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George Mason Basketball

George Mason Basketball: December 2010

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Mason comes up short in Dayton

George Mason lost to Dayton in front of a sell out crowd last night 73-67 despite great efforts from Cam Long and Andre Cornelius.  It was one of the worst shooting nights from the field for the Patriots this season yet there were in this game until the closing minutes. Cam Long kept them in the game hitting shots and making plays when they needed it.  Andre Cornelius was hot from the three-point line (5-of-8) but fizzled a little in the second half.  Mason hurt early when Mike Morrison made his usual early 1st half exit due to two quick fouls.  When he returned in the 2nd half he was down right awful.  Ryan Pearson, despite scoring 13 points missed way too many easy shots and threw up some other questionable ones.  Defensively the Patriots weren't quite prepared for a team like Dayton that had the ability to score in a variety of ways.  They had no answer for forward Chris Johnson, who despite playing with an injured groin scored 18 points.  Chris Wright was all over the floor grabbing 9 rebounds and adding 13 points.  For some reason Mason attempted to go right at him with Ryan Pearson in the low post, that resulted in Pearson going 3-for-10 from the field and often killing any runs they tried to amount.  Luke Hancock still doesn't seem a 100% to me with his shoulder injury/soreness. He had a very respectable night scoring 8, getting 5 rebounds and 5 assists but they really needed him to complement Cam Long's scoring in the 2nd half.

A couple things stood out last night that shows the Patriots aren't quite there yet in teams of beating the better teams out there.  First off they need more production from their bench and not just in scoring.  Paris Bennett and Jonathan Arledge aren't always up for playing solid defense. Arledge is aggressive but not really that smart of a defender right now.  Getting no points Isaiah Tate and Vertrail Vaughns is very disappointing when we have seen how they can change a game with their three-point shooting.  Another issue for Mason last night was there rebounding, although they didn't get killed in the category on the final box score they really lost the battle in the beginning of this game.  Their poor rebounding efforts in the 1st half trumped their 44% FG shooting and let Dayton take the lead at the half. And lastly Dayton got to the free-throw line with ease most of the game and really made the Patriots pay for it. In the first half the Flyer were 10-10 from the line and finished the game going 23-for-31 from there, that's just too many points to give up.  Mason got their fair share of free-throws, some on some questionable calls but they couldn't take advantage as much as they needed to.  The Flyers had a lot of players in foul trouble but Mason failed to really take advantage.  


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Q & A with a Dayton blogger

For the last two years we have had Q & A sessions with the Dayton bloggers over at the site The Blackburn Review. This year is no different as the Patriots look to close out 2010 with another road victory over the A10.  Dayton is always a different type of animal for the Patriots to face with wildly athletic forwards Chris Wright and Chris Johnson causing match-up problems. I should mention that the Dayton Daily news says Johnson is questionable for tomorrow's game so keep an eye on that story.  However the Flyers have been inconsistent this year, to say the least.  They already had some embarrassing losses which include a home loss to East Tennessee State and a beat down from Cincinnati that ended up with no Dayton players finishing in double figures and the team collectively going 12-for-60 from the field, yikes. And let's not forget their two point victory over Savannah State  who don't currently have any Division I victories yet. But despite their inconsistent play they nearly escaped ODU with a victory not too long ago.  Mason can win this game if they force Dayton into one of their bad shooting nights but it won't be easy.  

Here is my exchange with The Blackburn Review:

This game is a highlight on Mason's schedule as their out of conference opponents have been less than exciting so far. They haven't really faced a team yet with weapons like Chris Wright and Chris Johnson. How much have these guys improved over the last year?

Blackburn Review: The words “player development” and “Brian Gregory” are rarely, if ever, used in the same sentence. You’d be hard-pressed to name a player that steadily improved over his four years at UD. Most players appear to hit a ceiling somewhere during their junior year and never improve.

