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George Mason Basketball

George Mason Basketball: January 2012

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Paul Hewitt's early success at George Mason this season has been underrated

Most fans were not quick to pencil in George Mason as pre-season CAA favorites with the departure of Jim Larranaga and then starter Luke Hancock. When Paul Hewitt was hired, I had my doubts. The way things ended at Georgia Tech for him was a less than favorable way for a head coach to leave a program.  Now with the Patriots about to enter February in first place in the conference, you can't argue that what Hewitt's done with George Mason so far has been underrated. Hewitt and Larranaga have vastly different personalities and yet the transition for the returning players seems to have gone rather smoothly. In in my opinion, Hewitt and his staff have gotten more out of seniors Ryan Pearson and Mike Morrison than Larranaga and his crew ever did. Hewitt seems to have a more relaxed approach with the players and he has instilled confidence in this team after they had experienced some shakiness in the early games this year.  

When you look at how things have progressed this season for the Patriots it is difficult not to say he's doing an excellent job.  For starters, these aren't his players, with the exception of freshman Erik Copes. Most players on this roster had at least two seasons of Larranaga's philosophy; a defensive-minded system that produced wins and NCAA tournament appearances.  Hewitt didn't come in and try to change a lot of things but he still had big shoes to fill with a roster of guys who were used to winning under a different style of play. 

The fact that he is winning despite basically having a completely different backcourt from last season, is also pretty impressive. He gave the younger players time to develop and didn't have a short leash on them. The rest of the CAA is littered with more seasoned backcourts coming into this season and this where he exceeded expectations. We are also seeing a side of guys like Jonathan Arledge we didn't know existed and it makes you wonder how much more he has in store for the player development on this team.  Ryan Pearson was already a preseason CAA player of year candidate but I didn't think he would be capable of the production he is currently giving. Meanwhile Mike Morrison has improved drastically at the free-throw line, been a more assertive rebounder of late, and has had more double-digit scoring nights than last season.

And while this year's team might very well miss the NCAA tournament, I think it will be difficult for fans to be disappointed with all things considered, especially if this team finishes atop the CAA standings.  It's not often coaches experience this much success in their first year at a new program so fans should be pretty optimistic going forward. And while Jim Larranaga is not forgotten in Fairfax, you'll notice fans aren't constantly bickering about what they think this season would have been like if he was still head coach.

[Photo by John Powell]


Monday, January 30, 2012

George Mason's Bracketbuster opponent is Lamar

The school has announced that they will be playing Lamar on February 18 at 4 p.m. for ESPN's annual Bracketbusters weekend. The game will be televised shown on  Lamar is out of the Southland conference (RPI #116) and is 13-8 overall.  Not the sexy pick but we knew Mason probably wasn't going to get a premiere matchup with their resume. 

The two teams do have history as George Mason beat Lamar 65-63 in the the Patriot's first Division I post-season appearance during the first round of the 1986 NIT.

In other news Ryan Pearson is a CAA Co-Player of the Week.

A closer look at George Mason's newest recruit Marko Gujanicic

Marko Gujanicic joins Patrick Holloway in George Mason's recruiting class of 2012 after giving a verbal commitment to Paul Hewitt and the coaching staff over the weekend.  Gujanicic, a native of Serbia, is one who has great passing skills for a 6'8"-6'9" guy and can put the ball on the floor.  If you watched the video in my post from yesterday you will notice he also can be a deadly three-point shooter. His size gives Mason the possibility of having some "big" lineups that most CAA teams won't be able to match up with. Consider a lineup that includes Marko with a combination of  Jonathan Arledge (6'9" 228lbs), Anali Okoloji (6'8" 232), Johnny Williams (6'8" 266), and Erik Copes (6'8" 244).  Can't remember the last time I've seen that much height/size on a George Mason roster. How Hewitt and his staff utilize Marko's skill set will be interesting to see. Will he play the wing in a small forward role, or will big man coach Roland Houston try to make him a post player? With what Houston has done for Pearson and Morrison this season I wouldn't mind seeing the latter. 

Back in November, Andy Durham of Greensboro Sports saw Gujanicic play against national high school powerhouse Oak Hill Academy. Here is his evaluation on Gujanicic:
"Gujanicic is your genetic highly skilled European player. At 6’9", he can play on the perimeter or in the low post area. This past summer, Gujanicic played on the Serbian 19U National team and averaged 10 PPG and 6 RPG. He is highly skilled, fundamentally sound and is deadly from the 3 point line. He has the ability to put the ball on the floor and is excellent ball handler and passer for his size and position. Gujanicic enjoyed a solid night for his team by having a team high 18 points. He is very versatile and fluid and without question is a lock for mid-major plus program and could easily step into a high major program that is in need of a talented face up PF. Currently, he has offered from UTEP and Rhode Island, but this list should continue to grow once more schools find out about the talented Gujanicic. In speaking with his high school coach, Gujanicic is averaging 17 PPG, 11 RPG and 4 APG for Stoneridge in their first 4 games."
Scoring 18 points against an Oak Hill team that is littered with Division I talent is nothing to scoff at. Both incoming recruits are excellent three-point shooters, which is nice because this year's Patriots squad has struggled from behind the arch. The one thing I worry about is how he plays defense. Most Euro players and even Mason's most recent one Vlad Moldoveanu, don't play much defense. He might very well be a sound defender but it's tough to tell from watching highlight videos. Back in the Jim Larranaga era if he didn't think you were putting in enough effort on the defensive end you'd be benched.  Paul Hewitt isn't nearly as defensive minded as Larranaga and we've yet to see him yank freshman off the court as much as he did. So that issue might not be as big of a factor with Marko under Hewitt, but it is something he will most likely have to work on as he transitions to Division I.

Good to see his high school's website wasted no time putting this image up:
You can check out the rest of his school's website here.


