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George Mason Basketball

George Mason Basketball: December 2008

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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

No Fly Zone

Rob Lowery of Dayton stole the show late in the 2nd half to prevent the Patriots from upsetting the Flyers on their home court. The same court not too long ago Mason started it's historic run in the 2006 tournament. The depth of Dayton's squad came on when they needed to and thwarted Dre Smith's big night. Dre finished with 22 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals, and hit 4 three-pointers. Definitely the Dre Smith we had hoped to see this season. Cam Long was also stellar running the point and finished with 15 points but more importantly he looked very poised on the road in a hostile environment. The difference in the game to me was that fact that Dayton's big front court really prevented Mason from getting any help out of Monroe and Birdsong late in the game. Freshmen Andre Cornelius and Ryan Pearson were not factors and made a couple of rookie mistakes, especially Cornelius. We saw Chris Fleming get some minutes with Vlad being gone and let's hope those minutes decrease. If not for the great play by the guards Mason would not have been in this game late. It's frustrating to watch a team unfold late in the game after leading for almost the entire 2nd half but let's face it, this is the best we have seen Mason play on the road this season. Now I'm not one for "moral victories", a loss is a loss but at least this game makes me a little bit more confident about our upcoming CAA schedule. I know many of you we probably thinking a win at Dayton would almost guarantee an NCAA tournament berth coupled with a decent conference record but keep in mind there's a lot of season left to play and Mason is playing just as good if not better than the rest of the CAA right now.





Pictures taken by Erik Shelkun of daytonflyers.cstv.com

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Monday, December 29, 2008

Previewing Dayton...

So it's come to this: Mason's chance to add a marquee win to their resume before conference play kicks into full gear. The Flyers are without a doubt going to be the most talented and well-rounded squad the Patriots have faced to date. They are deep and much like the Patriots squad they aren't depending on one guy every night. Someone to keep an eye on is Chris Wright, who is a 6'8" forward and is wildly athletic, creating problems on both ends of the floor. To understand more of what I mean, watch this youtube:

Dayton's bread and butter is their defense and rebounding, while they struggle with three-point shooting. In their win over Auburn they went 0-for-24 from behind the arch. Wow. Could this be an advantage for the Patriots? We have seen lesser talented squads creep back into games because of three-point shooting. The Flyers play an up tempo style at times and things could get ugly for the Patriots if they try to match that tempo running up and down the court. I don't think Mason can go toe-to-toe with Dayton if it's an up tempo game, the Flyers are much more athletic.

For further analysis of the Flyers, I had a little Q&A session with a Dayton blogger from The Blackburn Review.

1. Most of us have seen what Chris Wright can do, who else should Mason fans keep a close eye on from this deep Dayton squad?

"Honestly, I am not going to blow smoke up your ass (unless you pay me). The U of D is not sporting the most potent offensive arsenal in the country right now. Chris Johnson and Marcus Johnson are the two most likely candidates to take over if Wright is having an off night on the offensive end. Wright is not scoring in the fashion that most Flyer fans anticipated he would this season. Outside of dunks and getting to the stripe, Wright's scoring ability seems to be rather limited in this early stage of his career. He really needs to develop a more effective outside game to take his game to the next level. Dayton currently thrives on defense and rebounding. They currently are second in the nation in defensive field goal percentage, holding opponents to 33.5% shooting from the floor. The Flyers, although very athletic, are not a flashy group. They definetely bring a blue-collar whiskey-drinkin' common-law-wife-beatin' work ethic to each game. They are more likely to open up for Menudo than impress you with their perimeter shooting."

2. What kind of coach is Brian Gregory?

"He is warm and cuddly. Standing at just 4'9", Gregory will not physically intimidate anyone. However, he has a mean streak and is capable of just about anything. BG is a fierce competitor who has brought Dayton's recruiting success to a new level. An unsubstantiated report from last year stated that Gregory defecated down the chimney of an opposing coach who was allegedly employing shady recruiting tactics to steal local talent. This charge was never proven as the DNA results were inconclusive."

