George Mason avenged last year’s disaster in Foggy Bottom
last night and earned the Battle of Orange Line bragging rights for this season. The final score (60-46) might show that the Patriots covered the double digit sports betting
spread but it was an ugly game at times and they gave George Washington
way too many chances. Both teams started off shooting the ball terribly but Mason’s defense gave them the edge early on. It was the first game this season where you saw the Patriots sputter on offense to begin a game. However despite poor numbers from the field they were perfect from the free-throw line in the 1st half which turned out to be the difference in the score at halftime. The slow start might have been the Colonials constantly double-teaming Luke Hancock, who so far this year has set the tone for the Patriots on offense. If not for some strong moves to the basket by Mike Morrison Mason probably would have been down at the half. The Patriots weren’t playing their game in the 1st half and the full court pressing by GW slowed everything down. It was a little concerning how easily they were able to throw Mason off their game.
The 2nd half is where the Patriots found their groove. They used a 9-0 run capped off with a Mike Morrison dunk to take a strong hold on the lead and never look back. Their defensive intensity picked up and Ryan Pearson, who was a zombie in the first half, really picked up his game on both ends of the court. A combination of steals and getting to the free-throw line sealed the deal for the Patriots in the end of this game. They were still a bit throw off by the constant pressing of GW, who actually ended up playing better defense last night then I thought they were capable of doing. Luke Hancock got a lot of jeers from the Mason fans in attendance for his inability to hold on to the ball at times. Despite leading the Patriots with 15 points he seemed a bit too frustrated by the double teams in the 1st half and will have to learn to work through when teams key in on him like that. Hancock and the other starters had to log way too minutes to close this game out as Larranaga didn’t show much faith in his bench. It seemed as if the starters played nearly the entire 2nd half. Even with a double-digit lead Larranaga didn’t feel safe inserting Bennett, Arledge, or any reserve guards. In the post game interview Larranaga had this to say about the bench players:
“They don’t clearly understand how to get it done yet,” said Larranaga. “I didn’t want to take a chance on putting them into a situation where they’d turn the ball over a couple times and we’d lose the lead.”
Rebounding: The Patriots didn’t do a great job on the boards in this one and were out rebounded 37-31. They let GW get way too many second chance opportunities and when your playing a team that shoots that poorly you can’t have that happen.
Bench Support: So much for this being a deep team. Mason got almost no help from their bench last night and it’s obvious after Coach L’s comments post game that he doesn’t have much faith in their ability on defense. If he doesn’t have faith in them with 8 minutes to go and up by 10 against a team like GW what’s going to happen when they play VCU or ODU? The starters won’t last playing this long all season and it was rare that no one was in foul trouble in the 2nd half. Also, Paris Bennett continues to get minutes over Johnny Williams in the front court, which is still puzzling to me.
Free throws: I can’t remember the last time I praised Mason for their free-throw shooting, probably because I never have. Not only did they do an excellent job getting to the line more than GW (as you can see in the chart below) they also made them pay for it. It still wasn’t a great percentage (69.7%) overall but they connected on a lot in the first 30 minutes of the game which helped them maintain a lead. At times it seemed as if Cornelius, Hancock, and Pearson could get to the line whenever they wanted, I’d like to see more of that.