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George Mason Basketball

George Mason Basketball: December 2011

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Ryan Pearson has career night as Patriots play their most impressive game of the season

Photo by John Powell
Wow, where has this team been? Andre Cornelius has been back for three games but certainly his presence alone could not have sparked what we witnessed last night against Charleston. The Patriots look motivated, on both ends of the court and sported a balance attack on offense. They ended Charleston's 15-game home court winning streak just as there own 18-game one was ended by Duquesne last Wednesday. Ah the circle of college basketball life.  Mason was red hot from the field to open the game (54% in the 1st half) and held Charleston's long range attack in check. It was easily the Patriots best perimeter defense we have seen all year, largely due to Andre Cornelius being in the teeth of the Cougars back court all night long.  The Patriots offense was explosive but they also won the turnover battle (only 9 TOs!) and fought off the Cougars balanced attacked of five players finishing in double figures.  

Ryan Pearson is keeping his #FeartheBeard campaign going strong after his 35 point, 14 rebound performance. He had four "and 1" calls and connected on all of them at the free-throw line.  The Cougars didn't have an answer for him in the front court. His teammates hitting three-pointers definitely helped open things up and gave the Patriots balance that they have been missing.  Pearson ended up taking 25 shots and ended up making 15 of them. This was that Wow performance of the season we had been looking for and we knew he was capable of doing.  

Hopefully the Patriots can build on this as they are about to head into a tough early stretch of CAA games.  You would not have thought by watching last night that the team had any chemistry issues as they ran things pretty fluidly.  They will need to continue that defensive efforts against teams like VCU, ODU, and Drexel to be atop the CAA standings.  An improving defense coupled with their offensive firepower makes them one of the most balanced CAA teams.  

Perhaps that home loss to a lesser opponent like Duquesne was what this team needed to get motivated. Remember in 2005-06 when Mason got drubbed by Creighton at home before CAA play?


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Previewing George Mason at Charleston

TV: or Free stream here

George Mason heads to the road for their final non-conference away game of the year at Charleston.  This is probably going to be the highest RPI team they have remaining on the schedule for this year and a win would definitely ease some worries as they are about to head into a tough CAA stretch of games. The Patriots had a big second half to put away Manhattan and they will need that fire once again. Mason really needs to shore up their perimeter defense to have a chance in this game because Charleston has an array of players who can all shoot the three.  They take a lot of long range shots (avg about 23 attempts a game) and nearly upset #4 Louisville last week with their success from behind the arch.  The Patriots' perimeter defense will be improved now that Andre Cornelius has two games under his belt but it will take a team effort on defense to slow down Charleston's back court players. However, like Mason, they cough up the ball a lot, giving the Patriots a chance to win the turnover battle.

On paper it looks as though the Patriots have the edge in the front court but as we saw against Duquesne they don't always capitalize on this advantage.  Mike Morrison's play has been inconsistent but overall is improving from the beginning of the season.  Ryan Pearson has been steady and had his second highest point total of the season against Manhattan.  Freshman Erik Copes continues to block shot after shot in his limited minutes.  The front court though, needs to be this team's strength and that hasn't always been the case so far.  Sherrod Wright and Vertail Vaughns production as starters could be better considering they don't have many other options on the bench. Hopefully Andre Cornelius will begin to add some outside shooting to that rotation.


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tony Skinn blogs from Israel

Former Patriot Tony Skinn apparently has a blog at Pro Basketball Overseas where he talks about playing in Israel
"Last time I checked in I was in Germany dealing with a foot injury. I am thankful to report my foot is doing great now and I am back on the basketball court. I arrived in Ashkelon in September, on a tryout basis, and signed shortly after. Being brought in on a tryout basis wasn't necessarily the opportunity I was looking for, but with the NBA's lockout in full effect and having just come off of an injury I didn't think it was my place to be picky. I am here now and that's all that really matters. We are currently 6-3 and hope we take this team deep into the playoffs. Overall, the league is pretty competitive. Most people know of the league's powerhouses, Maccabi Tel-Avib and Hapoel Jerusalem, but my experiences and observations prove the entire league to be competitive and well balanced.
On another note, let's talk about where I live. I'm currently living in an apartment, walking distance from the beach. It's been a great feeling being able to wake up and look outside my window to see the waves. Most days here are warm and sunny so I do not have any complaints in that category. One of my biggest fears when getting onto a plane and coming to Israel, was whether I would feel safe here. Let's just say I feel safe and haven't felt like I'm in any danger. The food is good, the weather is beautiful, the people are nice and spirituality surrounds me; I'm loving it!
One thing I am definitely going to miss is spending time with my family and friends during the holidays. Until the next time, wishing you and yours a happy holiday season!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Andre Cornelius returns but still same old problems for George Mason this season

