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George Mason Basketball

George Mason Basketball: January 2007

Monday, January 29, 2007

Trouble at Trask continues

The George Mason Patriots are now 1-9 in there last 10 games at the Trask Coliseum in Wilmington North Carolina. It amazes me that even when UNCW is in last place in the CAA they can still find a way to beat the Patriots on their home court. Mason's quest to move into the top 4 of the conference standings took a bad hit tonight. This is the same UNCW team that shot under 9% in the first half last time these two teams met in Fairfax. In the second half of this evenings game the Seahawks were able to shot over 65%, what happened to the CAA best scoring defense? UNCW was shooting the ball well all night and it proved to be too overwhelming for Mason. The Patriots defense looked out of sync and gave up some easy baskets late in the second half. Campbell again led the team in scoring with 17 but Will Thomas was held to only 10 points which was really troubling to watch considering who was guarding him. Opposing teams have enough had too easy of a time taking Thomas out of the game and if Mason could hit more three pointers we would see less of this happening. Campbell went 3 for 11 from the three point line on a night when the Seahawks were fouling every drive to the lane. Why does he settle for the outside shot so much?

Note: ESPN Bracketbuster match ups were announced today and Mason has been paired up with Kent State (11-8, RPI:110) and will be aired on one of the ESPN networks.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Mad Respect

The Patriots game on Wednesday night was a game I was looking forward for awhile. VCU always gives us a great showing and gritty play down to the wire. This years match-up was even more exciting because of VCU being undefeated in the conference and getting some national attention in the polls. After their win in Fairfax I believe they should be ranked in the top 25, but we will have to wait and see. As ugly was this game was for Mason, with the poor defensive play and even worse free throw shooting I have to give respect for this VCU team. They played with such poise and silenced a large crowd at the Patriot Center at many points in the game. Their three point shooting was off the charts at 60%. This shooting was a mix of the VCU's long range talent but also Mason's poor perimeter defense. Many of these attempts by the Rams were uncontested and would kill a run by Mason. We have seen this before, the Patriots start a run then get lazy on defense and give up a big shot and lose all the momentum. This is a problem your going to have with a young team, its not the fact that they give up these shots its how they react to them. Folarin Campbell is a great example of this; everytime VCU would drain a wide open three he would take it upon himself to take the ball all the way down the court and force up a poor shot. I know hes trying to be a leader but hes not the kind of player that can just put the team on his back and carry them all by himself. Because of Campbell doing this other players were not able to get involved in the second half. Darryl Monroe scored 14 points and at one point in the game scored 6 straight for Mason giving them a spark to even the game early in the first half. Unfortunately all his points came in the first half because for some reason the Patriots didn't want to go to someone with a hot hand once they got behind. The score of the game can almost be summed up when Folarin Campbell had 4 straight free throw attempts after being fouled and then Jesse Pellotrosa getting a technical foul for arguing it. Campbell made 1 out of the 4 shots and Mason squandered an opportunity to get back in the game. VCU got into foul trouble early which is usually a huge disadvantage for a team but not when the guys you are playing are shooting 43% from the free throw line; which by the way is terrible statistic even for a girls high school team.

VCU is the best team in the CAA and one of the best road teams in the country. Road wins are hard to come by for any college team and they seem to be doing it with ease. That is something that will definitely help them should they make the tournament. Walker and Maynor can shoot the lights out on any given night and will continue to give teams problems through February and March. Mason had their chances to get back into the game but its hard to come back from a team shooting the ball that good. Will Thomas did what he could be everyone knows hes going to get the ball when the team is behind, other guys need to make shots when he gets doubled. I think our team has more talent than VCU but that means nothing if you can't use those talents to exploit other teams weaknesses.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Patriots Taking Control

After yesterdays win against Northeastern the Patriots streak is now at five in a row. Five in the row that may not be against the best in the league but its a streak that the Patriots have been winning by an average of more than 20 points a game. They are clicking and doing it at the right time as their conference schedule starts to heat up. They will face VCU on Wednesday who are currently 8-0 in the conference and sit in 1st place. This will be a showdown in Fairfax that the Patriots must win to keep this streak going and climb into the top 4 in the conference standings. Will Thomas has been huge during this winning streak, connecting on 30 of 38 from the field over the last four games including 10 of 11 against Northeastern where he looked dominate. This is how I imagined Thomas playing all year and his teammates hitting shots from outside is what really has been opening things up for him. Jordan Carter is dishing out great assists on a nightly basis, Folarin Campbell has been hitting three pointers, and Darryl Monroe has been scoring in the post; everyone is starting to contribute consistently. This consistency is what has been fueling Mason's recent success and what they will need to keep going in order to win the conference. It was obvious in the beginning of the season that Campbell and Thomas cannot carry the team themselves and now they seem to understand that getting the other teammates involved is critical.