As far as the Chrises go, Wright hasn’t progressed much as a basketball player since he stepped on campus as a freshman; he remains a superior athlete with questionable roundball aptitude (If he was smart he’d call up Antonio Gates and begin training for the NFL immediately. Wright would make a tasty target in the red-zone as a tight-end). Each summer we hear stories of Wright’s ever-developing offensive arsenal and each year he comes woefully short of the hype. Still, he is a tough interior player – someone capable of dropping a 20 and 10 if you go to sleep on him. You can usually tell what kind of game Wright will have within the first five minutes of a game. If he is scoring early, lock up the women and children. If he is quiet, he is likely to stay that way for the rest of the night.

Johnson has been up and down all season, which is a reversal from last season where he was the picture of consistency. Although it seems he has worked the kinks out lately, averaging around seventeen points a game over his last five games. CJ’s play is essential to UD’s success, as he does all of the little things that make the engine go. (Unfortunately, there is some doubt as to whether Chris Johnson will even play against Mason, as he has some groin issues. Apparently he woke up Monday morning with blisters all over his shaft, scrotum and testicles. Nasty business. The working theory is that CJ is a longshoreman in his spare time.)

In the teams past two meetings I was always impressed by how well Dayton's bench usually plays. The Flyers always seem to be a deep squad, is that true again this season?

Blackburn Review:  Not so much. Whereas in the past UD was able to throw ten to eleven bodies at its opponent, wearing them down over forty minutes, this year’s team seems to go a little less deep – usually around eight or nine guys log over ten minutes a game. Throw in the fact that UD brought in five newcomers this year, and the team has a completely different look to it. Guys are still trying to find their niche and the learning curve is substantial. Still, there are glimpses of promise and potential, and hopefully the bench won’t be as much of a detriment as the season develops.

Mason has been shooting the ball well from behind the arch often jumping out to early leads because of it on the road. How has Dayton faired in guarding the perimeter against strong three-point shooting teams?

Blackburn Review:  Perimeter defense is something the Flyers always seem to struggle with, and this year hasn’t been much different. Fortunately, UD hasn’t played a team that excels behind the line like George Mason does. So, I would have to think that this would be a major focus for the UD coaching staff. Again, I’m making an assumption. For all I know Brian Gregory and his staff will be up all night playing Call of Duty and texting chicks they used to bang in high-school. I’ve given up trying to figure out the coaching philosophy from game to game, it’s best to sit back and just let the carnage unfold.

Looks to me like this year's Dayton squad is up to their usual tricks. Not shooting the ball great but rebounding well and playing solid defense. Am I correct in highlighting the team's strengths or am I missing anything different about this year's team?

Blackburn Review:  I like the way you put that. It’s like one of those political attack ads you see for like state comptroller every two years. Zoom in tight on a black and white picture of a smirking Brian Gregory. Cue sinister voiceover --“It seems like Dayton is back to its old tricks again…setting college basketball back twenty years with their unsightly brand of basketball. This December, we can all send them a message, vote George Mason for progress.”

But yeah, different year, same shit. Throw the ball at the orange ring ten feet in the air and then go chase it down like a group of bloodthirsty dogs. Dayton is once again rebounding the basketball with the intensity of a rookie cop at an inner-city high-school football game, averaging just over forty boards a game (twenty-first in the nation as of this writing). Auspiciously for Mason, they seem to be a formidable force on the glass in their own right. If Chris Johnson can’t go, that’s going to be a major blow to Dayton’s rebounding effort, as he has a tendency to grab loose balls for putbacks.

What does Mason need to do well to win this game?

Blackburn Review:  Defensively, I would throw a mix of zones at UD all night long. I’ll never understand why teams just don’t sit in a basic 2-1-2 and watch UD bomb away aimlessly from the outside. It would also help negate UD’s rebounding prowess. As Jim Boheim says after a few drinks of prosecco, “not playing zone is just pride fucking with you.” I know Larranaga has been known to implement a 3-2 at times, and his scramble press is the stuff of legend. When Juwan Staten isn’t in the game, I would press UD with vigor and let the chips fall where they may.

