Up to this point, the schedule for the men’s basketball team has consisted of either daunting nonconference foes or Atlantic Ten opponents the Owls were expected to beat. Now the Owls (10-8, 6-1) get to play a game that really matters.
George Washington (13-5, 5-3) visits Temple tomorrow in the teams’ only meeting this season. Before the season, the speed-heavy Colonials were expected to make noise in the national rankings, and junior guard Mardy Collins said beating GW tomorrow might help the Owls gain the respect they desire.
“It’s big,” Collins said. “If we still want a shot at an at-large bid [to the NCAA Tournament], that’s a huge game because they’re one of the top teams in the A-10 and we’re trying to establish ourselves as the top team. We know we’ve got to knock them out and win that game.”
The Owls prepared for the Colonials with a 74-54 victory over Rhode Island on Wednesday.
The Owls jumped out to an 8-0 lead less than two minutes into that game and never looked back. They led by double-digits from the 13:36 mark of the first half until the final buzzer and held five leads of 26 or more points in the second half.
Junior forward Antywane Robinson said there was nothing the Rams (4-14, 2-5) could really do defensively on a night the Owls filled up the basket even with third-leading scorer Dustin Salisbery out with the flu.
“Not taking anything away from Rhode Island, because they’re a great team, but we were clicking on all cylinders today,” Robinson said. “We’re pretty hard to beat when we’re clicking like that.”
Collins led the Owls with a season-high 26 points on 11-of-15 shooting. Freshman guard Mark Tyndale scored 14 points and added a season-high seven assists. Collins and Tyndale tied for the team lead with four steals each.
After the game, coach John Chaney voiced concern over the Owls’ rebounding deficiencies against the Rams, the top offensive rebounding team in the A-10.
“We keep a record of second-chance shots, second-chance points,” Chaney said. “In the first half, even though we were [winning], they had scored 13 points on second-chance points. That tells you a lot about what you’re not doing and a lot about what they’re doing on the boards. You don’t clean that act up, you’re going to lose games.”
The Owls will get no respite as they go from facing one top rebounding team to another. The Colonials are the No. 1 team in the A-10 in defensive rebounding. They also utilize a full-court press similar to what the Rams used in the second half Wednesday.
“During the game, coach was basically working on things we know we’re going to have to do against GW,” Collins said. “That was a good thing when they pressed us so we could work on our press break.”
Freshman guard Chris Clark played extended minutes for the second straight game. Though Clark scored just one field goal in those two games combined, Chaney said more minutes will help the point guard’s mental development.
“Teams are going to look at his size and think they can just knock him around,” Chaney said. “Once he learns to be a little nasty and mean like me, he’ll be alright.”
If Villanova and Saint Joseph’s want to lament hexed seasons, they should take a close look at Rhode Island. The Rams are 10 games under .500 after going 20-4 last season. Coach Jim Baron has been without two of his best players, guard Dawan Robinson and forward Jamaal Wise, for nearly the entire season.
In addition to Salisbery’s illness, Chaney said assistant coach Dan Leibovitz was receiving fluids from an IV after the Rhode Island game.
Benjamin Watanabe can be reached at email@example.com.