Pregame update: No. 11 Wichita State vs. George Washington

George Washington coach Mike Lonergan will challenge Wichita State with a veteran team in Thursday’s Diamond Head Classic title game.
George Washington coach Mike Lonergan will challenge Wichita State with a veteran team in Thursday’s Diamond Head Classic title game. AP

▪  The Diamond Head Classic title may be decided on dangerous territory for the Shockers. Even after making a season-best 77.8 percent from the foul line against Hawaii, the Shockers are shooting 65.9 percent.

GW wins games at the foul line. It gets there. It makes 67.9 percent, which isn’t great, but enough for an advantage. It doesn’t foul.

In Hawaii, the Colonials outscored Colorado and Ohio 30-12 from the line. Ohio went 1 of 3 and the Colonials committed 10 fouls. Even in losses, GW makes the foul line a close stat battle. It outscored Penn State 15-9 at the line in a loss. Seton Hall and Virginia outscored GW by four points in victories.

No. 55 Charlotte is GW’s best win by RPI and the Colonials outscored the 49ers 15-6 at the line. For the season, GW has outscored its opponents 165-105 and leads in attempts 243-161.

WSU’s Darius Carter can’t foul. WSU’s freshmen, who will largely match up against more experienced players, can’t commit silly fouls.

The Colonials take care of the ball, so this will likely be a low-possession game where small edges make a big difference.

▪  WSU is 45 of 60 (75 percent) from the line in two games in Hawaii. Particularly encouraging is the accuracy of the reserves, who perhaps are more confident and more comfortable there as their experience and playing time grows. WSU’s bench is 23 of 31 (74.2 percent) in two games.

▪  The Colonials, who start four juniors and a senior, aren’t deep. Six players played double-digit minutes in a 53-50 win over Colorado. In a 77-49 win over Ohio, six players played double-digit minutes. GW returns four starters from an NCAA Tournament team (at-large bid) that defeated Creighton, Maryland and VCU.

▪  GW guard Joe McDonald doesn’t own flashy stats (9.2 ppg, 4 of 22 from three), but coach Mike Lonergan spoke highly of him after Tuesday’s win over Colorado. He leads the Colonials with 42 assists and made several big plays in the final minutes against CU.

▪  No Evan Wessel for the Shockers, because of his sprained right ankle. WSU plays Drake on Dec. 31, which is not the kind of opponent demanding Wessel’s services. He might play, but if he isn’t healthy there is no reason to rush him back.

▪  GW is No. 32 in the RPI and playing in the Atlantic 10 with seven other top-100 RPI teams and none lower than 250 should mean it can stay in the top 50 with success. The Colonials lack a marquee win, so they should approach this game as a crucial part of an NCAA Tournament resume.

For the Shockers and their No. 5 RPI rank, it’s another chance to improve seeding and protect against the eight games (or more) against MVC teams ranked 281 or lower.


The Wichita Eagle: WSU needed its freshmen to beat the Rainbows.