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Marko Gujanicic commits to George Mason

Recruiting prospect Marko Gujanicic recently attended a George Mason home game and with him currently being in California we knew it was probably a big deal. Turns it out he has verbally committed to come play for Paul Hewitt next season. A few people close to the program have emailed me this and there is talk at CAAZone as well. Gujanicic is a 6'8" forward currently playing at Stoneridge Prep in California but is originally from Serbia. He caught the coaching staff's eye when he played against the USA U19 team that Paul Hewitt coached over the summer. He isn't a post player but has great shooting range and excellent passing skills. He also drives to the basket with authority and certainly seems like he would fit into what the Patriots are doing now. Here is a video from one of his recent high school games, Marko is #40:

He could definitely create some interesting mismatch problems in the CAA, especially if he is an effective outside shooter at the Division I level. With him playing professionally overseas he will be a bit older than your average freshman, he turns 20 this September. This situation reminds me of when the Patriots brought in Vlad Moldoveanu, a Euro player with similar type experience. I felt Larranaga and his staff really didn't use Vlad properly and as a result he transferred to American. Hopefully Paul Hewitt has a better plan in place for this kid.


George Mason fends off James Madison at home

Ryan Pearson scored 29 points and tied a career-high grabbing 15 rebounds as George Mason fought off a relentless James Madison squad to win 89-79; their sixth straight. Pearson was 2-of-4 from behind the three-point line and hit a crucial one late in the second half.  The Dukes would not go away easy and guard Humpty Hitchens finished the day with 27 points but in the end the Patriots dominated the paint, scoring 48 points from there. Mason had more offensive rebounds than JMU had total, which something we haven't seen much of this season. Overall Ryan Pearson and Mike Morrison have shown a much better commitment to rebounding since the beginning of the season.  In the first half the Dukes were hanging with the Patriots but continued to give up easy lay-ups. Late in the second half the Dukes cut the lead to four but then a Bryon Allen burst through the lane for a layup which was then followed up by Pearson blocking A.J. Davis' three-pointer attempt. At one point in the second half Pearson went on a run where he had 12 of Mason's 14 points.  So naturally the team didn't need as much from their bench as they did against Hofstra but still got good performances from Jon Arledge and Erik Copes. Copes finished with four points and five rebounds, all of which were offensive boards, in his first game back after missing five games.  It was a quiet night for Sherrod Wright but the back court trio of Bryon Allen, Andre Cornelius and Vertrail Vaughns combined for 38 points and had a good day from behind the arch.  

The Patriots remain alone in first place in the conference standings despite VCU's narrow victory over Georgia State yesterday.  They head to road next to play Delaware where they always seems to get a tough game from the Blue Hens.  Don't forget tomorrow the BracketBuster pairings are announced.  


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Future Patriot Patrick Holloway hits game winner against DeMatha

If watched the stream to last night's Paul VI-DeMatha game that I posted yesterday boy were you in for a pleasant surprise. 2012 recruit and future George Mason Patriot Patrick Holloway had a big game last night in Paul VI's win over Maryland power DeMatha high school. Holloway along with Mason's three walk-ons dominate the front page of the Washington Post sports section this morning. Pretty cool. Last night Holloway hit a game winning buzzer beater with two tenths of a second remaining to help his team pull off the upset.  Here is the video:

Holloway finished the game leading all scorers with 20 points. DeMatha was led by a kid that has committed to play at Syracuse next season.  Paul Hewitt was in attendance to witness the game winner and I'm sure he hopes that Patrick brings that clutch shooting to George Mason for four seasons.  This big game experience is something you can't coach and is certainly an asset for any kid making the transition to Division I basketball. Can't wait for this kid to come to Fairfax.


Update on the new scoreboard

The new scoreboard has been discussed for some time now after the plans were announced last August. If you go to the game today you will notice some of the new features but the actual new scoreboard will be revealed at the homecoming game next Saturday, February 4th.  In addition to the scoreboard there are updates to the scorers's table, which are long overdue.  Also there are going to be video displays over the four portal entrances but as the article says won't be capable of showing live instant-replay. The article has a good Q&A section to try to provide answers to questions I'm sure a lot of fans have:

1. Is there a video board as part of the new center-hung scoreboard?

No. Due to building code regulations, a replacement scoreboard cannot exceed the weight of the existing scoreboard which weighs approximately 4,700 pounds. A video board with the required size and quality needed for the Patriot Center cannot be achieved given the weight limitations.

2. Will a center-hung video board be installed in the future?

Maybe. While the new center-hung scoreboard is 4-sided and can be removed and reused in other applications, the prospect for a center-hung video board is a major project; it will require a renovation of the Patriot Center roof estimated at $5 million and would result in closing the arena for approximately six months. Currently, there is no plan to undertake such a project, but the University will be considering it in the future plans of the Patriot Center.

3. Can the large four corner LED displays be utilized for video?

They can be used, within limitation, to show pre-recorded video. However, at this time, they cannot be used to show instant replay of game action.

I think it's interesting they give "maybe" as an answer for getting a video board on a scoreboard in the future. If improvements to the roof have to be made I don't ever really seeing it happen because they would have to close down the Patriot Center for so long and there are events there year-round.  But the face lift is a nice improvement to the facilities since it looks like more funding for a practice facility is never going to happen.

U.S. Pro Sports Compared

The difference between average attendance and revenue generated by each of the five major U.S. sports markets varies more than one would think. For instance the NFL demands a much higher market price for their tickets and thus are the giant of the group when it comes to annual revenue. However annual revenue of the different leagues doesn't directly correlate with how the athletes are paid as you can see below. Probably the most interesting stat to take from the comparison is how the MLS attendance stacks up against the much older and more established leagues.

Via: ABC Tickets

Friday, January 27, 2012

Previewing George Mason vs James Madison

The Patriots are riding a five game winning streak and currently sitting alone in first place in the CAA standings.  They are finding production from different areas and Wednesday night's 36 bench points proved they are becoming a deep squad.  They host James Madison Saturday afternoon and hopefully this time the game won't be as foul plagued as their previous meeting in Harrisonburg. And whether or not you believe this series is actually a rivalry it always seems to be a fun atmosphere at the Patriot Center when the Dukes come to town. Madison still leads the all-time series 43-49 but have only beaten Mason once in their last 17 meetings, including CAA tournament games. As we mentioned last time JMU has struggled this season to due to various injuries and inefficiencies on offense. However last time out against them the Patriots squandered a large lead in the second half, due to some terrible officiating but also because of their numerous turnovers and other miscues.