Offensively, you have to go right at UD. This isn’t as solid an on-the-ball defensive team as in years past. I’d let Hancock and Pearson get aggressive with Wright and force him to play hard on both sides of the court. Wright has a tendency to let his athleticism bail him out of defensive mishaps, but can easily pick up fouls if pressed. GMU will get open perimeter looks against this team; they just have to knock down the shots that present themselves. Do that, and the Patriots will be tough to beat.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

George Mason wins thriller against Duquesne in double OT

The Patriots left Pittsburgh with a thrilling double overtime victory over Duquesne 85-79 to improve to 9-2 on the season. This is Mason's best start to the season since 1983 when they achieved the current team record winning streak of 11 games and started off 12-2. Cam Long and Ryan Pearson might have led the Patriots in scoring with 17 each but Isaiah Tate was the real star in this one.  Tate scored 7 of his 14 points in the second overtime period that helped secure the victory coupled with clutch free-throws from Ryan Pearson down the stretch.  It was just the kind of back and fourth gritty battle you want your guys to experience on the road although I'm sure they were exhausted afterwards.  Neither team backed down at any point and Mason was able to beat the Dukes at their own game: from behind the three-point line.  However defensively you have to applaud the team's effort because they were facing a very talented offensive group and didn't let them get into any type of a rhythm.  The Patriots did turn over the ball a lot in the beginning of the game but never let the Dukes capitalize.  It was a great balanced team victory and the Patriots did a lot of things well in this one.

Offensively it was another good shooting night from the three-point line for Mason as they shot better form there (42.3%) then they did from the field (38.9%).  They dominated the boards and ended the game with 26 offensive rebounds, they had been averaging about 11.5 up until this point.  Of course they had a lot of opportunities for offensive boards because of their poor shooting from the field but they made good on a lot of second chance points.  Both teams got to the free-throw line about the same but Mason ended up having the last laugh in OT.  They have been slowly improving in this area this season and I think it's going to pay off a lot by the end of the season. Another area the team did well in again was dishing out assists as they finished with 16 in this one.  The Patriots are 7-0 this season when they record 16 or more assists.

The veterans on this squad really stepped up in this game. Luke Hancock was badly a sore shoulder and didn't play his usual game.  Even without Hancock's crafty scoring the Patriots didn't miss a beat down the stretch as Cam Long, Isaiah Tate, and Ryan Pearson filled the void and really carried the team.  Last season the team was desperate for moments like this and it's really a big improvement this year.  Coach Larranaga in the post game says they "played George Mason basketball" and they really didn't stray away from their game in this one even when the Dukes kept battling back. They never let the Dukes force their game onto them and that's something you really want to see out of your guys on the road.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

George Mason returns to action tonight against Duquesne

Watch George Mason vs Duquesne here 8:00 pm

The Patriots head back into action tonight after having some time off for exams.  It's been 11 days since their last game at Liberty and now they travel to Pittsburgh to face talented and high scoring Duquesne squad.  Don't let their record fool you this will a tough test for Mason as the Dukes are nationally ranked in a lot categories.  They are ranked 19th in the country in points per game (80.7), 2nd in assists (19.9), and 10th in three-point field goal percentage (.422).  Mason hasn't faced a team with this much offensive firepower yet this season and yes that includes the NC State game in Charleston. I don't think I have to tell you that defense will be the key tonight for the Patriots. They have recently overwhelmed a few teams with their own offensive power but they can't rely on this for tonight's game.  

The Dukes sport a four-guard lineup that often leaves forward Damian Sanders in the middle. Sanders is a shot-blocking machine and on pace to break the school's record for career blocked shots. On paper they seem like a guard heavy sharp shooting squad but don't discount their inside presence with Sanders. Another player to watch is guard/forward Bill Clark who is the team's leading scorer. Clark leads a group of guards that almost all shoot better then 41% from the three-point line.  This will be a true test to reserve guards Isaiah Tate and Vertrail Vaughns who have been productive off the bench.  Cam Long and Andre Cornelius will be tested all night and the team needs their bench to step in and keep up the defensive intensity.  

Keys to the game:

-Like Coach Huger says in the video, keep the game under 80 points. In every single one of their losses the Dukes were held under 80 points and if the score starts to get high early the Patriots are playing the Duquesne's game and you don't want that on the road.

-Guard the perimeter.  The Patriots have faced good three-point shooting teams this season and held them in check. This will be their toughest test of it so far this year and they need to limit the outside shot opportunities. A team that shoots threes well is never out of the game and this will end up being a total team effort on defense.  

