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George Mason Basketball

George Mason Basketball: November 2008

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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Mason takes down Ohio

The Patriots never trailed and Cam Long and Dre Smith each finished with 15 points yesterday in Fairfax. After leading but as much as 19 Mason did see their lead shrink somewhat but ended the game hitting 9 of their last 10 free throws to seal the deal. The Patriot's defense once again stole the show as points off turnovers helped set the tone and maintain a lead. Freshman Ryan Pearson and Andre Cornelius each logged 24 minutes in this game scoring 13 and 12 respectively. Starter Louis Birdsong saw the least amount of action of the season and finished with 1 point after fouling out; while Vlad Moldoveanu and Isaiah Tate did not enter the game. I am not sure why Coach Larranaga played such few guys, especially when there were some streaks of poor shooting. Perhaps they are not currently getting it done on the defensive end, something Pearson and Cornelius have been doing well so far. Darryl Monroe nearly missed another double-double as he finished with 11 points and 9 boards. Monroe wasn't needed much in the 1st half but I don't understand why they weren't going to him more once the Bobcats started to march back. The Patriots return to action Monday at Liberty, and it looks like the December 30th match-up against Dayton will be a real test before conference play.

Post-game interviews from CAAZone.com:





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Friday, November 28, 2008

ESPN tabs Mason recruiting class tops among Non-BCS schools

Some reading for you after a long day of Black Friday shopping.

George Mason, Rice lead non-BCS schools

"1. George Mason Patriots
Coach Jim Larranaga most certainly knows talent and is one of the best teachers in the business. This fall, Larranaga and his staff signed five excellent recruits who appear to have the talent to match that of the Patriots' 2005-06 dream team, which knocked off North Carolina and No. 1-rated Connecticut to advance to the 2006 NCAA Final Four. The chances that any team would repeat such a miraculous season are unlikely. But George Mason again should be one of the nation's elite mid-major programs and a dangerous team for high-majors to play.

Prominent among the newcomers is powerful athlete C/F Johnnie Williams (Eads, Tenn./Briarcrest Christian), a player who has the potential and intensity to become a future Will Thomas-type performer for Larranaga. Also signing were rugged 6-foot-7 PF Paris Bennett (Elizabeth, N.J./St. Patrick), textbook shooter and postgraduate wing Luke Hancock (Chatham, Va./Hargrave Military Academy), SG Rashad Whack (Forestville, Md./Bishop McNamara) and highly regarded Texas floor leader Vertrail Vaughns (Mesquite, Texas)."

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Second half surge leads Patriots to victory

The night did not start off as planned in this game as the Patriots came out flat. Shot selection was poor and Mason was just plain getting out hustled by Mount St. Mary's. Then Larranaga put in his star freshmen, Cornelius and Pearson, and the tide began to turn. The freshmen duo (still working on a nickname) provided a spark for the Patriots and instantly started hitting shots and making plays on both ends. Darryl Monroe on the other hand proved in this game that he doesn't need to be the leading scorer to be a huge factor for the Patriots. Monroe's low post passing was on point again last night setting up his teammates and doing all the little things necessary to get them back on track in the 2nd half. The low post scoring was greatly picked up in the 2nd half by Birdsong and Pearson who took advantage of the Mountaineers in the front court. Monroe, Birdsong, and Pearson had a combined 34 points and 21 rebounds, most of which coming in the 2nd half. John Vaughan scored 18 of his 22 in the 2nd half as well to lead the Patriots as their defense created much easier shots down the stretch. Through the first minute of the 2nd half Mount St. Mary's Jeremy Goode already had 20 points but then Mason only allowed him to score two more points before the final buzzer. This was another victory for the Patriots with a strong defensive effort complemented by support from their younger bench players. Imagine what this team would be like if Dre Smith was hitting more shots?


Pictures and post game interviews provided by CAAZone.com:



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Monday, November 24, 2008

Previewing Mount St. Mary's...