3. What would you say is the Flyers biggest strength this season?

"Again, their defense and rebounding. Dayton seems content to blindly throw the ball against the backboard, grab the rebound, miss an easy lay-up, get another offensive board and eventually place it within the inviting confines of the rim. This team thinks of offense as a necessary evil and believes that the three point line is made of the remains of serial killers. Dayton's previosly non-sensical substitution patterns are finally paying off this year, as Gregory can continually sub in fresh bodies to physically impose their will on defense. The ride back to Fairfax will smell of Ben-Gay and unrelenting fear."


4. In Dayton's win over Auburn earlier this season they went 0-for-24 from the three-point line, would it suffice to say their biggest weakness is outside shooting?

"That would be an understatement. To put that number in perspective, you could probably pull a half-drunk 60 year-old Filipino fisherman out of the crowd to shoot half-court shots at halftime Tuesday night, and I would almost guarantee that he would hit one within 24 tries. The sheer embarrassment of that performance, albeit a win, is unmatched. Even looking at it now, I can help but die a little inside. Flyers fans want to pretend that game never happened, but I say we should never forget the horrors of that brisk night in Chicago. Time heals all wounds, but until another school goes 0-25 from the arc, we will have to wear a scarlet T, for turrrrrrrible, on our letter jackets."

5. What would the Patriots have to do to win this game?

"Limit turnovers and hit their open looks. Dayton will do their part to score in low numbers, Mason must retaliate by having a decent night on offense. UD has a tendency to over-pursue on defense which results in open looks from the outside. If Mason can control the pace of the game and not turn the ball over in bunches, the Patriots have a good chance at coming out of UD Arena with a shiny W."


6. What's your prediction for this game?

"My prediction is a close victory, between 5-8 points, for the boys in red and blue. Dayton will pull away in the last ten minutes of the game, miss enough foul shots down the stretch to keep Mason within striking distance, and eventually will make a play or two to keep it out of reach for good. Dayton will outrebound Mason by at least 10 boards and force between 15-20 turnovers. A child will be conceived in one of the men's bathrooms after the game."

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Vlad Moldoveanu is transferring...

Just saw this today from Jeff Goodman's blog over on foxsports.com:
"Just got word from a source close to the situation that George Mason 6-foot-10 sophomore Vlad Moldoveanu is transferring.

Moldoveanu is averaging 2.3 points and 2.1 rebounds per game this season - identical numbers to what he put up as a freshman a year ago while playing about a dozen minutes per game."
Not real shocking considering how Vlad's playing time hasn't improved since he was a freshman and let's face it he doesn't play defense or rebound enough to be a true Larranaga guy. Maybe it would have been different if he started hitting three's like everyone (including me) kept saying he was capable of. I don't think he fits in Coach L's system and he probably feels he can make an impact somewhere else.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Mason to play GW in 2009

Finally, some local rivalry games. I have always thought it was ridiculous that there are never any good local games between all the great college teams in our area (Maryland, Georgetown, GW, even American). This is from the Washington Post:
"George Mason has a tentative agreement to play at George Washington next season and host the Colonials in 2010-11, Patriots Athletic Director Tom O'Connor said. The teams have met only 10 times, most recently in 1998."
This a great step in the right direction to hopefully getting more local rivalry games in the future. Gary Williams won't be bringing his Terps to the Patriot Center any time soon but hopefully we are moving closer to that day.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Mason grinds out win over Tulane

Ugly, boring, and somewhat frustrating but still a victory for the Patriots last night. Mason shot 29 percent in the second half of this game and made 1 of 11 three-pointers. The one positive stat in this game besides the final score was that Mason had 9 steals and only 10 turnovers. Forwards Darryl Monroe and Ryan Pearson (5 offensive rebounds) helped keep the Patriots ahead for most of the game. John Vaughan had another good night with 16 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 steals. But it was another night were we saw poor shot selection (and numerous air-balls) and some inexcusable turnovers that let a weaker team hang around against the Patriots. Some good free-throw shooting helped Mason seal the victory but the team still saw a 12-point lead vanish at home, very rare. Louis Birdsong had somewhat of an off night and looked like he had a slight ankle or knee problem. Reserves Isaiah Tate and Vlad Moldoveanu continue to not produce from the bench, while Chris Fleming did not dress for the game.