-Get Ryan Pearson and Mike Morrison involved early.  Luke Hancock and Cam Long have been solid all year and they will get their points but what we haven't seen yet is both Pearson and Morrison starting off hot.  It could be a huge advantage in this game because despite the Dukes shot blocking presence in Damian Sanders the team doesn't have any depth at forward. If Pearson and Morrison start rolling on offense it will disrupt Duquense's game plan.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Taking a look at George Mason at the winter break, pretty impressive numbers

The team and rest of the George Mason student body are currently taking their fall semester finals and getting ready for winter break.  Coach Larranaga and his squad are currently riding a six game winning streak and during all eight of their total wins they have not allowed their opponents to score more than 56 points.  That's pretty impressive defense even when you factor in the level of teams they have beaten so far.  You can downplay their soft out of conference schedule all you want but the Patriots are still 1st in the CAA in FG percentage (both their own and their opponents'), 3rd in points scored (72.5), 1st in scoring defense (57.9), and 2nd in assists (15.5). Nationally their FG percentage is ranked in the top 20 out of all Division I teams. 

The stats really paint a picture of how the team has improved from last season. The balanced scoring attack continues on as the Patriots have three players averaging 12 or more points a game, Luke Hancock, Cam Long, and Ryan Pearson.  Long seems to be much more comfortable this season and I think you can attribute that to him having consistent scoring efforts from his teammates.  Their free-throw shooting and rebounding have only slightly improved but they are still middle of the pack in the CAA in those areas.  And let's face it, with some of the shooting efforts we have seen there hasn't been many chances for rebounds for the Patriots.  

Their scoring numbers will drop as they start to face some tougher competition but I think if you look at how they are scoring and winning you still be very confident in this team's ability.  They have been doing a much better job sharing the ball and finding the open man for easy shots.  You haven't seen many one-on-one battles since the NC State game, it's been a lot of unselfish play-making.  Mason has also been getting points by getting to the line, something they were awful at doing last season.  Even if they aren't always shooting well from there it's still another dimension to their game and disrupts the other team's flow.  And let's not forget three-point shooting.  Last year's numbers were also impressive but it's a bit more consistent this year and more players are hitting from there.  Andre Cornelius inflated last year's numbers by hitting almost half his attempts.  This year you have Cam Long, Luke Hancock, Vertail Vaughns, and Isaiah Tate shooting well from behind the arch.  

And lastly, their defensive numbers are probably the most impressive statistics that has improved when compared to this time last year.  As I said earlier they are clamping down on their opponents and giving them no easy shots.  A big improvement you can notice is how they are forcing other teams at the Patriot Center to play their style of basketball.  They are getting about 8 steals a game and have a turnover margin of +3.20 good for 2nd in the CAA so far.  They are generating a lot of points off these turnovers and disrupting their opponents flow. Because of this I believe that even if the Patriots weren't shooting the ball as well they would still be where they are now.  

Sunday, December 12, 2010

George Mason routs Liberty for sixth straight win

The hot shooting for the Patriots continued last night as they dismantled Liberty 84-54 in Lynchburg.  The game wasn't even close as Mason shot 74% from the field in the 1st half.  They took advantage of Liberty's sloppy defense which left them with a lot of open shots, especially from the three-point line.  Cam Long, Ryan Pearson, and Luke Hancock again had strong games with all of them scoring in a variety of ways.  The team was flying up and down the court, creating shots for eachother, and hitting almost every shot they took. The fact that they were playing their first real road game didn't seem to faze the Patriots at all as they looked as strong as they did during their recent homestand. The numbers were impressive: they scored 40 points in the paint and 29 off of Liberty's 17 turnovers while also dishing out 16 assists.  Isaiah Tate and Vertrail Vaughns were productive off the bench and helped the Patriots jump out to the early lead. Their continued production will be helpful in the team's next couple of road games.