Mason faces their toughest out of conference opponent tomorrow night in Fairfax as they take on Mount St. Mary's. The Mountaineers return 4 starters from last year's NEC conference champions and NCAA tournament participant. They gave Virginia Tech a battle recently on the road and forced to Hokies to commit 20 turnovers. That was a week ago, so they have had a lot of down time, will that hurt them in this game? Mason on the other had has played twice since November 17th. The Mountaineers have a mix of seniors and juniors in their starting lineup but other than that they are a very young team depth wise. Guards Jeremy Goode and Jean Cajou (Fairfax, VA native) lead the way for Mount St. Mary's and have been shooting the ball well so far this season. Mason will have a significant size advantage as the Mountaineers don't have a player taller than 6'7", the true advantage for Mason will be between the guards. Hopefully Cam Long and John Vaughan can use their size advantage to create more opportunities for the Patriots. Darryl Monroe and Louis Birdsong will have to be a big part of the Patriots offense tomorrow night as the guards should have their hands full. Monroe (11.8 ppg 10.8 rpg) and Birdsong (10.5 ppg) have been the most consistent Patriots so far this season. Something else to watch for is to see if freshman Andre Cornelius has another strong showing from behind the arc. Cornelius has a chance to really give the Mountaineers trouble and can stretch the court while making plays on both ends. The Mountaineers play excellent defense and dating back to last season have held 11 of their last 13 opponents to under 70 points and held Virginia Tech to 33% shooting from the field.

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Cornelius leads Patriots over Pirates

Mason earned it's second road win last night, which compared to last season at this time, is impressive enough on it's own. But factor in that freshman guard Andre Cornelius put on a show and Mason fans should be a little less worried about the upcoming season. Cornelius drained five three-pointers while he and Birdsong finished with 19. Birdsong has been leading the way in scoring two straight games, something we did not see last season. It was great to see Mason get this victory without Monroe having a great night. Although the big man did finish with 9 points and 9 rebounds but was less involved down the stretch. Mason's guards needed to show up and make shots after the Hampton game diaster. Not only did they shoot the ball much better but they protected it as well, only surrending 8 turnovers. Defensively it was not their best of the season as they let the Pirates shoot over 45% from the field and hit 10 three-pointers. Sam Hinnant (27 pts) was large part of that as the Patriots struggled guarding him all night, constantly switching up who was defending him. The Patriots relied a little too much on their three-point shooting in this one but proved that when they are on they can be very dangerous from long range. John Vaughan and Dre Smith are not really leading this team as they should. Meaning, when the Patriots needed a score they didn't get it from either of those two. Cornelius and Birdsong were a lot more clutch in this game and I don't know if that's a good thing or not. When have the Patriots ever relied on younger talent over their seniors? Dre improved from the three-point line which is great, let's hope this continues. All in all another impressive road victory for this young Patriot squad.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Previewing East Carolina...

The Patriots don't have time to sulk after their loss to Hampton because they hit the road again Saturday to play another Pirate team. East Carolina returns only one starter this season but has had no trouble scoring points in their first three games averaging over 83 a contest. This doesn't bode well for Mason who last night had trouble reaching 20 in the first half. But the Pirates are a young team like Mason, having 9 out of their 11 players in their first or second year. The team's only returning starter, Sam Hinnant, has been leading the squad so far averaging 17 ppg. Backcourt mate James Legan has been scoring 17.7 a night, while sophomore point guard Brock Young has been averaging over 7 assists. In the front court Chad Wynn (6'10" 240) will give Darryl Monroe his first challenge of the season. Wynn is a bruiser but not a huge rebounding threat. Freshman Darrius Morrow is another big fella (6-8, 250) who could make things difficult for the young Mason forwards. Mason boasts a much more athletic front court which they will need to use to their advantage if we see another poor shooting night from the guards.

Mason can win this game if:

...they do the exact opposite of what they did offensively last night! Meaning, they have to shoot the ball well and the guards have to be more involved from the start of the game. Darryl Monroe needs to take more than 5 shots in this game, he can be a huge factor with East Carolina's lack of front court depth. Defense has not been an issue yet this season and with Coach L it usually never is. The Patriots need to drown down East Carolina's offense and make them play their style of basketball.

Mason will lose this game if:

...they get themselves into a run and gun type of game. After such a poor shooting display, the last thing the Patriots need to do is get into an up-tempo, high scoring game. I don't think Mason can go toe-to-toe offensively with a team that has been scoring this much. If the Patriots have another sloppy night full of turnovers and fouls they will all but hand this game over to ECU and this time they will lose by more than 6.

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About last night...