This continues to be a good team, that has shown flashes of greatness, but then often seem to leave us holding our breathes at the end of games.  I don't really think they are sleepwalking through games, but simply just have trouble playing their game for a full 40 minutes. They play hard for 40 minutes but don't always seem to stick to their game plan for 40 minutes. They let a defensive change disrupt their rhythm too easily and once the turnovers start teams find it easy to chip away at their lead. Then the rushed possessions start and that's when we see them abandon the easy baskets that mounted them a lead and start launching up ill-advised three-pointers.

These turnovers continue to be a problem for George Mason, most recently coughing it up 18 times Wednesday night against Hofstra in an ugly 55-50 road win. If the trend continues I think the Patriots are going to be upset by a lesser team sooner rather than later. Not in this game however as I think Ryan Pearson and Mike Morrison will return to form at home and dominate the paint like what we saw against Delaware. Something to continue to watch is how much the team continues to get from the bench especially from guys like Jonathan Arledge, Corey Edwards, and Vaughn Gray.  No word yet on whether or not Erik Copes will be playing but he dressed for the Hofstra game so I would have to think he's a go for this one.


Walk-on guard Jordan Baird asked to sing national anthem before George Mason-ODU game

Jordan Baird is one of three walk-ons on the team this season but unlike the rest of his teammates he has a music background and a pretty darn good singing voice. He has on American Idol back in 2009 and placed in the top 40 of the competition in Orlando, Florida. This past summer he impressed Simon Cowell while on X-Factor where he finished in the top 80 of the Seattle round. On Sundays when he's not traveling with the team Jordan can be found performing his music at Life Church in Manassas where his father is the pastor. Now he may be sharing his talents with the George Mason crowd at the Patriot Center this homecoming.  Steven Goff of the Washington Post says Jordan has been asked to sing the national anthem at this year's homecoming game against ODU.  I think it's a pretty cool treat for Mason fans to see one of the players sing the anthem in front of what will most likely be a near sell-out crowd this February 4th.  

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Who will be George Mason's BracketBuster opponent?

This season the announcing of ESPN's Bracketbusters pairings are not as exciting for Mason fans as it normally has been in years past. The pairings will be announced Monday, January 30 at 6:30 pm on ESPNU. During this time last season we had a very good feeling about this event's game helping the Patriots get a bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of what happened in Richmond. However, we know this season that an at-large bid is out of the question for everyone in the CAA, so this game is basically an extra exhibition match for George Mason. I still am excited however to see this team take on someone from another conference and see if they can continue their winning formula outside the conference. 

As of right now Mason's RPI is at #116 (#110 on others sites) which won't help them get any of the prime TV spots for this event. The Patriots are a designated home team and usually they base the pairings off RPI and geographic location.  Judging by that criteria, I think they could get matched up with the following designated road teams:

-Buffalo (11-6, 4-2 MAC) RPI #90
-Drake (12-9, 5-5 MVC) RPI #105
-Lamar (12-8, 3-3 Southland) RPI #108
-Valparaiso (14-7, 7-2 Horizon) RPI #123
-UNC-Asheville (14-7, 9-1 Big South) RPI #135
-Fairfield (10-9, 5-3 MAAC) RPI# 139 - Bad memories from their last Patriot Center visit

With George Mason currently leading the CAA I think they have a good chance at getting a decent opponent.  Personally I'd like to see them host Drake but they don't make the most sense geographically and I think the coaches/conferences play a role in these pairings.  A Missouri Valley team this season would be an excellent in-season test before the CAA tournament.  Indiana State is another option but they have fallen to 3-7 in the MVC and I don't think they will match up a first place CAA team with a struggling MVC team even if their RPI is #122.  Buffalo makes the most sense, given their numbers and location.

What are your hopes/predictions for Mason's BracketBuster opponent?

[RPI numbers from]

Sherrod Wright's late game heroics lift George Mason past Hofstra

George Mason played another one down to the wire last night but the got the road win against Hofstra to remain in first place. Sherrod Wright finished with 15 points and had a three-point play that helped seal the victory for the Patriots in the last two minutes.  Wright's three-point play put Mason up 51-50 with 1:46 remaining then after a Hofstra miss freshman Corey Edwards hit two clutch free-throws to put away the game.  It feels like I keep saying that Mason is edging out victories in these sloppy games and they are but the important thing to remember here is that they are in fact winning them.  Not only are they winning them but they are getting contributions from different guys every night.

Last night no starters reached double-figures and only two had more than three points, Bryon Allen and Vertrail Vaughns went scoreless. Sherrod Wright stepped up big time and is flourishing in this new role off the bench. He gives Mason that pop off the bench like Isaiah Tate and Vertail Vaughns did last season. However, if you had told me before the game that this team would have won a road game with all that happening and especially Ryan Pearson only scoring nine points, I would not have believed you. In fact the Patriots' bench out-scored Hofstra's bench 36-6 while also controlling the boards. Sophomore Jonathan Arledge has averaged nine points over the past three games and is starting to become a viable option off the bench for Paul Hewitt. Freshman Corey Edwards has had some ups and downs this season, as every freshman does, but he was clutch last night hitting those two free-throws and adding a late three-pointer in the 2nd half. Winning these types of games is something that builds team chemistry and is something they will have to keep doing to get to the CAA tournament finals this season. However some of the numbers from this game were ugly.

In first half the Patriots went 4-for-23 from the field (17.4%) and had numerous turnovers. They finished the game with 18 turnovers which continues to be an alarming stat when they still have to play VCU twice.  I mention VCU because they are #2 in the national right now when it comes to takeaways, both steals per game and total steals on the year.  Mason just has to clean this up, that's all there is to it.  They overcame these struggles last night by taking better shots in the second half (45.8% FG), hitting key three-points, and getting to the line late in the game.

Notes: Freshman Erik Copes dressed for the game last night but didn't play (coaches decision), however I would expect him back Saturday for the JMU game.  Also, Ryan Pearson took a hard shot to the mouth that swelled up his lip pretty bad.  Doesn't seem like anything serious though.