Friday, December 10, 2010

George Mason gets first real road test against Liberty this weekend

Both the Mason and Liberty are entering this Saturday's game in Lynchburg on winning streaks but for the Patriots this is there first real road test of the season.  Yes the Charleston Classic wasn't at the Patriot Center but that's neutral for both teams and come on Mason had Bill Murray behind their bench that weekend. Last time Mason traveled down to the Vines Convocation Center they lost in overtime to talented young Liberty that got an exceptional effort from Stephen Curry's little brother Seth (now at Duke). What's funny is this year's Liberty team again has a younger brother of a college star turned NBA player, Evan Gordon, whose older brother Eric played at Indiana and now for the LA Clippers. Gordon recently scored 26 points in the team's last game against Winthrop where they won 75-72.  That was a high scoring game for the Flames who usually only average about 66 points per contest.  I think their last two games shows the team can put points on the board despite what their season numbers might say about them.

The Patriots are the better shooting team in this matchup, which they have been most of the time this season.  The Flames make up for their poor shooting by rebounding the ball well on both ends of the court however their leading rebounder is a 6-4 guard. Liberty's will test the defense of Andre Cornelius and Cam Long, who haven't really been challenged since the NC State game. Cornelius has been much improved in this area since a year ago.  The guards haven't done great when they have been pressed and this was an issue on the road last season as well.  If the Flames start to press early I am curious to see how Mason reacts to it.  I think they will make it a real effort to throw the Patriots off their hot three-point shooting ways. If that happens Luke Hancock will be needed to do this thing.

Mason has a big advantage in the front court so Mike Morrison getting quick fouls in the 1st half will hurt them more than it did on Wednesday.  Ryan Pearson efforts on the offensive glass will be needed as well especially if the team doesn't start off shooting well. Pearson has been doing a great job of getting to the line  recently and I think if does that well again tomorrow it can be another huge advantage as the Flames don't have much depth at forward.  If Mason establishes an inside presence early I don't think the Flames will be able to keep up unless they are draining threes.

A few things to look for tomorrow night:

How will Mason respond to the press? I just have a feeling the Flames will press a lot in this game as they are an athletic group who often sports a four-guard line-up. If that is the case, how will the Patriots respond?  NC State and GW had some success disrupting Cam Long and Luke Hancock when they were pressed.

What if Mason doesn't jump out to the early lead? During Mason's five game homestand they enjoyed an early lead every time, mostly because of early success from behind the three-point line.  What if those shots don't fall right away on the road? How will the team react if they get behind? A little too often this season Mason has built an early lead and let up.  This didn't really effect those games much because they were playing teams they didn't have the fire power to make a comeback, Liberty's not a juggernaut but they are more talented offensively.

What will they get from their bench? Bench players are always more needed on the road, that's just the way it is. Vertrail Vaughns and Isaiah Tate had big nights against UNCW but were scoreless against Loyola (MD) Wednesday night. With Liberty's depth at guard Mason will need another good defensive night from their reserve guards. If Mason gets behind early look for Larranaga to insert Vaughns and Tate for a spark on offense. In the front court Paris Bennett and Johnny Williams are struggling but Jonathan Arledge has shown some promise, especially on defense and rebounding. I hate to say it but I see either Pearson or Morrison getting into foul trouble at some point so they could be a heavier does of Arledge.

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Thursday, December 09, 2010

Highlights from George Mason vs Loyola (MD)

Quality isn't great but you do get to see Ryan Pearson's sweet moves under the basket once again:


Mason continues to roll at home with win over Loyola (MD)

Photo via Flickr
The Patriots finished their homestand 5-0 and improve to 7-2 on the year with Cam Long joining the 1,000 point club at George Mason.  They have won each game during their home stretch by at least 14 points, however Loyola was the first team to shoot higher than 38% from the field against them. Still an impressive game for the Patriots who ended up forcing 17 turnovers and getting 18 points off them. Luke Hancock had another complete game which he started off by assisting on the first four baskets for Mason Their free-throw numbers weren't great but they continue to get to the line more than the opposing team. Defensively they weren't as tough as they have been as the Greyhounds got a little too many open looks in the 1st half. They were also beat on the boards more than I would like to see against a team like this. Some of that was masked by great scoring efforts from Cam Long, Ryan Pearson, and Luke Hancock. The team needs to see more scoring nights like this from Pearson because it can really establish an inside presence.  Long has been consistent and Hancock usually is too but Pearson can be a tough man to guard for opposing teams and we haven't seen the team take advantage of that enough. His spin move to the basket in the 1st half showed how dangerous of a scorer he can be when he's not frustrated. Meanwhile Mike Morrison was a total non-factor and played all of 3 minutes in the first half after two quick fouls. Paris Bennett and Jonathan Arledge got more minutes because of this and Arledge looked good. In the first half he left after it looked like he hurt his shoulder and that opened the door for Johnny Williams who looked pretty awful.  I think all those commenting here asking why he doesn't play much should go back and look at the tape from this game.