Photos taken by Allen Clark (www.offwing.com)

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Mason receives vote in AP Poll

The AP poll was just released and apparently someone else besides us fans thinks the Patriots are playing some good basketball right now. Although it may seem shocking at first, keep in mind that it would not be a surprise to see the two teams we lost to (Hampton and Liberty) ending up in the NCAA tournament come March. Personally I do not think we have accomplished enough to be mentioned in the same breath as some of the teams even near the bottom of the Top 25, but hey bragging rights are fun.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Mason takes down Radford

Mason beat Radfornd Friday night to stay unbeaten at home and over .500 all-time. After looking rusty in the 1st half, the Patriots came alive late with the help of Cam Long (Cam Ward to ESPN apparently) who at one point scored 9 straight points to spur a Patriots run in the 2nd half. Long played the way I had hoped he would be playing all along this season. He is still not exactly a floor general but he's starting to learn how to set up his teammates better. Dre Smith looked as if he found his shooting touch, somewhat, as he and John Vaughan connected on a couple of three-pointers. Interesting about this win is Darryl Monroe finished with zero points and Andre Cornelius only 3. These guys have been key players in Mason's home games and they were not effective against less athletic players on Radford. But the good news despite that is the starting guards all played well and hit shots when the team needed them. Good to see big Vlad back after missing a few games due to injury.

Pictures from CAAZone.com:


Pictures from Allen Clark of the Off Wing Opinion:


Post game interviews:





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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Previewing Radford...

Fresh off a break from action due to finals, the Patriots take the floor tomorrow night against Radford. Let's hope they did some fine-tuning over the break and start out strong against a delpleted Radford squad that has already seen three players leave the team this season. The Highlanders have been wildly inconsistent this season (sound familiar) including almost upseting UVA but then being blown out by William & Mary. Kenny Thomas leads the way for them and so far he has connected on 25 of 58 three-point attempts (.431). In three games this season he has hit four or more treys. Not really exciting news considering the Patriots have been yielding opponents to shoot over 32% from behind the arch so far. Along with Thomas, Radford boasts a 6-11 center, Artsiom Parakhouski from Belarus, who lacks overall basketball talent but has shown success rebounding in the paint averaging over 9 rebounds a contest. Mason's vastly more athletic front court should be able to counter and prevent him from giving the Highlanders second chance baskets. It could be a big day for Monroe, Birdsong, and Pearson collectively as Radford's guards will keep Mason's backcourt busy.

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Take a look back at the highlights from Mason's games so far this year.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Mason recruit written up on ESPN

Johnnie Williams, probably the incoming freshman next season I am most excited about, gets a little press here from ESPN.com. They list him as a surprise player at Marshall County's Hoopfest event in Kentucky:
"Williams is a strong and physical post player who has the ability to step out and knock down jumpers to about 15 feet. He competes and plays with urgency at all times. He is a good athlete who finishes above the rim with authority. He runs the floor consistently, and in the half court, he is a low-post scoring threat. Williams can score with drops from either side of the lane and he does a great job working for post position and giving the post feeder a big target. On the left low box, Williams likes the quick turn shot. He has excellent hands and finishes drop-off passes created by guard penetration. Williams can finish through contact and he works to rebound on both ends of the floor. He made his presence felt the entire game. On defense, he is pretty good at anticipating post feeds and releasing contact to make a play on the ball. Williams must continue to develop his post package and his perimeter skills, but he has great upside and should be a contributor at George Mason right away."
Thanks to everyone that sent this in.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Mason holds off Drexel

