DAVIDSON WILDCATS (7-5)
at GEORGE WASHINGTON COLONIALS (8-6)
Charles E. Smith Center – Washington, DC
Tip-off: Thursday, 7:00 pm ET
Line: Davidson -1.0
Davidson and George Washington each look for their first win in A-10 play when the Colonials host the Wildcats on Thursday night.
Davidson and George Washington are two programs struggling to gain their footing in the new year. Traditional powers in the Atlantic 10 conference, both the Wildcats and Colonials are coming off losses in their conference openers and are mired in seasons that will need some quality wins fast in order to gain entry into a postseason tournament. The Colonials have taken care of business at home (6-1) this season but are just 1-3 ATS in DC. George Washington is just 2-5 (3-4 ATS) as an underdog, however. The Colonials look to avoid a third straight loss, following road defeats to Miami (74-62, GW +14) and St. Joseph’s (68-63, GW +4.5). Davidson takes to the road after a disheartening defeat at home against Richmond (82-80, Dav -11) to start conference play on Sunday. In that game Davidson found themselves down 15 with 4:22 to play but pulled within three on the final possession that failed to tie the game. The Wildcats are 1-2 (2-1 ATS) on the road this season. This will be the third time that Davidson is a road favorite (1-1, 1-1 ATS). Davidson owns wins in three of the past four meetings with George Washington (3-1 ATS) since becoming fellow A-10 conference members. Those wins include a win for the Wildcats in DC in Feb. 2015. The teams split home wins last season in conference play, but Davidson won the most recent meeting in Mar. 2015, 87-80 (Dav -6).
Coach Bob McKillop’s Wildcats will again rely on the dynamic duo of G Jack Gibbs (22.9 PPG, 4.1 APG) and F Peyton Aldridge (20.8 PPG, 7.1 RPG). Davidson is one of only three schools in America boasting multiple 20+ point scorers. Of course, the downside to this is the huge drop in production to Davidson’s third leading scorer, F Will Magarity (8.3 PPG), who’s only scored double-figures once in his last six contests. McKillop thinks he has a future gem, though, in 6’4” freshman point guard Jon Axel Gudmunsson (8.1 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 3.9 APG). The newcomer from Iceland is averaging a cool 10.7 PPG, 6.7 RPG and 7 APG per game over his last three. Gibbs gave George Washington plenty of work last season in their split, averaging 28 PPG in those two games (20-for-44 FG). Davidson’s past two losses have seen Gibbs only go 9-for-30 from the field. Coach McKillop should be able to find some solid looks for his star against a Colonials defense that’s 270th in the country in defending the arc (37.2%). As a team Davidson has struggled from deep (34% 3PT) but that doesn’t stop the Wildcats from chucking it up from behind the arc (28.4 3PA, 6th in NCAA). One player who’s had no problems with scoring efficiency is Aldridge. The junior forward was forced into being the first option on offense while Gibbs was hobbled at the beginning of the season, and is flourishing now that Gibbs is back on the floor, averaging 22.4 points on 59% FG (50% 3PT) in his last five games.
The Colonials will be in good shape if they can slow down the Aldridge/Gibbs duo on defense, and if they can firm up their three-point defense, they do a great job already on shots inside the arc (44.8% two-point FG, 64th in NCAA). Davidson’s defense is better than it was last season, but historically the Wildcats are a team that lets up their fair share of buckets – assistance that the woeful Colonials (40% FG, 300th in NCAA) could use given how their offense stalls at times. George Washington can usually rely on F Tyler Cavanaugh (16.3 PPG, 7.8 RPG) for a solid outing, but the senior has really struggled for the better part of a month now. His season-long field goal percentage is way down (36.7% FG) from last season and he’s turning the ball over almost one more time per game than last year. Being the focal point of every defense, night-in and night-out for two straight years may be wearing thin on Cavanaugh who is 10-for-42 FG in George Washington’s last three losses (including a 4-for-20 outing at St. Joseph’s last Friday). George Washington at least has second-leading scorer Yuta Watanabe (12.4 PPG) back after a seven-game absence in November and December. Unfortunately, the Colonials haven’t won in Watanabe’s two games since returning, but the junior did have a career-high 22 points the last time the Colonials met the Wildcats. Younger Colonials have stepped up their offensive games of late hoping to provide support for the struggling Cavanaugh and offer bright glimpses into the future of basketball at George Washington: Sophomore G Jordan Roland (7.9 PPG) is averaging 14.4 PPG over his last five (50% 3PT), all in double figures, and freshman F Collin Smith (8 PPG, 6.3 RPG) collected his first career double-double in the loss to St. Joseph’s on Friday. George Washington has shot 40% or better from beyond the arc in four of their last five games thanks to the efforts of Roland and junior G Jaren Sina (10.6 PPG on the season) shooting 45.5% 3PT (3 3PM) in his last five, and Davidson doesn’t defend the three particularly well (35.8% 3PT, 217th NCAA).