After getting a lot of scoring from their bench against UNCW we didn't see anything from Isaiah Tate or Vertrail Vaughns.  Jonathan Arledge looked good off the bench and the coaching staff has be excited about his defense and toughness in the middle.  I think Arledge, who could still use a lot of work on his offensive game, will end up being a solid rebounder for Larranaga. Paris Bennett and Johnny Williams continue to look lost on defense at times which isn't a good thing as the full CAA schedule is just around the corner.  With Morrison on the bench as long as he was you have to wonder what is going to happen against team's like JMU and ODU who have much better front court players than Loyola.

The Patriots do enter these next couple of road games with some confidence as they have showed dominance on offense and defense through their last couple of games.  It will be interesting to see how they do against some better competition away from the Patriot Center.  Rebounding is probably the only area they need to improve on to be successful on the road.  They are shooting the ball better, getting more assists, and forcing more turnovers than they were at this point last season.  Overall they are a more disciplined squad and it seems like more players are comfortable with their roles on the team.

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Wednesday, December 08, 2010

George Mason takes on Loyola (MD), looking to finish homestand strong

Mason looks to improve to 6-0 at home this season as they play their 5th consecutive home game tonight.  The Patriots were lights out shooting against UNCW in their last game and they will again be facing a poor shooting team in Loyola of Maryland.  Unlike UNCW however, the Greyhounds have a much better front court and are a better rebounding team. No one expects the Patriots to recreate what happened Saturday night as I can't imagine an opposing coach wouldn't make it a point to cover the perimeter.  It will be interesting to see if Mason can get more good play from their bench players who have been inconsistent in their efforts on defense thus far. I expect another balanced shooting night on offense with maybe not as many three-pointers taken this time but still a far amount.

If Loyola makes it a point to prevent Mason from reigning threes, I'm curious to see if they will run some plays for Mike Morrison and Ryan Pearson, something we haven't seen much of this season.  The reserve forwards still seem to be uncertain for Larranaga and his staff so I wouldn't be surprised to see Paris Bennett, Johnny Williams, and Jonathan Arledge get a few more minutes here and there tonight.  Larranaga will experiment with lineups and different "Green teams" in non-conference games like this as he and staff need to find who they can trust on defense form the bench during road games.

Recently Mason has been doing a lot of things well, shooting, making assists, and getting to the free-throw line. All of these areas are improvements for the team when you compare them to last year's squad at this point.  Although their shooting percentage numbers might go down as they start to play some better teams, you'd their ability to keep dishing out assists and get to the free-throw line doesn't.  Another area that needs to stay strong is on defense where the Patriots have held their last four opponents to under 38% shooting from the field. That's an impressive stat, but it remains to be seen if they can keep this up away from the Patriot Center and during the CAA schedule.  

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Monday, December 06, 2010

Highlights from the George Mason vs UNCW game

Sunday, December 05, 2010

George Mason opens CAA play with a blow out victory over UNCW

Coming into the game most thought the Patriots would work the ball inside where they had a significant advantage over UNCW's front court.  That wasn't really the case last night as Mason started firing threes in the early minutes and connecting on almost all of them it seemed.  During a 6 1/2 minute span the Patriots made 7 of 8 three pointers, including Vertrail Vaughns hitting 3 consecutive ones in 63 seconds. Bench players led Mason in scoring for the first time this season after being called out by Larranaga after the GW game for not playing solid both ways. Vertrail Vaughns and Isaiah Tate combined for 8 of 9 shooting from behind the arch and each had career nights in scoring. I honestly thought Mike Morrison and Ryan Pearson would be the stars in this one and not Mason's guards but I guess when you are left that wide open so often how can you pass up that shot opportunities? Senior guard Cam Long is now 2 points shy of a career 1,000 points at George Mason after a quiet night finishing with 5 points.  Andre Cornelius and Mike Morrison were quiet as well and I don't think it's a bad thing because this team is more dangerous with a continuous balanced attack.  