Just how poorly did the Patriots play last night?
  • They did not score a FG for nearly 11 minutes to start the game
  • 23 turnovers to 4 assists (wow)
  • 33% FG
  • 2-17 from the 3-pt line
  • they only got to the free throw line for 7 attempts
  • Andre Cornelius (22 min) and Ryan Pearson (10 min) had a combined 2 points
  • Even Gomason.com can't believe it: "To say that Mason's offense started off slowly would be like saying clowns wear a little makeup."
Mason was able to spoil a great defensive effort by not being able to hit the broad side of a barn last night. The Patriots did not allow a Pirate player to reach double digits and held the team to under 40% shooting from the field. They did not give up three-pointers and out rebounded Hampton, but you know the night isn't going well when Louis Birdsong is your leading scorer. Monroe had a decent night in the paint with 11 points and 11 rebounds, imagine what he would have done had any of the guards made a shot! In a poor shooting night you would think guys would start driving to the lane and getting fouls hoping to at least get points from the free-throw line, but that didn't happen. What's interesting about this is that entering this season I would have expected Mason's forwards to struggle and the guards to be carrying the team but lately it's seems the opposite is happening. Last night was a game were the Patriots needed guys like Dre Smith and John Vaughan to hit shots from the outside. The freshmen are going to struggle in road games, we saw this last year with Cam Long and Vlad. As good as Pearson and Cornelius might end up being this year, they aren't going to carry the team when they are down in road games like this.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Lamar Butler back in the states

Final Four alum and poster boy Lamar Butler is back in the states after a brief stint overseas. Apparently Butler has been invited to a training camp for the NBA Developmental League (D-League) team, the Colorado 14ers. In case your wondering what a 14er is, check here, because I didn't believe it either. Now I know this move isn't for money because you basically make more working the night shift at McDonalds than you do as a D-League player, so Lamar must still think he has a shot at the NBA. Each D-League team has two NBA affiliates and the 14ers are with the Denver Nuggets and the New Jersey Nets. Fellow CAA alum Jose Juan Barea, now with the Dallas Mavericks, took the D-League root to the NBA successfully so seeing Butler make it to the big show might not be so far fetched. I had always thought of Lamar as a pure shooter with a lot of defensive intensity. He's undersized for a shooting guard in the NBA and doesn't quite have the skill set to be a point guard. It will be interesting to see if this develops into anything for him, I'll be watching Lamar.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Previewing Hampton...

The Patriots travel down south this Thursday to face Hampton, a team that has lost a lot of scoring power since the fight they put up last December. They do however return Rashad West who scored 22 in that game last season and was All-MEAC but did not play in the first game this year. West, along with junior guard Vincent Simpson will provide most of the team's scoring, while getting little help. Hampton does have some size on it's roster, with three players standing 6-10, but none of them have any experience. Mason's athletic forwards should not have much trouble in this match-up but will have to be careful of the Pirates shot-blockers. Perimeter defense might not be the Patriots point of emphasis in this game, as Hampton only made one three-pointer in their first game against Iona which they only managed 46 points. Look for Mason's young forwards, Pearson and Morrison, to get more playing time in this one as they did against Brown. Something to keep an eye is if the Patriots can keep up the impressive shooting from behind the arc we saw on Monday night.

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Post Game Media from Brown game










Pictures from Flickr and Caazone.com

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Freshmen shine as Mason routs Brown

It was a great night. Not just because Mason won big but because they have a new mascot. Who apparently doesn't have a name yet, and Mason is opening it up to suggestions. Really a work of art compared to his predecessor.

video

Now about the game. Mason took control early, creating steals and opportunities for their guards. Darryl Monroe was big in the low post but not needed much. John Vaughan (18pts) , Dre Smith, and even big Vlad shot the ball well from behind the arc. Even walk-on Jimmy Nolan nailed a three-pointer. But the most exciting thing to watch was freshman Mike Morrison (15 pts), who like Ryan Pearson on Saturday looked very comfortable for a freshmane forward. Morrison is long, very long; and can move well for his size. It was encouraging to see Vlad and Birdsong play well after a poor showing in Vermont. But really the difference in talent level from the new freshmen and the current role players on Mason is already starting to show. Mike Morrison's emphatic dunk on a pass from Andre Cornelius is a sign of things to come. It is really going to be exciting seeing this kind of young talent play against the CAA's best. I can't wait.

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Previewing Brown...

Big night for Mason basketball, first home game, CAA champions banner to be raised, and the unveiling of a new athletic mascot. All this after coming off an impressive down the wire road victory to start off the new season. Fans should be glowing with excitement to see such a road victory when thinking back to how terrible some away games have been the last two seasons. Fans should also be gitty over the play so far from freshman Andre Cornelius and Ryan Pearson, who were inserted into the lineup early on Saturday and didn't look like they were playing their first Division I game. Darryl Monroe's play was probably the most exciting thing for Mason fans to see as he gives reason to think the front court won't be a glaring weakness this year.

