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Wine bar on 2200 Penn opens doors
By Ella Mitchell, Contributing News Editor • June 14, 2024

Preview: Men’s basketball at No. 5 Virginia

Madeleine Cook | Senior Staff Photographer
Sophomore guard Justin Mazzulla is coming off a career-best performance against Siena where he tallied 18 points and nine rebounds.

What: Men’s basketball (0–2) at Virginia
Where: John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottesville, Va.
When: Sunday, Nov. 11 at 2 p.m.

The Colonials hit the road to take on No. 5 Virginia after opening the season with back-to-back losses at home.

The two teams last met in 2016, when GW upset the then-No. 6 Cavaliers 73–68 at the Smith Center – the Colonials’ last win against a ranked opponent.

Case for the Colonials:

Although the Colonials are coming off two straight losses, in both games they went on solid offensive runs that showcased the potential of the team’s adjusting offense.

GW has been struggling so far this season to reconfigure its offense after losing last season’s top scorers, but a 22–0 scoring run to open the game against Stony Brook and a 10-point comeback in the second half against Siena show that the Colonials possess the right offensive weapons to string together solid points.

Sophomore guard Justin Mazzulla is coming off a career-best performance against Siena where he tallied 18 points and nine rebounds, and sophomore guard Terry Nolan, Jr. has also been a consistent scorer for the squad. Both will be key to igniting GW’s offense against a Virginia defense that held Towson to a 31.7 percent shooting clip.

Down low, junior forward Arnaldo Toro has been a bright spot in what has been a dismal performance on the boards so far for the Colonials, scoring 22 points and grabbing 20 rebounds through both of their contests.

Toro and the Colonials will likely need the support of sophomore forward Javier Langerica and freshman forward Marcus Littles to add height on the hardwood. Langerica and Littles have yet to see substantial collegiate minutes, which may translate to problems with speed of play or communication for GW.

Case for the Cavaliers:

Virginia sits among the top college basketball programs in the nation for a reason. The Cavaliers were dominant in their first contest of the season, a 73–42 victory over Towson Tuesday.

The team returns three starters and last year’s ACC Sixth Man of the Year – redshirt sophomore guard D’Andre Hunter – from a squad that set a program wins record at 31 games and won the ACC Tournament. The Cavaliers were ranked as a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament before falling in the first round to a UMBC upset.

Hunter has the fewest number of collegiate seasons under his belt for the Cavaliers, meaning Virginia not only has more experience than the Colonials, but more experience against higher competition on a national stage. Virginia has been ranked in The Associated Press poll for 17 straight weeks dating back to last season.

In Virginia’s season opener against Towson, Hunter, at 6-feet-7-inches tall, was a force on the boards, grabbing 10 rebounds while contributing 13 points. Hunter should be aided on the block by 6-foot-10-inch redshirt senior center Jack Salt. GW has employed a smaller, guard-oriented lineup that has struggled on the glass and has been out-rebounded 88–70 by its opponents so far this season.

In recent games, the Colonials have struggled to smother sharp-shooting opponents from the perimeter. In their game against Siena Thursday, the Colonials allowed the Saints to pick up 39 points of 13-made three-point shots. Against Towson, Virginia junior guard Ty Jerome drained six three-point shots on nine attempts. With GW struggling to defend the three-point line, it will look to be another high-scoring game for Jerome.

Additionally, 13,807 fans packed the John Paul Jones Arena for Virginia’s first game of the season, while only 2,083 attended the Colonials’ last contest against Siena at the Smith Center. GW’s inexperienced squad may falter under the pressure of a packed arena.

Bottom Line:

The Cavaliers have the advantage over the Colonials in experience, height and location and seem poised to handily beat GW. To take home this major upset, GW’s pieces will need to come together for the Colonials and the squad will need to disarm Hunter on the boards and smother Jerome from the three-point line.

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