Well it was not pretty but the Patriots escaped from the DAC with a victory. A victory that easily could have been a melt-down in the closing seconds as Drexel, down by three with three seconds remaining saw Scott Rogers drive to the basket (going for 2, not 3 mind you) and get intentionally fouled by Darryl Monroe. The result gave Rogers two free throws and then possession back to the Dragons. I don't know what was more of a dumb move, Rogers driving the lane as time was expiring when down by three or Monroe bailing him out for the dumb move by horse-collar tackling him. After the Patriots started off the second half on a 17-4 run you would have thought the Patriots offensive fire power was too much for Drexel, but they responded with their own run late in the game. The Dragons, who have had trouble putting points on the board this season, made the Patriots play their style of grind it out basketball. With no real star power on offense that was really the only way they were going to come out on top and coach Bruiser Flint knew that. The Patriots started out the second half flying up and down the court and scoring points off turnovers but that was quickly subsided by the Dragon's defense. Despite this, Mason still protected the ball well and had a balance attack as eight of nine players who entered the game scored. Usually that is the formula for success for Larranaga but poor rebounding really killed a lot of chances for Mason and gave Drexel a lot of second chance points late in the game. Forwards Darryl Monroe and Louis Birdsong were more involved in this one but I still feel like we could have saw more from them late in the game. John Vaughan and Dre Smith continue to start off games flat and it hurts the Patriots on the road. Dre is currently 7 for 41 from the three-point line, how long before Andre Cornelius is starting over him? Despite still making some rookie mistakes, Cornelius has still looked really good so far. Against the Dragons he was blowing past defenders all day long and really showcasing his speed. He's one of the quickest guard in the CAA and I believe it's only a matter of time before he starts to take over games.

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

Previewing Drexel...

The Patriots hit the road for their first CAA game this weekend at Drexel. The Dragon's are coming off a dreadful CAA campaign last season and return only two starters this season. It's difficult to assess them so far this year because they have only played three games, with their one loss being an 83-51 drubbing from Georgetown. With Tramayne Hawthorne returning, the team looks to be more of a perimeter shooting squad, but through the first three games Hawthorne is only 6 for 29 from the three-point line. Their shooting from the field has not been much better (.305) and they been averaging under 60 points a contest thus far. They start two guards who are under 6-feet tall, could that be an advantage for the Patriots or a window for them to launch up more bricks early in the game? While the Dragon's front court presence basically disappeared with the graduation of Frank Elegar, they still have a size advantage there and have been rebounding well. With that in mind, Monroe and Birdsong have been the most consistent Patriots to date and Ryan Pearson seems to be coming into his own. Those three could very well be the difference in this game as John Vaughan and Dre Smith continue to struggle on the road. Drexel doesn't have any Seth Currys in their lineup but they are well coached and Mason will have to limit the turnovers. Giving the ball up like we saw at Liberty is basically the only way Mason could let this game slip away. An up-tempo game could favor the Patriots as they have much more scoring power then the Dragons.

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Post Game Media from Liberty game

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Video highlights and pictures from libertyflames.com

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About last night...

The Patriots suffered their second loss of the season last night at Liberty and all I can say is Stephen Curry and his younger brother seem to have that same clutch ability late in games. Seth Curry not only hit a three-pointer late in the second half, from what seemed like mid-court, but he hit a jumper and two free-throws in the last 41 seconds of overtime to power the the Flames to victory. Did I mention he was a freshman? Liberty connected on 11 for 34 from three-point range while Mason started off the game going 0 for 9 from there. It seems to me that every Mason game starts off the same: a burage of three-point misses. Sure it's great when they actually connect on some of them, like at the Ohio game, but on the road every miss that early in the game seems to let the momentum swing to the home team. Liberty had no depth or authority at the forward position and Louis Birdsong started to exploit that after the Patriots were down early, but why wasn't Monroe more involved in the offense? Dre Smith was playing so poorly he was pulled for most of the first half and freshman Andre Cornelius seemed to commit a foul every minute. Ryan Pearson, who was named CAA rookie of the week again, was way too erratic down low and threw up some interesting shots. Meanwhile the only Mason guard that was having a decent night was Cam Long, who finished with a career-high 18 points, 9 rebounds, but only 3 assists. It was another game where Mason had the rebounding edge but failed to really establish an inside game. Monroe needs to be taking more than 7 shots a game. Period.

Side note: Apparently Vlad Moldoveanu didn't make the trip due to some injury, more details to follow.

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