Photo by John Powell
The Patriots had another mistake prone evening in their 75-64 loss to Duquesne. The loss snapped their 18-game home winning streak and was certainly the first time in awhile we have seen this program get beat by that much at home. We received bad news right off the bat as the team announced Paris Bennett will be suspended two games for "off the court conduct". Although Paris has yet to register a point this season it still hurts the chemistry as he has already missed so much time due to injury in his career.  It was nice to finally see Cornelius out there and he did not appear to be rusty, scoring 11 points, hitting two three-pointers, and collecting three steals.  However, his return could not remedy the same problems we continue to see from this team.  
Photo by John Powell
Beating a dead horse. Turnovers, turnovers, and more turnovers, this time the number was 22. Doesn't seem like this issue is going to go away anytime soon.  Bryon Allen was the biggest culprit last night turning it over seven times.  Corey Edwards also somehow managed three in just 10 minutes of court time. The Dukes racked up 12 steals, some were gift wrapped.  The inexperience in the back court is obviously the team's most glaring weakness. At this point you have to question Paul Hewitt's offensive strategy, as most of you have already, because changes need to be made somewhere to help fix this problem.

Also here is a scary stat assessment:

Getting beat on the glass. This was actually more of a concern to me while watching this game last night. We know already that this team turns over the ball a lot, but getting beat on the glass by a vastly smaller team? I thought that was going to be one of the team's strengths this season. Duquesne's rebounding percentage numbers were ranked somewhere in the #330s nationally with them often sporting a three or four guard lineup. The fact that Mason couldn't take advantage in this area is a serious cause for concern.  Morrison, Pearson, and Copes let Duquesne players beat them on the offensive glass way too much, there's no way that team should have collected nine offensive rebounds.

Just plain sloppy. This team just didn't look like there were ready to play last night, and Paul Hewitt even admitted that in the post game interviews. The game was ugly at times despite the fact that both teams were hitting shots. Mason sent the Dukes to the free throw line a ton and they were lucky they only connected on 15-of-23.  They also allowed open looks on the perimeter, the Dukes went 8-for-16 from the three-point line.  At this point, if it feels like I am writing the same things after every loss that's because I am.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

George Mason returns to action tonight against Duquesne

TV: MASN 7:00 pm

Free video stream


George Mason returns to the court tonight after an 11-day layoff for final exams, hosting Duquesne. A victory tonight would give Mason its longest home court winning streak in the history of the Patriot Center. The 18-game home winning streak is currently tied for 10th longest in the nation. Also, this game marks the return of senior guard Andre Cornelius, and it will be interesting to see how many minutes he gets tonight.  Duquesne is a good shooting team but have yet to win on the road this season.  They struggle on the boards and lack size up front, giving the Patriots a clear advantage in the front court.  They also are not great at guarding the perimeter so there could be some opportunities for Mason to ignite some three-point shooting, hopefully.  I'm expecting the Patriots to come out better fundamentally, as I'm sure Paul Hewitt has stressed keeping the turnovers to a minimum, right now they are averaging 14.9 a game. Duquesne, currently has a turnover margin of +7.2, largely due to their 8 steals a game.  With the return of Cornelius and the team hopefully beginning to develop chemistry, we should see a better product on the floor going forward.  The younger players are making fewer errors but the team still needs to get stronger defensively.  Tonight provides another strong test before the CAA schedule gets into full swing.


Monday, December 19, 2011

How will Andre Cornelius' return impact this team?