The Hofstra student section put much more effort into their signs to taunt Andre Cornelius than the Drexel students did. Sign of respect?


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Bryon Allen's development has been a big part of George Mason's success

Before the start of this season the point guard position was up in the air. Cam Long and Luke Hancock handled nearly every Mason possession the season before and both were gone.  That left the Patriots with inexperience in the back court, especially after the 10-game suspension of Andre Cornelius.  Sophomore Bryon Allen and freshman Corey Edwards started off the season splitting time at the point and no one looked like the answer in the early goings. It looked like Paul Hewitt was starting to favor Edwards in late November when he gave the freshman two starts against Brown and Albany. Edwards didn't do much in those two starts and then got a concussion during practice which kept him out for two games. Allen thrived with the extra minutes and has been the starter ever since.  

In his first four games this season Allen had 16 turnovers and his erratic play had most fans and media thinking he wasn't going to be the answer at point guard for George Mason. Since that stretch Allen has only had three games where he turned it over more than three times and his assist-to-turnover ratio is currently at a healthy 1.4. In CAA games this year he is only averaging two turnovers a game. And while hemay only be averaging around 3.5 assists a game he has brought stability to the back court and it has been paying dividends for the Patriots. At times this season we have seen flashes of his ability to get to the basket and often set himself up for an easy three-point play. He also has great size for a CAA point guard and lately has been using it well to get to the basket and rebound.

The most important part of his progression this season is how he has looked running the offense. In the beginning of the year Allen looked rushed and often confused.  Most of that is gone now and his decision making has vastly improved.  He isn't putting his teammates in bad positions any more and has been a big reason why the Patriots have looked so good in transition recently.  You can tell his teammates are confident in his ability to be a floor general and that has been a boost for team chemistry. 

Most fans might think this year's George Mason squad can only go as far as Ryan Pearson and Mike Morrison take them but if they make it to the CAA tournament finals Bryon Allen will be a big reason they got that far.

[Photo by John Powell]

Previewing George Mason at Hofstra

George Mason travels to Hempstead, NY to take on the Hofstra Pride tonight, trying to win their fifth game in the a row.  The Pride starting off the season promising beating Cleveland St. (RPI #67) and Iona (#49) but have struggled mightily in CAA play (1-8).  They have had some close games but can't seem to get over the hump. They have some guards that can score but are an average shooting team.  One thing they do well is get to the free-throw line, something they have done more than any other CAA this season. They have six players that shoot better than 70% from the free-throw line.  However, like Mason they are not a three-point shooting team and are 11th in the CAA in three-pointers made this season. Guard Mike Moore and wing Nathaniel Lester are each capable of scoring 20+ a night and will be the focus for Mason on defnes. Andre Cornelius will most likely be match-up on  Moore and that leaves Vertrail Vaughns and Sherrod Wright to cover Lester. Vaughns and Wright have been doing better on defense lately but this will be a match-up to keep an eye on. 

Hofstra has had their struggles with turnovers this season and most recently coughed up the ball 18 times against VCU. The Patriots forced a lot of turnovers against UNCW on Monday night which led to easy fast break points. They should be able to do that again tonight against a team that averages more than 15 turnovers a game.

Ryan Pearson and Mike Morrison should have another good showing tonight as Hofstra doesn't have much of a front court presence.  The Pride will struggle if those two get going early because they are not deep at forward and these guys have been getting to the line a lot recently.

The Patriots have had some tough games recently on the road and they will need to stick to their game plan on offense tonight.  UNCW forced them into taking ill-advised three-pointers and it disrupted their rhythm.  In their last two road games they blew leads at Drexel and JMU and didn't do a good job of playing the entire 40 minutes.  Hofstra would love nothing better than to unseat first place George Mason tonight in their house.

Notes: Game is not televised. Also Erik Copes practiced on Wednesday, more from Dick Patrick:
"Freshman post Erik Copes, who missed his fourth consecutive game, did a workout this past Wednesday, his first on-court activity since his frightening fall against Drexel that left him with a bruised back, shoulder and neck.

He said that he was still sore after the workout. "I want to play (Wednesday at Hofstra), but I'm not sure they'll let me play," he said.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Recruiting Update: Paul Hewitt still trying to bring international flavor to George Mason

A couple students and fans who attended the game last night emailed me saying they noticed a recruit was in the stands last night for George Mason's win over UNCW. If you were at the game you might been wondering why at one point the student section was chanting "We want Marko!". The recruits name is Marko Gujanicic, a 6'8" forward from Serbia who was on the U19 team that played Paul Hewitt's US squad last summer in the FIBA games. He scored 16 points against the US and must have caught Hewitt's eye. This wouldn't be the first international product Hewitt and his staff have been targeting if you remember. Gujanicic is a bit older than most recruits you will see the staff going after and will be 20 years old this September.  But with that he brings experience from playing on a professional team in Serbia, where he averaged 12 points a game last season and shot 33.3% on three-pointers. You can see from this highlight video below he doesn't seem like he's much of a post player but would have the potential to cause match-up problems in the CAA with his size on the wing.

He seems to be an excellent passer and I'm sure his drive and dish ability caught the coaching staff's eye. Gujanicic is currently enrolled in school in California and for him to make the cross country trip to George Mason at this point in the recruitment has to be a good sign.

Another name the staff is after is Michael Carrera, who plays locally at Montrose Christian in Rockville, Maryland. Carrera is a 6'6" forward who is originally from Venezuela and was offered a scholarship to play at Virginia Tech back in June. He is a tough kid who has a nice scoring touch around the basket and is an excellent rebounder. At 205 pounds he already has a Division I body and his coach says he is "relentless on the boards".  He has had a very productive career at one of the nation's top high school basketball programs.

