encompasses their perfect 6-0 conference record. VCU was most recently in action last Friday when it slipped past Saint Louis on the road, 63-61.

VCU owns a 6-1 lead in the all-time series, and it won the final two meetings last season, including a 74-55 triumph in the A-10 Tournament.

Patricio Garino scored 20 points, and two others reached double figures as well for the Colonials, who used a dominant first half to thwart the upset bid of the Duquesne Dukes over the weekend. Joe McDonald tallied 16 points and Paul Jorgensen chipped in with 13 for GW, which knocked down 12-of-24 3-point tries as part of its 48.1 percent overall shooting effort. The Colonials more than doubled the Dukes in the opening period, outscoring them 40-18, and they notched a 33-26 edge on the boards for the game.

Garino (13.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.0 spg) paces the club in both scoring and steals, while getting help from Kethan Savage (12.0 ppg, 5.2 rpg), Kevin Larsen (11.0 ppg, 7.3 rpg) and McDonald (9.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 3.2 apg). As a result, the Colonials are putting up 69.5 ppg in hitting 45.5 percent of their total shots, while also logging favorable margins in both rebounding (+5.5) and turnovers (+1.1). The team's defensive stance is allowing foes to connect on only 39.6 percent of their field goal attempts and 31.4 percent of their long- range launches in netting a meager 59.3 ppg.

The Rams were locked in a defensive battle with Saint Louis last Friday, needing a 20-of-27 performance at the charity stripe to help them come out on the positive side of the ledger once again. VCU shot just 36.7 percent from the floor, missing 16 of its 23 3-point tries along the way, but it held the Billikens to 23.1 percent success from distance while scoring 17 points off of the 14 turnovers it forced. Treveon Graham scored 21 points and grabbed six rebounds to lead the Rams, while Briante Weber added 15 points as the only other player to finish in double figures for coach Shaka Smart's club.

As a team, VCU is generating 75.1 ppg while permitting 65.9 ppg, and the team has just two double-digit scorers in Graham (17.3 ppg) and Melvin Johnson (13.4 ppg). Graham spearheads the Rams' rebounding effort as well, pulling down 6.9 rpg, while Weber acts as their primary playmaker at both ends of the court by handing out 4.6 apg and coming up with 3.9 spg. VCU shoots about the same from the field and from the perimeter as does its opponents (.434 to .434; .366 to .353), but it forces an average of 17.6 turnovers per outing, which has proven to be hugely important with regard to the team continuing to pile up the wins.

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