Senior guard Andre Cornelius will play his first game of the season this Wednesday when the Patriots host Duquesne. He is returning from a 10-game suspension and will be the most experienced back court player on the active roster. A lot of people think he is going to step in right away and be the team's point guard, frankly I think he'd be better replacing Vertrail Vaughns in the starting line-up. Paul Hewitt has gone back and fourth with freshman Corey Edwards and sophomore Bryon Allen starting at the point and both have showed flashes of their talent but also a lot of miscues. Cornelius being in the line up gives the team added depth which will hopefully result in better bench production overall. Don't expect him to come in and lead the team in assists as he has has never been much of a facilitator (1.6 APG in 10'-11') and actually Mike Morrison dished out more assists than him last season.  What he does bring to this team is ball handling, defense, and three-point shooting.  Last year he only averaged about 1.5 turnovers a game. Currently there are four Patriots averaging more turnovers than that for this year.  He is a career 38.1% three-point shooter and is a lot better at creating his own shot than Vertrail Vaughns.  This year's team has basically had no three-point shooting presence outside of Vaughns and the occasional shot from Ryan Pearson.  Opposing teams will start filling the lane to prevent them from driving to the basket and they will need to start hitting outside shots to keep defenses honest.  

Cornelius could bring a new dimension on the up-tempo offense with his outside shooting and let's not forget he is also the quickest guy on the team.  He is very good in transition and will make less mistakes than Allen or Edwards on the fast breaks.  However I would not expect him to step right in and drastically help the team's turnover issues, that will take some time as he gets accustomed to his surrounding players.  I do expect him to help get the team out of scoring droughts, like what we saw in some of the team's previous couple of games. 

An area he probably help the most is on defense. He is the team's best on-the-ball defender and will get matched up against opposing team's best back court player.  The Patriots have been giving up a ton of open looks on the perimeter and Cornelius should help prevent other team's best shooters from running free. Corey Edwards and Bryon Allen have not been terrible on defense but Vertrail Vaughns gets beat often, which is why I think Cornelius will eventually replace him in the starting line up.  

Friday, December 16, 2011

Fear the Beard Campaign: 2nd Edition

Ryan Pearson will be in the running for the 2011-2012 CAA Player of the Year award when it's all said and done this season. With that in mind I have started the #FeartheBeard24 campaign on here and twitter to track his progress this season and update on him now and then. Here are his current stats through 10 games this season:

Since our last edition Pearson's production has dropped off a bit. This was largely due to a 9 point, 2 rebounds performance in the loss at UVA. He is still 4th in the CAA in scoring, 5th in FG%, and 3rd in defensive rebounds. His 9 three-pointers are 2nd on the team behind Vertrail Vaughns 15, don't know if I saw that one coming. He also leads the team in turnovers (2.6 per game) which not something you want to see from you're team MVP.

Overall the team as a whole has still been struggling in a few areas, most notably ball-handling and perimeter defense.  Pearson isn't getting all the best looks he could be getting due to some inconsistent guard play. However, in games like the one at UVA he needs to step it up when the team needs him.  A CAA player of the year makes his teammates better and gets them over slumps.  With a slew of young players playing heavy minutes Pearson needs to show he can help these guys develop and get them more involved.

I still say we have not seen Pearson's best yet and as the team chemistry continues to come along we will see great things from him.  If the CAA POY voting was going on now Pearson would very much be in the running, but we still waiting to see that "Wow!" performance from him this season that demonstrates his value. For me that wouldn't just be a 25-30 point night but more a game where he gets 5-7 offensive boards, dishes out the ball to open guards on the perimeter and makes some key defensive stops.  The scoring will be there all season but will he excel in other key areas this season is the big question.

[Original photo by Stephen Kline]

Thursday, December 15, 2011

George Mason's new president is Dr. Angel Cabrera, no not the golfer who smokes

The Board of Visitors selected Dr. Angel Cabrera as the sixth president of George Mason University, which will be effective July 1, 2012. When I first heard that name I immediately thought of the golfer, Angel Cabrera. Wait, so they didn't name the two-time golf major champion and on the course smoker, the next school president? Ok good. Now we can begin the "I sure hope he likes college football" talk. Go!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