The coaching staff had to be pleased with the defensive efforts of the "Green Team" who to this point haven't had trouble scoring but just needed to stop their guys from scoring to get more playing time.  The efforts from the bench have been spotty this season but the more games like this we see the more confidence one has to have in this team's ability to stay atop the CAA.  I still need to see the bench perform like this against a better opponent before I'm ready to call this team "deep".  Midway through the season I might come back to this post and laugh that I once questioned the team's depth but we'll see how things unfold.  

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Friday, December 03, 2010

George Mason opens CAA schedule against UNCW

The Patriots open their CAA schedule this season at home against UNCW tomorrow night. They are three games into their current five game home stand and are looking to stay unbeaten at the Patriot Center.  It's a rare thing to see Mason play this many consecutive home games in the beginning of the season but it could benefit the team a lot.  Both UNCW and Mason are coming off wins against George Washington, however the Seahawks turned over the ball 17 times in their victory and allowed GW's Nemania Mikic to go 7-for-13 from the three point line. I should mention though that UNCW went 12-for-22 from there as well in that game. As a whole this might be the best shooting team the Patriots have faced this season, the only thing is they don't score a whole lot of points.  They often get out-rebounded and turnover the ball about five more times a game then their opponent.  Getting to the free throw line is another area they haven't been effective in as they have already had 3 games in which they attempted 8 or less free throws.

Up front the Seahawks are undersized and beat reporter Brian Mull thinks the Patriots will pound the ball inside early in this one. Can't say I disagree with that, especially with how effective Mike Morrison has been. If Ryan Pearson can start off strong as well, the game could be an easy one for the Patriots. However the Patriots can again be their own worst enemies against a team like this, especially if Pearson or Morrison get into early foul trouble. When Morrison got a breather Wednesday night against GW, Mason looked completely different on both ends of the court.  With the bench players struggling to play effective Larranaga defense it is very important for the team not to shoot themselves in the foot with early fouls.  As a team they did a good job staying out of foul trouble against GW but we have already seen too often this season guys like Pearson and Morrison missing a large part of the 1st half of games. The Seahawks themselves don't have much of a bench either and have been living mostly off the shooting from Chad Tomko and Ahmad Grant. Grant by the way is 15-for-20 on three-pointers for the season; something to keep in mind.

Sure UNCW was picked to finish last in the CAA but don't think Larranaga isn't taking this game seriously.  The Patriots have made a living on home CAA wins in recent years and each one carries a lot of weight.  When you factor in how good teams like ODU and VCU have looked so far you begin to get a perfect of how CAA wins can come at a premium.  But I do think the Patriots offensive attack will overwhelm UNCW as I don't expect them to shoot as poorly as they did Wednesday night.  A high scoring game favors Mason and their ability to create turnovers against already turnover prone team should be the difference in this one.

A few things to watch tomorrow night:

How much the will the starters play? Wednesday night all the starters played 31 minutes or more despite Mason having a double lead late in the 2nd half.  Larranaga stated he is not confident in his bench playing adequate defense so it will be interesting to see how those guys respond to being called out.  Sure Cam Long has been averaging 30+ minutes since his sophomore year but I don't know if you can keep this up with the rest of the starters who aren't used to logging that many minutes. If Larranaga wants to use the scramble defense more this kind of thing can't continue.

Free-throw shooting. Mason got to the line a lot Wednesday but can they keep it up or was it just a fluke? Effectiveness at the free-throw would add a new dimension to Mason's offense, especially if Mike Morrison continues to produce from there.  I always have thought guys like Andre Cornelius and Luke Hancock should get to the line more so hopefully they saw the difference it can make.

