One of the few things George Mason has done consistently this season is play close games. They escaped Rhode Island last night after experiencing a bit of a meltdown to start the second half. After the first 20 minutes they built a 16 point lead and scored their most points in any half so far this season (35). You would have thought Mason was going to run away with this one and it was fun to see nine different players score in the first half.
The second half was a different story and Rhode Island erased the deficit in less than seven minutes. The Patriots didn’t score in the second half until Erik Copes hit a layup at the 13:51 mark. So what happened? Turnovers, terrible shot selection, and fouls. Mason shot only around 28% in the second half and committed 10 of their 15 turnovers during that time. The Patriots dominated the boards, Copes was a big part of that as he nearly had his first career double-double, but couldn’t capitalize on it. I don’t know the official stat but they had a lot of second chance points in the first half and in the second, not so much. Too often a rebound was fumbled and turned over and than a foul was committed. Bryon Allen didn’t have a particularly good night running the point and that hurt them when the offense was sputtering. If not for Rhode Island’s terrible shooting themselves from the field and the line I think this game could have easily gone the other way.
But Mason won and that is all that matters here. It’s difficult to have much confidence in this group after the last two games and an upset of Maryland of Sunday seems a bit far-fetched. However, the Patriots played a similar game like this in the Paradise Jam tournament against Mercer and then followed that up with their best game of the season against New Mexico (minus the last 15 seconds). We are at the point now were it seems that this group has trouble playing a full 40 minutes focused. Is it mental toughness? Poor game planning? Immaturity? I don’t know the answer to that and I don’t need to see blowouts to be impressed; but it would be nice to see this team in control more against weaker teams.
A few notes:
We finally saw Gray get his first points of the season as he lead Mason in the first half with eight points on 2-of-3 shooting from three-point land. He played 10 more minutes than Patrick Holloway in this one, who didn’t even see the floor in the second a half. Holloway has been playing well while Gray was most likely in the coaching staff’s doghouse. Will this trend continue?
Points on the board. Something I didn’t think we’d have to worry about with this season was putting points on the board. Last season’s big scorers graduated but the team still entered this year with a ton of scoring options, at least in my opinion. Some guys I think are still finding their roles but as of now they are uncharacteristically 10th in the CAA in points per game. I had thought this up-tempo offense would be generating more at this point, it just seems to sputter way too often. It is however encouraging to see them win games because of their defense, despite having terrible nights shooting from the field.
Depth. I’ve heard some media people say that depth on a team is an overrated quality. For the first time this season I agreed with that notation after watching the start of the second half. What good does nine different guys scoring do if you don’t have a go-to guy when you’re in trouble? I’m starting to wonder if all the minutes being disbursed is hurting guys like Sherrod Wright, Bryon Allen, and Johnny Williams from getting going early in the game. These effects carry over and late in the game and you end up with starters who are basically cold from the field when you need them. Bryon Allen and Johnny Williams were a combined 1-2 from the field in the second half last night. That can’t be part of the game plan.
A bright spot from last night besides the victory was the team’s overall rebounding and Erik Copes getting points in the paint. Let’s try to forget that put back lay-up he air-balled that would have sealed the deal a bit earlier for the Patriots late in the game. We knew coming into this season he’d be a force on the boards but it’s nice to see him getting involved more on offense. For the second consecutive game he was an early scorer for the team and this opens things up for other guys. He was two points away from his first double-double, something I didn’t think we’d see much of this year unless he blocked 10 shots in a game. If Johnny Williams can start keeping himself out of foul trouble he and Copes will be a tough force in the middle during the CAA this season.
Video highlights and interviews with Erik Copes and Paul Hewitt:
Post game discussion
If you missed Bryon Allen’s game-winning shot against BU from last Saturday I have posted some video under the video tab page up top.
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