[via CAAZone, Michael Kennington, @ryancioppa]


George Mason gets by UNCW to remain in first place in CAA

Photo by John Powell
The Patriots did just enough to beat UNCW last night and remain alone in first place in the CAA.  The 67-61 victory was fueled by Ryan Pearson's 20 points and 12 rebounds and Bryon Allen's career-high 17 points.  At times Mason looked great, forcing turnovers and scoring in transition but lapses on defense and ill-advised three-point shooting allowed UNCW to stay in the game late.  In the first half Mason turned over the ball numerous times in the first few minutes and allowed the 'Hawks to grab 10 offensive rebounds before the half-time buzzer. They did a much better job in the second half correcting those problems but then were completely stymied by UNCW's zone defense.  They forced Mason into taking three-pointers and as a result they finished 1-16 from there. Mike Morrison and Ryan Pearson worked hard on the inside and hustled for rebounds which really helped Mason overcome their problems in this one. They were at their best when they were driving to the basket and getting to the line instead of settling for the outside shots UNCW was giving them.

We saw sophomore Jonathan Arledge have his best game as a Patriot, scoring nine points and grabbing five rebounds. He showed us his athleticism going for tough rebounds and getting to the free-throw line, where he is second on the team in FT%.  Freshman Erik Copes missed another game last night because of his neck and back pain from the fall he took at Drexel. Hopefully he comes back soon because the Patriots could use him on the boards.

The bottom line here is that Mason is continually figuring out how to win games like this and that is a great sign. Opposing teams have been challenging them a lot recently and they are still managing to do the necessary things in order to get the win.  It's no surprise that three-point shooting isn't this team's strength and I hope that they learn from this game that other teams are going to give them those open looks behind the arch. That doesn't mean they should always settle for them.  When guys like Allen, Wright, and Pearson are driving and getting to the line the Patriots are a tough team to beat.  Add to that the ability to force turnovers and get fast break points and we have a team that could do some damage in March, should they reach the big dance.


Monday, January 23, 2012

Previewing George Mason vs UNCW

TV: 9 pm, MASN

UPDATE: Erik Copes is out again tonight per CBS's Jeff Goodman:

George Mason returns to action tonight against UNCW at the Patriot Center. For some great coverage of UNCW hoops you can look no further than Brian Mull's blog, where he has some analysis and a preview for tonight's game. The Seahawks are one of the youngest teams in the nation, so they sport a very freshmen/sophomore heavy rotation. They have one of the more efficient offenses in the CAA this season, led by junior forward Keith Rendelman (15.8 PPG, 10.8 RPG) who is shooting over 58% from the field. They do nice work on the offensive glass and Mason keeping those second chance opportunities to a minimum will have to be a focal point tonight.  I wrote over the weekend about how keeping teams off the glass in their own end is starting to become a real problem. Allowing a team like Towson to out-work you that badly is alarming and most likely would have fueled an upset from a better overall team. Mull points out in his post from yesterday that Mason "allows opponents to collect a second-chance opportunity on 38 percent of shots (12th in the CAA)". The Patriots often mask this problem by putting points on the board quickly and getting to the line but it is something they need to fix before their games with VCU and ODU.

UNCW is a team that has had their struggles on defense and will most likely be over-matched against the Patriots firepower. The Towson game this weekend was another wake-up call to this squad that they cannot overlook any opponent and UNCW is a team that can pounce if  Mason starts sleep-walking.  When another team disrupts Mason's flow on offense they are much more prone to turnovers and poor shot selection.  This  Seahawks team is very young but disciplined and can take advantage if they are able to throw Mason off their game plan in the early goings. A quick start is always a key for the Patriots but also putting in the hard work on both ends to maintain the big lead is something they have had struggles with recently.

Having said all that I still like Mason's chances to bounce back from a sloppy day and have another night like they did against Delaware last Wednesday.  Ryan Pearson and Mike Morrison haven't really had back-to-back slumps this season and I would expect them to get back to business tonight.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Patrick Holloway talks about staying local and choosing George Mason

Here is a video from the Washington Post that features Paul Hewitt's first recruit of the 2012 class, Patrick Holloway. He talks about staying local and how George Mason was the right fit for him.


George Mason gets sloppy win over Towson

Towson's record-breaking losing streak didn't come to an end Saturday at the Patriot Center, but the Tigers certainly came close.  Three things you don't see often at the Patriot Center, Towson nearly erasing a 17 point deficit, actor Bill Murray courtside, and Sherrod Wright scoring 22 points. It was eerily similar to the game between the two teams earlier in the season where Mason seemed disinterested and played down to Towson's level. Mason needed Wright's heroics late in the game when Towson kept chipping away at their lead because of turnovers and sloppy possessions. This game had the ingredients for what processed the Patriots' worst games this season: numerous turnovers, yielding a ton of offensive rebounds, and poor shot selection down the stretch.  No one in Mason's starting line-up reached double-figures, while Mike Morrison and Ryan Pearson combined for only six defensive rebounds.  But despite this less than stellar performance, the Patriots have sole possession of first place in the CAA after VCU took down ODU last night.  

Sherrod Wright looked like the guy we all envisioned at the beginning of this season. It was a lot to ask from a guy who missed all of last season but he definitely showed us again why he still has untapped potential. This team has proved a couple times this season that they can win without their seniors having a big night but they are not their best when that's the situation.  The bench is playing more a role in the team's wins but the inconsistent play from some of the starters is something troubling to see when we are more than midway through the season.  

The rebounding issue is starting to become a real problem for this team.  Without Erik Copes, who doesn't play all that many minutes anyway, the Patriots lacked toughness and were just outworked by the Tigers on the glass.  Towson had as many offensive rebounds as Mason had total in this game, truly an alarming stat.  VCU, Drexel, and ODU can all rebound and that is who the Patriots are going to have to go through for the CAA autobid.  This problem needs to be remedied soon or it will most likely be a short weekend in Richmond this March.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Bill Murray in attendance at Patriot Center for George Mason-Towson

Friday, January 20, 2012

Lowly Towson Tigers visit Patriot Center this Saturday

While this is definitely a down year for the CAA as a whole, perennial bottom-feeder Towson is enduring one of the worst seasons in Division I college basketball history.  It's been more than a calendar year since the Tigers won a game and have a current losing streak that is only bested by an NJIT team that lost 59 straight. They however were going through a transition from Division II, what's the Tigers excuse? This is what prompted me to be so critical of George Mason's game against them earlier this season. It was a game where the Patriots jumped out to a big early lead and then seemed to get disinterested in finishing off a vastly inferior team. The team we are currently seeing now from Paul Hewitt and company is a far cry from what we saw in that game. Mason could probably bench their entire starting line-up and beat this Towson team by at least 12 or so points.  But realistically the Patriots can't lose their focus in this game and I'd like to see them continue to limit the mistakes and make good shot selections. It will be a great game to give some of the younger players more minutes, such as Vaughn Gray, Corey Edwards, and Jonathan Arledge.  I'm assuming Erik Copes is still going to be held out of this one because why rush him back for this game?

