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George Mason gets first real road test against Liberty this weekend

George Mason Basketball: George Mason gets first real road test against Liberty this weekend

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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