Wednesday night will be a great match-up of two teams that are hot and for once the pressure will not be on Mason. VCU is lead by the play of their guards who will definitely give Campbell, Carter and Smith some problems. That is why it will be important to get Will Thomas involved early as he should create some problems for the Rams. VCU has beaten 7 CAA teams so far, none of which had a post player as dominate as Thomas. We can expect to see double teams a lot and the way Mason's guards have been shooting that could really back fire for the Rams. The Rams are a good perimeter shooting team, which is what Mason has had trouble with so it will be important for them to hit their three pointers as well. I don't think VCU will have an answer for Will Thomas and his play will most likely be the difference in the game.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Are the Patriots coming together?

George Mason is on a three game winning streak in which their average margin of victory over UNCW, Towson, and JMU has been about 24 points. The Patriots are starting to resemble last years squad more and more each game; they are playing great defense and are not just relying on one or two guys to score points each night. Their scoring defense is tops in the CAA, last season the Patriots were ranked in the top 10 in the nation in this category at certain points in the season. Larranaga finally seems to have his patented scramble defense firing on all cylinders, steals are up, and opponents look flustered a lot more on offense then they did earlier this season. Another thing to note is that the Patriots have been shooting better, especially from three-point range. John Vaughan was able to get out of his slump and sink 4 threes on his way to 16 points against JMU. The combination of a home loss to William and Mary and a successful new starting lineup might have really kicked things into gear for the Patriots. Jordan Carter and Dre Smith are starting to show that they can make opposing teams pay if they double Thomas and leave them open. Carter has been very impressive as of late, shooting the ball well and coming up with steals that translate into fast breaks. Chris Fleming continues to show promise but suffered a bad sprain early in the JMU game and when he will return next is questionable. I really don't think Fleming can keep himself in the starting lineup, but for right now hes playing smarter than Urbina and Birdsong and thats enough to stay in Larranaga's good graces as the team keeps winning.

Can Mason keep this up? A three game winning streak is great but some of the luster is lost in the fact that the Patriots still haven't beaten a top opponent in the CAA yet. Drexel, ODU, Hofstra, and VCU all look great so far and Mason has already lost to two of these teams. But they did not play like they have been this past week in those losses. The good thing for Mason is that they a lot of important CAA home games left, which always plays into their favor. That being said Mason will still have to pull off some road victories to climb to the top of the conference which is starting to look very competitive with Hofstra and Drexel both losing recently.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

UNCW rout doesn't hide Mason's woes

Last season UNCW and Mason both earned NCAA tournament bids and were the cream of the crop in mid-major land; now they are fighting to stay out of the bottom of the CAA. The Patriots held UNCW to only two field goals the entire first half. Thats right, two! If not for Daniel Fountain's buzzer beating three pointer at the end of the half UNCW would have set the record for lowest FG% in a half since the shot clock was instituted. Whats even more amazing is that even as UNCW continued to play terrible in the second half Mason still shot only 36% from the field and scored just 55 points. Coach L chose an interesting starting lineup which included Jordan Carter and Chris Fleming who had career highs in minutes (21) and points (8). Is Fleming actually proving he can do more in the post than a 6'8" tree, or is UNCW really that bad this season? I mean a win is a win but you can't over look that neither Campbell nor Thomas were able to score more than 10 points against not only a bad a team, but a bad team on a terrible shooting night. Larranaga says the win is an indication that the "team is headed in the right direction". Really? Because watching this game shows me that Mason can only beat teams that beat themselves and that they continue to play down to the level of their competition. You can't even say that the team chemistry was better in this game because you had guys like Chris Fleming and Tim Burns playing who have rarely ever taken off their warm-ups during a game in their careers. That being said this win will at least lift some of the pressure these guys are facing and maybe just maybe we will see back to back wins sometime in the near future.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Patriots hit an all time low