Now on to Brown. This Ivy league team is not something to overlook, really no team can be who runs the Princeton offense and plays a lot of man-to-man defense. Brown was picked to finish fifth in the Ivy and on paper they don't look like much, especially in their front court. But for whatever it's worth the Bears lost to Rhode Island by 2 on Friday, the same Rhode Island team that nearly upset Duke last night. The Bears have a decent amount of size on their roster and they can roll out a starting five with players from 6-5 to 6-9. Look for Brown to stay mostly on the perimeter because of their lack of post players and try to take advantage like Randolph-Macon did. Darryl Monroe should have another big night, which will open things up for Mason's guards to hopefully have a better night from behind the three-point line.

Mason will win this game because:

...Darryl Monroe and Ryan Pearson should have their way down in the posts, which will take the pressure off guards John Vaughan and Dre Smith. Depth is another issue that will help the Patriots in this game, especially with the strong play from the freshmen.

Brown can upset Mason if:

...they play a very disciplined, up-tempo, Princeton style of offense and create confusion for the younger inexperienced Mason players. If ran the right way, the Princeton style of offense can help a team like Brown hide their front court weakness and make a team play out of their realm.

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Vermont Post Game Media

Here are two videos, one with some game highlights and the other is a post game interview with Vermont Coach Mike Lonergan.




Pictures from the Burlington Free Press:





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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Clutch free throws by Monroe seal the deal for Mason

Darryl Monroe had ice water in his veins and knocked down two free throws to tie and then win the game for the Patriots with .7 seconds to go in overtime. Mason's defense proved to be the difference maker as they forced a 5 second rule inbounds turnover to set up Monroe's final two free-throws. What a way to end it. Monroe finished the game with 16 points and 13 rebounds while playing 38 minutes. Andre Cornelius (9 pts) and Ryan Pearson (13 pts) were stellar in their debuts while Dre Smith and Louis Birdsong struggled. The game opened up very sloppy with both teams turning over the ball and lot and taking fouls. The three-point shooting was awful for both squads and the shot selection left most fans head scratching, but at the end of the 1st half Isaiah Tate nailed a three-pointer to give the Patriots their first lead. From that point on you knew it was going to be a dog fight.
The escape from Vermont with a win could not have happened without the exceptional play from Mason's prized freshmen. Cornelius and Pearson were inserted into the game early and contributed right away not showing their inexperience. John Vaughan had wrist problems from last weeks scrimmage at Georgetown that carried over into this game. Vaughan, Long, Cornelius, and Smith were featured in a four guard lineup often, something similar to what Larranaga was running at the end of last season. The lineup proved to be pretty effective and Mason was still able to out rebound Vermont. Marqus Blakely had his 20 and 10 but John Vaughan's defense on Mike Trimboli proved to be the difference down the stretch. I had stated yesterday that Blakely was going to have a big game and there was no stopping him and for the Patriots to win they would have to contain the rest of Vermont's perimeter players. Mason did just that and held the Catamounts offense in check when it mattered.

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Previewing Vermont...

So finally we are only a mere 27 hours away from the start of another George Mason basketball season. Expectations might not be as high this year and there certainly are a lot of question marks on this squad, but doesn't that just make it more fun to watch? First up for Mason on the road will be the Vermont Catamounts from the American East conference. A mid-major team usually in contention for the American East auto-bid stumbled a little last season due to injuries and basically had a different starting lineup each week. This season they expected to be back atop of their conference and it all starts with junior forward standout Marqus Blakely. Blakely was conference and defensive player of the year (19 ppg, 11 rpg, 2.7 bpg) despite being hobbled with ankle problems all season. Blakely dominated the frontcourt of UNCW last season with 19 points and 19 rebounds and could pose serious trouble for Darryl Monroe and Louis Birdsong. Hopefully the Patriots will prevent him doing this. Another player to watch for the Catamounts is Michigan State transfer Maurice Joseph who is returning from offseason shoulder surgery and could be an excellent complement to Blakely. Point guard Mike Trimboli was second on the team in scoring last season but struggled with turnovers, something Larranaga will be looking to exploit. The Patriots didn't look to hot exploiting anything against Randolph-Macon and their lack of perimeter defense was well, awful.

The Patriots will win the game if:

...they limit everyone else besides Blakely and create turnovers for their faster, more athletic backcourt. I don't see the Patriots stopping Blakely in the low-post. It's questionable how recovered and in shape Monroe is from missing all of last season, while Birdsong and Fleming are prone to foul trouble against players like Blakely. The speed and athletisim of guards John Vaughan, Dre Smith and Cam Long will be Mason's strength all season long and these guys need to get going early.