The numbers on Towson this season are scary bad, which I guess isn't surprising.  Their leading scorers average 11.5 and 11.2 points a game and as a team they shoot only 36.5% from the field (#343 nationally out of 344 teams). They are dead last in every single shooting category I could find among CAA teams and average more than 18 turnovers a game.   Against Drexel earlier this season they lost 60-27 which prompted this tweet from Seth Davis: 

It's hard to disagree with that statement.


UPDATE: Looks as though Erik Copes will indeed be held out of this one:


Thursday, January 19, 2012

George Mason dominates Delaware 89-63

Photo by Bill Bride
Mike Morrison and Ryan Pearson powered Mason to a dominating 89-63 over the Blue Hens last night. The Patriots had a season low eight turnovers and got 41 points from Pearson and Morrison.  Again we saw Mason control the game by getting to the free-throw line often and converting. It was probably the cleanest game we have see Mason play so far this season as they took care of the ball and shot over 54% from the field. Sherrod Wright and Vaughn Gray provided some offense again off the bench while Bryon Allen continues to look solid at the point guard position. Speaking of Allen, we haven't seen much from him behind the arch but he hit a nice looking three-pointer to end the first half. Overall the group we are seeing now is a far cry from what we saw at the beginning of the season as the team chemistry and players have developed.  

Delaware did decent work on the offensive glass but just couldn't score. On defense the Hens gave up a ton of uncontested baskets and Mason's guards literally walked right to the hoop on a handful of possessions. The difference however in this game was that Mason finished off a team after mounting a big lead and didn't get sloppy down the stretch.   

The Patriots are tied for first in the CAA with ODU after Georgia State lost to Northeastern last night. They don't have a game against a top six team in the standings until homecoming on February 4th so they are currently in the drivers seat to remain in the top four of the conference standings. A lot could happen between now and then but if Mason keeps playing at this level they have an excellent chance to remain atop the standings and get an easier path to CAA finals.

Freshman Erik Copes was a late scratch last tonight and missed his second game after taking a hard fall at Drexel.  Hewitt said after the game his status was questionable for Saturday's game against Towson.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Previewing George Mason vs Delaware

Mason returns to action tonight at home versus Delaware. Currently the Patriots are in a good spot as they are in first place and are about to go on a three-game home stand. They are inching closer to locking up a first round bye in Richmond this March, something that is more important this season than ever.  Delaware on the other hand is an interesting team. They have lost some really close games to good opponents and clubbed Drexel earlier this season.  They have a common opponent with Mason, Radford, a team they lost 58-54 in their first game on the season. With Devon Saddler and Jamelle Hagins they have a strong 1-2 punch from the inside and out.  This is a team capable of pulling off an upset and Mason can't take them lightly. We have seen the Patriots have some trouble closing out games recently and they can't let a team like this hang around late in the 2nd half.  

It looks like from the game notes that Andre Cornelius will get the start again tonight. Sherrod Wright finally got out of his slump against JMU but Cornelius has earned this spot with his play so far this season.  Wright coming off the bench with Vaughn Gray will give the Patriots a nice boost in scoring they haven't been seeing from there. Also, Paul Hewitt said earlier this week that Erik Copes should be good to go tonight.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Patriots grind out win in foul-plagued night in Harrisonburg

Ugly games are starting to become a recurring theme this season for George Mason. Last night was a tightly officiated game, to put it nicely.  The refs constant whistle blowing disrupted the game so much there was no chance for either side to get a clean rhythm going. The 63 total fouls tied a single game CAA record set back in 1984. Check out Mason's FT % rate in the below statsheet chart to see how much of an impact it had on the game. The game was so slow and dreadful to watch there was a long period with the only scoring action came from the free-throw line. The Patriots took advantage early of JMU's misses and fouls, building a led of as much as 21 points before seeing it dwindle down in the remaining minutes.  Any other night I would have said this is a continuing problem for the Patriots, not finishing games strong, but last night's officiating crew really botched this one. It's hard to say the refs weren't a factor in this one. That's not to say Mason didn't have their share of mistakes. The turnover bug returned as Mason turned over the ball 21 times and got real sloppy down the stretch.  In the end we saw great performances from Sherrod Wright and freshman Vaughn Gray as well as Ryan Pearson return to form.

Gray was 8-10 from the free-throw line and finished the game with a career-high 19 points.  That's the most points a Mason freshman has had since Sherrod Wright's 24 point night against VMI back in 2008.  Gray's shooting touch is starting to heat up as he has had five three-points over these last two contests.  It was also good to see Sherrod Wright find his scoring touch again because Bryon Allen and Vertrail Vaughns were hurt with in foul trouble early.  

The Patriots were not able to control the front court as much as I thought they would but Mike Morrison and Ryan Pearson certainly got their share of points in the paint. They really could have used Erik Copes last night int he middle but he was held out as a precaution because of soreness in his shoulder from the hard fall he took against Drexel.  


Friday, January 13, 2012

Previewing George Mason at James Madison

TV: 7 p.m. CSN+, if you don't know what channel that is on your provider go here

A quick turnaround for George Mason as they took a flight straight from Philly last night to Harrisonburg, VA to prepare for Saturday night's game against James Madison. This is the last game of that crucial stretch on their schedule and going 3-1 on it could go a long way this season. I watched VCU-JMU last night before the Mason-Drexel game and noticed that the Dukes don't have much of a front court presence. They do however  have one of the most productive back courts in the CAA.  They have lost space-eater Rayshawn Goins for the season due to a shoulder injury and senior forward Julius Wells is out with a heart condition.  That leaves the team painfully thin in the paint and is an area Mason should dominate in this game.  Ryan Pearson, who has one field goal in the last two games will hopefully get back on track in this one.  In their 20-point loss to VCU last night JMU was out-rebounded 42-26.  In other words the Morrison-Pearson-Copes trio should control the paint Saturday night.