Coach Jim Larranaga looked angry, confused and at times frustrated; something you would normally not see at a home game against William and Mary. Just how bad was this loss? Mason hadn't lost a home CAA game in nearly two years and hadn't lost to the Tribe at home in nine years. A Tribe team that had no players with significant height or bulk and only one player who averaged more than four rebounds a game yet they out rebounded Mason 34-21. Whats even more disturbing about that statistic is that the Tribe had 13 offensive rebounds and Mason had 3. That was the major difference in the second half. William and Mary would score on almost every possession because of all the second chance shots they got. Once again Mason played down to the level of the competition, much like their game against Cleveland State and Radford. Will Thomas was the only player scoring in the second half while the rest of the team pretty much just stood around and watched. Campbell somehow managed 6 assists and was 3-6 from the 3-point line but as a team they shot 6-23 from there. The shot selection was poor to say the least. I've said this before and I'll say it again, 3-point shooting is not this teams strength, so why are they taking 20+ attempts a game? Every time Mason would get a turnover they would run down the court and launch up a 3-pointer, miss and then William and Mary would get the rebound. Will Thomas could not be stopped down low, but he can't do everything himself. Birdsong and Monroe should be averaging a lot more points because of Thomas' double teams. Chemistry is still the main problem, the players aren't having fun and they need to learn to play to each others strengths and take every game seriously.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

From one Cinderella to Another

Oh that George Mason public relations department, aren't they worth every penny? How do you keep the whole Cinderella thing going? Easy, take out an advertisement in another Cinderella team's local newspaper wishing them luck before their bowl game! Maybe this gesture by Mason to Boise State was where they got the courage to call some of those trick plays they did at the end of the game last night. Boise State has been labeled the George Mason of college football, but sadly for them their run is over because their is still no playoff system in place. Maybe Boise State can help make sure that we do see a playoff system in the near future for college football. But forget the underdog stories, that was just a great game of football, one of the best ever. Did you see Ian Johnson smile after that statue of liberty play, he is definitely their Lamar Butler. I hope the Mason players watched that game and I hope it reminded them of last March. No doubt Boise State watched the NCAA tournament last year thought to themselves, hey why can't we do that? Its rare in college football that a mid-major can even get the chance to be in a situation like Boise State is, unlike college basketball where every DI team has a shot to win the national title, no matter what conference they come from. College football could learn a lot from college basketball's successes, but money and politics will always reign supreme with the big boys.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Patriots looking for a fresh start in '07

After being suffering a loss in their conference opener to Drexel and narrowly beating Mississippi State at home, the Patriots would like nothing more than to get a fresh start for 2007. Its that point in the season when your team should be developing team chemistry. I don't really see any from this team yet. Night in and night out I don't know what Patriot team is gonna show up; the team that runs the offense through Thomas in the low blocks or the team that doesn't protect the ball and then launches three point attempts every possession. The Drexel game could pretty much be summed up in the 2nd half when John Vaughan dribbled the ball off his foot which led to Dominick Mejia taking in the loose ball for an easy layup. That play was one of the many easy scoring opportunities that the Patriots basically gift wrapped for the Dragons. The Patriots were kept under 50 points after being down 30-28 at the half. The 2nd half was basically Drexel versus Will Thomas as he was the only Patriot who came to play apparently. Drexel has proven so far that they are the team to beat in the CAA and I believe they have the depth to keep it going into March.

That being said the Patriots did bounce back against Mississippi State after having less than 48 hours between games. Will Thomas again had another great game and led all scorers with 22 points. Thomas was doubled teamed as usual and this did create turnovers that let the Bulldogs stay close in the game, but he did seem like he was making better decisions as this happened. Dre Smith got another chance to show flashes of his athletic ability by tossing some no look passes and hitting a clutch three pointer late in the 2nd half. Something that Patriots did in this game that we haven't seen a lot of was driving to the lane, late in the game and getting to the free throw line. This really helped the Patriots close out the game and guys other than Campbell need to do it as well. John Vaughan had his lowest point total of the season scoring only 2. Vaughan has been generally consistent so far but lately he seems to be in a shooting funk. Hopefully a game against William and Mary coming up with fix that. Another continuing problem Mason has is the forward position next to Will Thomas. Birdsong didn't have a great game and managed only 3 points in 21 minutes. With Thomas getting doubled teamed this position gets freed up often but neither Birdsong nor Jesus Urbina have been able to profit from it. Urbina has great hustle in him but not much else, while Birdsong is still adjusting and learning the system. Monroe on the other hand continues to be useless and seems to get frustrated after every missed shot or foul. This position needs to get some stability or else the team chemistry is going to suffer more.

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