The game will get ugly for the Patriots if:

...their forwards get into early foul trouble and give up too many uncontested three-pointers. Blakely is probably going to have a big game, but the Patriots can't make his day easier by letting his teammates drain three's all day. Also it will be important to keep what little experienced forwards the team has in the game and not fouled out on the bench. Monroe is the best rebounder on the team and will have a difficult time vying against Blakely on the boards, it's very important he stays out of foul trouble late.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thursday Bullets

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

MASN releases it's schedule

MASN released it's college basketball schedule for the upcoming season, and it looks like they have the Patriots slated for 7 games. Not too bad, although I wish more road games were televised.
Tue, 11/25/08 Mt. St. Mary's @ George Mason 7:00pm
Mon, 12/1/08 George Mason @ Liberty 7:00pm
Fri, 12/19/08 Radford @ George Mason 7:00pm
Sat, 1/3/09 UNC-Wilmington @ George Mason 7:00pm
Wed, 1/21/09 George Mason @ Northeastern 7:00pm
Wed, 2/25/09 George Mason @ UNC-Wilmington 7:00pm
Sat, 2/28/09 Towson @ George Mason 8:00pm

Monday, November 10, 2008

Gunston is done. Now what?

George Mason has officially closed the door on Gunston the mascot. Gomason.com has a short video stating he is "graduating" and to check back tomorrow for more details. So what exactly are the plans for Mason's new mascot? Dare I say an actual Patriot or Patriot-like character? Really I wouldn't mind seeing a contest where the student body was polled and ideas could be submitted, but it seems that something is already made up and will be revealed Monday the 17th at the first home game.

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UPDATE: 11/11/08
Check out the end of this video Mason has put out. Apparently this creature pictured is going to be the mascot going around doing all the community stuff, not the athletic mascot. Mason just can't get enough of furry green guys can they? Not impressed. I am still scared for Monday.



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Sunday, November 09, 2008

Gunston on his way out?

Yes yes oh god yes. Gunston is on his way out. I don't have all the details but at the first home game (11/17) a new mascot will be revealed in some capacity. Long time readers of this blog know well of my hatred towards Gunston.

Will the new mascot resemble actually resemble a Patriot and not a green blob? Stay tuned.

UPDATE 11/10: New video on Gomason.com. Gunston is apparently "graduating".

Thursday, November 06, 2008

About last night...

Really not much to read into about last night's exhibition game. Although the loss to Randolph-Macon has made D3hoops.com headlines! I mean really it's an exhibition game, it's doesn't count. It was a glorified scrimmage and you could see how serious Coach L was taking the outcome of the game when he inserted freshmen Andre Cornelius and Ryan Pearson late in the second half with the score close. Great to see those guys getting minutes. The rumor I posted yesterday about Kevin Foster redshirting seems to be true considering he didn't play last night nor did he participate in the pre-game warm-ups. The one thing that does upset me from last night was the poor defending around the perimeter. The Yellow Jackets shot over 45% from behind the arc in the 1st half and then 70% in the second. Wow. After getting blasted by Notre Dame's three point shooting last March you really kind of think this would be a point of emphasis, especially when you are playing a team with zero inside prescence. It wasn't even that Mason shot the ball poorly last night (48.3 FG%) but turnovers were a problem (10 in first half). A learning game for the Patriots, who should at least be lucky some of there weaknesses were exposed now and not at Vermont.

What's your take on the new uniforms?


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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Freshman Kevin Foster to redshirt?

On the day of Mason's exhibition tune up against Randolph-Macon, there are some rumors floating around Mason nation that freshman Kevin Foster might be redshirted this season. I can't confirm this yet and it is difficult to speculate whether this would be because of academics, injury or player development. Keep in mind recruiting website Rivals.com had him tabbed as the best power forward enterting the CAA this season. Although this isn't too shocking considering the depth Mason has at forward and fellow freshman Michael Morrison is better developed physically and had a much better showing in the Kenner summer league. Redshirting freshmen is something more common with bigger programs, mostly because they have the luxury of letting a talented kid with raw talent watch from the sidelines for a year. But this is a unique situation for the Patriots who haven't seen a player get redshirted for a non-medical reason since Jon Larranaga during the 98-99 season. If Foster isn't redshirted he would have a difficult time getting on the court this season. With the progression of both Vlad Moldoveanu and Chris Fleming coming off the bench for Louis Birdsong and Darryl Monroe, Foster would seem to be the odd man out. Freshman Ryan Pearson is more versatile than Foster and can also play the 3, while Michael Morrison's defensive prescence in the middle will demand playing time. The move, if true, would make sense to me and could pay dividends in a few years for the program.

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