Will Mason pick up the defensive intensity? The Seahawks turn the ball over a lot and don't have someone outside of Chad Tomko who handles the ball well. Look for Mason to be more aggressive in this one on defense as they try to force the ball out of Tomko's hands.  If all goes well this game could end up like the win against Charlotte. 


Thursday, December 02, 2010

Highlights from the George Washington game

George Mason earns bragging rights, gets revenge with win over George Washington

George Mason avenged last year's disaster in Foggy Bottom last night and earned the Battle of Orange Line bragging rights for this season.  The final score (60-46) might show that the Patriots covered the double digit sports betting spread but it was an ugly game at times and they gave George Washington way too many chances.  Both teams started off shooting the ball terribly but Mason's defense gave them the edge early on.  It was the first game this season where you saw the Patriots sputter on offense to begin a game. However despite poor numbers from the field they were perfect from the free-throw line in the 1st half which turned out to be the difference in the score at halftime.  The slow start might have been the Colonials constantly double-teaming Luke Hancock, who so far this year has set the tone for the Patriots on offense.  If not for some strong moves to the basket by Mike Morrison Mason probably would have been down at the half.  The Patriots weren't playing their game in the 1st half and the full court pressing by GW slowed everything down.  It was a little concerning how easily they were able to throw Mason off their game.  

The 2nd half is where the Patriots found their groove.  They used a 9-0 run capped off with a Mike Morrison dunk to take a strong hold on the lead and never look back.  Their defensive intensity picked up and Ryan Pearson, who was a zombie in the first half, really picked up his game on both ends of the court.  A combination of steals and getting to the free-throw line sealed the deal for the Patriots in the end of this game. They were still a bit throw off by the constant pressing of GW, who actually ended up playing better defense last night then I thought they were capable of doing.  Luke Hancock got a lot of jeers from the Mason fans in attendance for his inability to hold on to the ball at times. Despite leading the Patriots with 15 points he seemed a bit too frustrated by the double teams in the 1st half and will have to learn to work through when teams key in on him like that. Hancock and the other starters had to log way too minutes to close this game out as Larranaga didn't show much faith in his bench.  It seemed as if the starters played nearly the entire 2nd half.  Even with a double-digit lead Larranaga didn't feel safe inserting Bennett, Arledge, or any reserve guards.  In the post game interview Larranaga had this to say about the bench players:
"They don’t clearly understand how to get it done yet,” said Larranaga. “I didn’t want to take a chance on putting them into a situation where they’d turn the ball over a couple times and we’d lose the lead.”
Rebounding: The Patriots didn't do a great job on the boards in this one and were out rebounded 37-31.  They let GW get way too many second chance opportunities and when your playing a team that shoots that poorly you can't have that happen.

Bench Support: So much for this being a deep team.  Mason got almost no help from their bench last night and it's obvious after Coach L's comments post game that he doesn't have much faith in their ability on defense. If he doesn't have faith in them with 8 minutes to go and up by 10 against a team like GW what's going to happen when they play VCU or ODU? The starters won't last playing this long all season and it was rare that no one was in foul trouble in the 2nd half. Also, Paris Bennett continues to get minutes over Johnny Williams in the front court, which is still puzzling to me.

Free throws:  I can't remember the last time I praised Mason for their free-throw shooting, probably because I never have.  Not only did they do an excellent job getting to the line more than GW (as you can see in the chart below) they also made them pay for it.  It still wasn't a great percentage (69.7%) overall but they connected on a lot in the first 30 minutes of the game which helped them maintain a lead.  At times it seemed as if Cornelius, Hancock, and Pearson could get to the line whenever they wanted, I'd like to see more of that.

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Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Battle of the Orange Line Part II: Game Day Links and Live Blog

Game Time: 7:00 pm, get to the game early to receive a Folarin Campbell Bobblehead

Radio: WGMU and also on 1050 AM (GW broadcast)

Spread:  Mason by 13

Game Notes

Washington Post Preview

Previewing the Battle of the Orange Line Part II

Video Highlights from the game against FAU


Statistical Breakdown

Join us for the Live Blog and chat tonight. If your at the game or not by a computer you can also join in via twitter by sending me a tweet @gmuhoops or by using the hashtags #gmuhoops or #mason

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