George Mason #2 in latest CAA Bloggers poll

I have been participating in a weekly CAA bloggers poll started by the guys over at VCU Ram Nation. My first place vote went to VCU this week. Their play against Richmond was impressive and I think that may have been the best win so far by any CAA team. Also, Georgia State is starting to turn some heads. I have a feeling the top 4 of this poll will change almost weekly once CAA play gets going. This week’s list includes Michael Litos of and author of “Cinderella: Inside the Rise of Mid-Major College Basketball”, Brian Mull of Wilmington’s Star News Online, Jerry Beach of the Hofstra blog Defiantly Dutch, Rob Russell of William & Mary’s Gheorghe: The Blog, Ben Moore of, Joseph Suhoski of ODU blog VBR Productions, Mike Brodsky who provides freelance coverage of Northeastern, Matthew Schlissel of and Mat Shelton of

1. VCU (9)

2. George Mason (2)

3. Georgia State

4. JMU

5. ODU

6. Drexel

7. Delaware

8. Northeastern


10. Hofstra

11. William & Mary

12. Towson

(first place votes in bold)


Monday, December 12, 2011

George Mason gets the win at Radford

The Patriots got the win at Radford Saturday as they go on break for finals. Their next game will be at home versus Duquesne, where they will have Andre Cornelius back for the first time this season. Mike Morrison posted his first double-double of the season, Bryon Allen dished out a season-high six assists, and Erik Copes had four blocked shots. Mason never trailed in this one and take care of Radford as they should have.  It was nice to see this team not slow down and finish the game strong.  However the Patriots did manage more turnovers than Radford, 13 to their 12.  They controlled the boards and got solid production from the bench but their are still some fundamental issues the team needs to work out before their slate of CAA games.  


Friday, December 09, 2011

George Mason plays its last game without Andre Cornelius

George Mason plays their final game without the services of Andre Cornelius on Saturday at Radford. The Patriots are looking for a boost after a demoralizing loss to a UVA team that exposed pretty much every single one of their weaknesses. We will talk more about what Cornelius brings to this year's team later on before the game versus Duquesne. For this one it will be interesting to see if Mason takes out their frustrations against the Highlanders or if they play another uninspiring road game like the one we saw against Towson. I'm not saying they NEED to blowout Radford but boy doesn't that just seem like something that should happen with these guys?

Radford has only one win versus D1 competition this season, which came against Delaware. They are ranked 310th and 336th in the nation on points per game and field goal percentage respectively this season and only have one player averaging double figures (J. Edwards 10.7). However, they turn over the ball at a less frequent rate than the Patriots, which is pretty damn sad.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

UVA routs George Mason 68-48

You could probably tell from my post yesterday that I didn't have confidence in Mason winning this game in Charlottesville. It may sound like a broken record but again the Patriots were doomed by turnovers, a lot which were unforced.  The sloppy play killed any sort of momentum Mason tried to ride to get back in the game.  Mason in no way forced their up tempo style of play on the Cavaliers and was stymied by their half court defense. I can't remember the last time Mason had not a single player reach double figures in a game. On the other end the Patriots defense in the first half was pretty awful as Virginia got numerous open looks. UVA's guards were wide open as Mason gave a little too much attention to Mike Scott. The sad part was that Scott was not much of a factor and credit goes to the Mason bigs as they held UVA's front court in check. Erik Copes got to show us his defensive skills in the post and did a good job on the glass.

The problems on offense stemmed from the Mason's back court where it would have been helpful if any guards could hit an outside shot. They tried to speed things up in the second half but UVA was much more disciplined and Mason could learn a thing or two about shot selection from them.  The Patriots are becoming way too dependent on driving the lane. They are having success and getting to the foul line but their inability to hit outside shots and three-pointers hurt their chances of erasing 15 or 20-point deficits.   


Tuesday, December 06, 2011

George Mason heads to Charlottesville for battle with UVA

George Mason heads south to battle UVA, a team that could be the highest ranking team (RPI wise) on their schedule this season. George Mason is 0-6 all-time versus UVA and Paul Hewitt lost to them twice last season at Georgia Tech.  Just last week they beat #15 Michigan on their home court and just buried Longwood 86-53 over the weekend.  They have a powerful inside presence with Mike Scott and a number of good shooters on the roster.  They are also the best defensive team Mason could face all season and have been holding their opponents to under 48 points a game and around 35% shooting from the field.  To date this season the Patriots are averaging 72.5 points a game and 46.7% from the field.  UVA runs mostly a half court offense and are capable of going on big runs.  They get to the free-line a lot, so players staying out of foul trouble could be an issue in this one (cough, Mike Morrison, cough).  Mason will have to play very disciplined basketball and I am not just talking about limiting their turnovers.  They would need to dictate the pace on offense and force UVA into a more up tempo game. That's no easy task on the road, where Mason hasn't looked great so far.  