JMU is relying heavily on their backcourt this season and have some of the conference's better shooting guards. As a team they have made the 2nd most three-pointers in the CAA. Guards Humpty Hitchens and A.J. Davis could have a night like Damion Lee from Drexel had if Mason doesn't do a better job on defense. JMU is a team that likes to run so this could be more of a track meet compared to the grudge matches we have seen recently.  Mason is the deeper team and will try to wear out the Dukes. I would expect Mason to get to the free-throw line a lot in this one also.  


Damion Lee carries Drexel past George Mason

(Rick Kauffman/Philahoops)
The game went just as most thought it would, until the very end. Drexel freshman Damion Lee, who averaged about 11 points a game prior to last night, poured on 16 points in the 2nd half, nine of which came in the last 1:41. He ended the game with 21 points and the Patriots were unable to answer or deny Lee down the stretch.  Mason's offense sputtered late as the Dragons held Ryan Pearson to 4 points and one field goal.  This is the second game in a row a CAA team has taken Pearson out of the game.  They needed the back court to come up big to overcome of the loss of Pearson's scoring but did not get it.  Andre Cornelius, who got his first start of the season, and Vertrail Vaughns had off shooting nights. Which makes me question why Vaughn Gray didn't get more time in the second half after hitting back-to-back three-pointers in the 1st. Mike Morrison was the only Patriot to reach double figures as the team could not capitalize on opportunities late in the game.

Freshman Erik Copes had an outstanding homecoming and was nearly blocking every shot in sight. He ended game with seven blocked shots, all in the first half. In fact at halftime he had more blocked shots than any player had points. He was three shy of the single game team record 10, set 21 years ago. We also finally got to see Vaughn Gray's shooting stroke Paul Hewitt raved about during the off season. Even Corey Edwards had a nice three-pointer in the first half.  

The team has shown progress this season but last night's breakdown on defense is something they need to correct quickly.  They knew Lee was going to get the ball, as he had the hot hand late, and didn't do a good enough job trying to deny him the ball.  Mason also didn't have a go-to guy with Ryan Pearson struggling. As a result the guards made some bad decisions in crunch time. Their last two possessions were dreadful to watch, one of which ended with a flustered Ryan Pearson hurling up a three-pointer that didn't even hit rim.  Bryon Allen needed to be a floor general in that situation and he will have to learn from how this game ended.

If you are interested in seeing some of the taunting signs and gestures the Drexel students had towards Andre Cornelius last night check out our tumblr page.   

Post game video:


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Previewing George Mason at Drexel

Free live stream

George Mason is handling one of the toughest stretches of their schedule very well so far. Things don't get much easier though as they travel to Philly to take on Drexel Thursday night (TV: ESPNU & ESPN3).  Drexel was once tabbed the CAA favorite but it's looking like they won't live up to the hype after double-digit losses to both Delaware and Georgia State already.  Like ODU they are not an offensively powerful team but play a tough brand of basketball with defense and rebounding.  They have had their troubles scoring this season (10th PPG in CAA) and have been held under 50 points three times this season.  Mason has also had their shares of scoring droughts over the last couple of games and will need to stay out of another ugly, gritty game.  We have yet to see Mason force their high tempo game on any CAA opponents yet, perhaps this may be the night.

Drexel has one of the toughest front court's in the CAA but they are streaky on offense. All-CAA forward Samme Givens scored 31 against Fairfield earlier this season but fouled out against VCU on Sunday with 4 points.  They are first in the CAA under defensive rebounding percentage as a group but not nearly as tough on the offensive glass.  The Patriots have a size advantage with Ryan Pearson, Mike Morrison, and Erik Copes who have all have done excellent on the boards recently. Copes still has those moments where he is overly aggressive and gets into foul trouble; Mason will need him in this game and can't get frustrated like he did against ODU.  It will also be interesting to see if Morrison can continue to be an offensive threat for this team. 

The back court will busy trying to slow down Frantz Massenat. He went 4-for-4 from behind the arch against VCU on Sunday and can score in bunches. Drexel's back court has balanced scoring but really only Massenat seems capable of taking over a game.  Mason's guards like to drive the lane but this Drexel team is very sound on defense and doesn't send opposing teams to the free throw line very much.  They will have to choose their shots carefully and another night of Vertrail Vaughns making outside shots would go a long way.  

Mason has been able to come out of some ugly games this season on top and this could be another one of those games.  Drexel's DAC gym can be a tough environment to play and for about half of the team it will be their first time playing there. You have to like Mason's chances however because they are finding ways to win in different situations, something we didn't see in the beginning of the year. They are not solely riding on the back of Ryan Pearson and are starting to play excellent defense to close out games.  

A few articles from this week:

George Mason's Mike Morrison trying to harness his emotions

GMU’s Copes heeding uncle’s words of advice

George Mason's Copes not afraid of dirty work


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Fear the Beard Campaign: 3rd Edition

1st Edition

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 16 games this season:

Since our last edition Pearson had a monster game against Charleston where he scored 35 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. The Cougars had no answer for him in that game and it capped off an impressive road win for the team. And then he followed that up with another 14 rebound night against ODU. He was mostly shut down by Georgia State early on but still proved to be an All-CAA player by going 10-for-10 from the free-throw line when his team needed him.  

It is crazy to think that his numbers are still improving, especially in rebounding and three-point shooting. Pearson has shot 13-for-34 from behind the arch this season, good for 38%, which is 10% better from there than ODU as a team. The efficiency he brings on offense has provided this team with some stability all season. He has one CAA player of the week honor under his belt so far and will probably end up with a few more this season.  It's important to realize though his number might start to decline a bit with Bryon Allen and Mike Morrison shouldering more of the offense recently.  