To win a lot is going to have to go right for Mason and that doesn't just mean Ryan Pearson scores 25-30 points.  They will really have to make this game into a run and gun type and not let UVA's defense slow things down into a grinding halt, as they have down to a few teams already this year.  It would be a great night for Vertrail Vaughns to get out of his three-point shooting slump and help the Patriots score from outside the paint for a change.  Guys like Pearson, Wright, and Allen will have to get to the foul line and convert. This team is starting to show us their athleticism and it can be their biggest strength.  The Patriots have been better on the boards than the Cavaliers, especially the offensive glass, so they will need to use that to their advantage.

Ryan Pearson vs Mike Scott:
NCAA Basketball Stats

Here are my keys to the game for George Mason:

Slow down Mike Scott without fouling out.  Morrison, Pearson, and Copes will have their hands full with Mike Scott in the front court. Like Pearson he can beat you in a number of different ways and also like Pearson he gets to the line often.  Ryan Pearson is too important to the Patriots and it he gets in to foul trouble things could get ugly fast.  Copes' size will most likely be used a lot but you have to worry the freshman could get Scott too many bailouts if he is sloppy. Mike Morrison has been better at staying in games this season but it will be no easy task for him to stay under five fouls.

Run, run, score, score.  Let's face it, the Patriots can flat out score and they can beat you to the basket.  They will need to play to their own strengths to pull off this upset and not allow UVA to get set on defense. UVA hasn't been in many high-scoring affairs this season and pushing the game into the high 70s and 80s could favor Mason. Corey Edwards returning will help them run and I think it's vital that they jump out to an early lead. The biggest fear for Mason fans in this one will be UVA's defense suffocating the Patriots, leaving them looking lost on offense in a half court game.  

Bench production.  Mason hasn't got much from their bench this season on the scoreboard, even with Corey Edwards healthy.  Against Towson the only bench player that played more than 9 minutes was Paris Bennett, who went scoreless. That's pretty sad considering who they were playing and they need to have more depth. In big road games like this, a team often needs a lift from a bench player. Last season it was Isaiah Tate or Vertrail Vaughns, who will step up for that role this season?  Hewitt wants to go deeper than six or seven guys and will need more production from role players to beat the better teams on their schedule.  Jonathan Arledge and Vaughn Gray are being groomed to be 10 point guys off the bench but just aren't seasoned enough quite yet.

(TV: ESPN3) or watch free stream here


Monday, December 05, 2011

Paul Hewitt is the highest paid employee of the state of Virginia

The Richmond Times-Dispatch published the top 25 earners of the state of Virginia employees and guess who is #1? Let's not also forget that Hewitt is still getting paid by his former employer, Georgia Tech ($7.2 million over 5 years). Don't know what Hewitt's legacy will become at George Mason but his agent is definitely a hall of famer. 

George Mason downs Towson for first CAA win of the year

[Photo by John Powell]
The Patriots got the win over Towson on Saturday to start off 1-0 in the CAA. But that outcome was never really in question heading into this game.  They jumped out to a big lead early and then seemed like they coasted through the rest of the game.  A conference win is a conference win and I said that all these games are going to be important come February, however Mason lacked a killer instinct in this one.  Against a slightly better team, the Patriots could have easily have lost and that's not a good sign considering they are about to face UVA on Tuesday. 

Something positive to take out of this game, besides the victory of course, was that Mike Morrison had another solid night getting 14 points and 8 rebounds. The team had a very balanced attack, something last year's team also had.  Ryan Pearson also continued to be effective from the free-throw line going 6-for-6 from there, as a team there shot 82% from the charity stripe. Much improved from the beginning of the season where they were leaving a lot of points on the court.

Freshman Corey Edwards missed his second straight game due to a concussion, but Hewitt said after the game he should be a go for Tuesday.  