One area he could still improve on is his assist to turnover ratio. He is currently leading the team in turnovers per game which isn't too crazy considering he gets the most touches out of anyone. However, he still needs to make better passes out of the post and find open guys on the wing. Teams will start doing more of Georgia State did to him last weekend and he will need to take better care of the ball.  

[Original photo by Stephen Kline]

Monday, January 09, 2012

George Mason featured in ESPN's Weekly Watch

Great pic of Bryon Allen in's latest Weekly Watch. So far Mason is taking care of business in the CAA after getting off to a slow start this season and are looking like the conferences's most consistent team. They will get a chance to further prove themselves this Thursday night at Drexel.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

George Mason wins another ugly CAA game, takes out upstart Georgia State

Credit: Bill Bride
In a way this was a game similar to the ODU one a few nights ago.  Mason had some scoring droughts and appeared sloppy on both ends of the court.  But in the end these Patriots proved they can slug out a win without getting the usual from Ryan Pearson.  Pearson was in early foul trouble and also just didn't look like himself last night. No he didn't shave off the beard but he had a difficult time getting into a rhythm and credit should go to Ron Hunter and Georgia State's defensive game plan. The Panthers confused Mason with their variety of different match-up zone defenses and forced Mason into some erratic possessions. Mike Morrison picked up the slack with Pearson riding the bench much of the 2nd half and ended up with 14 points, 4 blocks, and a career-high 15 rebounds. His emphatic dunks and energy reminded us of his best moments from last season. Pearson on the other hand had no field goals (10 points from FTs), something that hasn't happened to him since his freshman year back in November 2008. 

The Patriots had trouble with turnovers again last night, something they had been improving on in recent games.  They also had very poor shot selection in the 2nd half shooting only 32% from the field but made up for it at the free-throw line.  Bryon Allen was also in foul trouble which led to more of freshman Corey Edwards at point guard. Edwards ended up with five turnovers in 16 minutes of action.  Pearson and Allen on the bench disrupted Mason's flow but Vertrail Vaughns and Mike Morrison stepped up when the team needed a basket.  And much like in the ODU game they got a defensive stop when they needed it.  In the last 2 and half minutes of the game they went 11-for-12 from the free-throw line to secure the win.  

Credit: Bill Bride
The Patriots now stand alone atop the CAA standings at 4-0 and are off to their best start in the conference since the '08-'09 season. The schedule doesn't get any easier as they now head to road against Drexel, which could be another ugly game.


Friday, January 06, 2012

Q & A with a Georgia State blogger

This next game for Mason against Georgia State will be one of their toughest home games of the year. GSU can score and are currently on an 11-game tear after beating VCU in Richmond. You can argue that their schedule hasn't been tough but that win on Wednesday night showed they are for real. New head coach Ron Hunter has inspired this group of players and has taught them how to win. Truly remarkable when you consider these are the same group of guys that had only 12 wins last year.  Mason can't have the scoring slumps like they did last night at ODU because these guys have much more offensive firepower.  And on defense they are tops in the CAA in FG% defense (15th nationally). Their defense in the 2nd half against VCU literally left the Rams in shambles offensively and looking lost at times. Some of the traps and defensive pressure they use could really give Mason's back court problems. When Mason is on defense they will have to go up against a very disciplined, balanced, and efficient group. They have a couple of good outside shooters and an inside scoring presence with forward Eric Buckner.  A key advantage for Mason could end up being the Panthers' 4-guard line up.  They have no depth in the front court so it will be important to again get Mike Morrison going early along side Ryan Pearson.

To get more information on this year's Georgia State squad we had a Q & A session with Ben Moore from

This is basically the same group of players Georgia State had last year. What has new head coach Ron Hunter done to teach these kids how to win?

Ben Moore: It was 100% about attitude and culture. I had a chance to interview Hunter a few weeks after he was hired and he vowed to change everything. I believe the genius behind this is that he knew he had a veteran group with six seniors who had played a ton of basketball. These six seniors had played a total 310 Division 1 games. He expressed that they so desperately wanted to win but just did not know how. He changed their attitudes, gave them defined roles and is maximizing the strengths of this basketball team. So many coaches want to fit their scheme, the trip out to Washington really opened up his eyes to what the team did well and he altered the way he was going to play with this group.

How would you describe the Panthers game on offense this year? What kind of tempo do they play?

BM: Coach Hunter arrived saying he wanted a fast tempo, break neck speed pace but he realized that his rotation was going to have to shorten with five contributing Seniors, two key reserves and a Freshman. The team is averaging nearly 3 shots per game more than 2010-11 and would prefer to play in the high 60s to low 70s. Coach Hunter preaches ball rotation and shooting uncontested three point baskets. The goal is run when possible and get an open three point basketball or dunk.

I noticed in the GSU-VCU game they Panthers played a lot of different zone schemes, is this what we can expect to see Saturday at the Patriot Center?

BM: There's no question. Ron Hunter inherited a very good defensive basketball team and makes tremendous adjustments. You'll see a 1-2-2 zone, 1-3-1 zone (with top CAA shot blocker Eric Buckner in the middle), full court and half court traps. This has made our opponents very uncomfortable to this point. We've seen many opposing fans blame their team's poor shooting but as Coach Hunter mentioned this week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, people are going to have to realize that this team is pretty good. The Panthers D is currently 16th in the country in points allowed and is very aggressive and is 16th in the country in steals.

Mason fans remember how good Jihad Ali can be, as he shredded us during his sophomore year. Who else should we be keeping an eye out for?

BM: Immediately Devonta White has to be discussed. I believe he's one of the top lead guards in the conference and is the catalyst to both of the transition game and the Panthers offense. He's 15-4 in the starting lineup the last two seasons and is a deceptively good shooter. He's slight of build but has a lightning quick first step and is not afraid of taking on anyone in the lane. Another guy who has been playing well is Josh Micheaux who can do a little bit of everything offensively. He is a true slasher and is strong enough to get by most small forwards in our league. He's an adequate enough shooter but would prefer to create off the bounce.


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