[Photo by John Powell]


Friday, December 02, 2011

Fear the Beard Campaign: 1st Edition

Ryan Pearson will be in the running for the 2011-2012 CAA Player of the Year award when it's all said and done this season. With that in mind I have started the #FeartheBeard24 campaign on here and twitter to track his progress this season and update on him now and then. Here is his current stat line through the first seven games:

What he's been doing well: So far Pearson has been as good as advertised and has led the team in scoring in every game but one. He is currently ranked 23rd nationally in PPG. Often his shots look off balanced but they continue to fall. In his senior year he still seems to be finding new ways to get around defenders and to the basket. He has the ability to carry the team on his back and just flat out gets the team a basket when they need one. Also his production on the glass is team-leading and ranked fifth among his CAA peers.

What he could improve on: His turnover numbers are up this season, mostly because he's been handling the ball more than ever. Mason as a team needs to handle the ball better but it all starts with Pearson because he's getting the most possessions this season hands down. At times Mike Morrison looks like a better passer in the post, and with the amount of attention Pearson often gets he needs to find the open man more. In general I think he has the ability to make the players around him better but we just haven't seen that happen yet. Sure, we can't expect Pearson to do everything but as a team leader he needs to be involved with remedying any team issues.

George Mason heads to Towson for first CAA game

So how bad are the 0-6 Towson Tigers right now? Scary bad. They have lost each of their six games this season by an average margin of 28.5 points.  They don't look to be much improved over last year's 0-18 CAA campaign and with a new coach at the helm it will take some time.  They have some talent coming in next season but this year is a rebuilding phase and I expect them to be in the CAA basement again.  They rank dead last among CAA teams so far this season in most statistical categories and have been the worst shooting team in the conference.  They average more than 23 turnovers a game, so hopefully we won't be discussing how bad Mason is handling the ball in this one.  Every game in the CAA will be crucial this season and it could very well be a close race into February to reach the top of the standings.  Mason has been playing better recently but they are hardly standing out strong from the rest of the CAA, which as a whole hasn't been doing great

I would expect freshman Corey Edwards to not be active again as a precaution for his mild concussion, giving Bryon Allen another night logging 30+ minutes.  


Thursday, December 01, 2011

George Mason wins another close one against Bucknell

George Mason won their 18th straight game at the Patriot Center last night in another close win over Bucknell 61-57.  Freshman Corey Edwards who had been starting the last two games, was held out of this one because of a concussion during practice.  Bryon Allen certainly thrived with his extra minutes: 12 points, 5 assists, 7 rebounds, 3 steals, and zero turnovers.  Collectively the Patriots had their lowest turnover number on the season (8) but still had problems on defense which allowed the Bison to nearly pull out a victory late. That being said they had a key stop at the end of the game to prevent guard Cameron Ayers (23 points, 5-8 3pters) from hitting another deadly three.  Ayers was literally the only Bison player who was connecting on threes last night.  

Defensively the Patriots gave up a lot of open looks and the Bison comeback in the second half was fueled by some easy shots and being out-rebounded by Mike Muscala.  They were stout when it mattered at the end of the game but there was a point were you thought the Patriots could ran away with it if they were playing better defense. You get the feeling they are still learning to play solid defense as a team under. If they play as disciplined as they did at the end of this game they should be fine but we need to see it for 40 minutes.

-Vertail Vaughns shooting slump carried over into last night. Over the last two games he has gone 0-for-9 from behind the arch and 3-for-17 from the field.  Keep in mind that Andre Cornelius returns later this month and Vaughns isn't helping his case for playing time once that happens.

-A big factor in this game for Mason was their free-throw shooting. As you can see by the chart below they got to the line at a much better rate than Bucknell and actually made more shots from there than the Bison had attempts. Sherrod Wright, Bryon Allen, and Ryan Pearson were a big reason for this as they got to the line with ease.  It is the athletic mismatches like these that is really the strength of this year's team on offense.

-A quiet night from the bench as the Patriots relied on heavy minutes from their starters. Paris Bennett made his first appearance this season but only played five minutes. Jonathan Arledge continues to show his versatility this season as he knocked down a three-pointer and grabbed five rebounds in 11 minutes of action.


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