George Mason escapes Rhode Island in another close one

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:
Vaughn Gray. 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.
Erik Copes. 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.

More on the Four Factors

  • birdman33

    i agree with you about the spreading out of minutes. while i do like to see lots of guys gettting minutes but i am a strong believer of keeping the guys in who are hot while only subbing them out to get a breather. and this game was another painful example of mason playing down to their opponents level. mason has zero half court offense, the defense is there, as they are only giving up about 55 points a game (or something like that). the offense needs to be more than a black top style. very rarely do i do see set plays. it seems to me that mason is running a constant motion offense with flat ball screens in the free throw area looking for sherrod to shoot a 3. id like to see j2 or copes establish position in the post.
    im sure im not the only person who feels that the mason offense is weak. while they are capable of scoring in bunches, they are also capable of not scoring for 5 mins at a time.

  • Wayne Brown

    If this coaching staff thinks B.Allen is a point guard then I say legalize weed in Va. because this kid is horrible as a point guard.  Please get this kid off the ball and put C.Edwards in the starting lineup.  That 10 man rotation will KILL this team and as the back court goes….it should be Gray or Holloway with Wright as starters(back-court) because we need BUCKETS and those 3 can provide plenty of BUCKETS.  Allen and Vaughns should come off the bench…If Hewitt is willing to go down the tank with B.Allen at point then kiss our season good bye…I’m sick of watching Allen have more turnovers than points….coaching staff needs to wake-up and get this kid off the ball before it is too late.  Will this coaching staff for once show that they have a clue and V.Vaughns ain’t given us nothing…play like that against UMD and we get our BUTTS kicked by 20pts.

  • Rick Jank

    Ryan’s comments are spot on, but I will add a couple of things…
    1.  It seems like either we are getting a terrible low-percentage shot off in the paint, or the shot is getting blocked.  I would hate to think we are only capable of making simple shots in the paint that make the opposing bigs look like Kareem Abdul Jabbar II.  Maybe I just miss Pearson.
    2.  Where is the fast-paced offense?  After every rebound it seems we are not making an effort to push the ball down the court.  In fact, we are usually getting across the halfcourt timeline with only a couple of seconds to spare.

  • Bentley

    This is a replay of last year – close games, win very sloppy games and start to believe they are better than they are.  Last year that burned them at the end of the season and VCU destroyed them in the CAA tournament.  (And the NIT didn’t consider them based on their sloppy play all year)  However, VCU is gone so as bad as this team plays they still could sneak through the 7 team field.

    They are 5-2 yes, but they could easily be 2-5 or even 1-6 with two bad loses to really BAD teams. (Boston, URI)  They have the raw talent to win 20 games, but for whatever reason they are off.  To me, since this is turning into a replay of last year, this is a coaching issue. (in a bad way)  Hopefully this team can mature through the year and start to eliminate the mistakes otherwise they will miss a golden opportunity to punch out a conference title in a watered down year.

  • StopWearingPurple

    I choose to dwell on the positives:
     
    -  Despite the melt down they still won
    -  There was a sign of an inside game with Copes
    -  Much more movement on offense this game
    -  The close wins in November will help them close out important games in Jan/Feb
    -  We don’t have to listen to Steve Lappas announce anymore (Seriously!?  A long discussion on Led Zep when it was a one point game!?)

  • Christopher Hirsch

    You do realize that Corey Edwards is also a turnover machine right?

  • Wayne Brown

    Then what the hell is Allen? Oh! You going to say a true point guard…who has the most turnovers on the team?  enough said.  Like I said B.Allen isn’t a point guard…He has the worst court vision I’ve seen in a pt. guard in a while and he doesn’t have a clue as to how a pt. guard makes his team better.  If Hewitt going to ride or die with this kid…then this team is just as good as DEAD.  Does anyone remember the last VCU game….B.Allen was at his best/worse…a true pt. guard… C. Hirsch maybe BA is your dude and you are pulling for him but let me refresh your memory VCU 32 – GMU 2….first 10 minutes of the game and you are trying to tell me GM has a pt guard.  Good example from last night game…I saw Gray wide open in the corner and no was 20ft near him and what does B.Allen do…overlooked Gray and turned the ball over…a true pt. guard hits the open man…ALWAYS…and another example…BA receives the ball after RIU scored and I saw Wright streaking up court with no one close to him and what does BA do….hold the ball while getting like a snail…SLOW.  Come on CH…do you think BA is a better pt. guard than Edwards?

  • Christopher Hirsch

    I’m saying that I don’t think either option is all that great but if I had to choose one I’d go Allen over Edwards. Edwards plays way too loose and sloppy.

  • Rick Jank

    You’re right, Lappas was a complete annoyance.  I will add a positive I’ve been meaning to mention:  Holloway.  His play is just brimming with confidence and energy.  One might worry about a freshman being too brash and overconfident, but I don’t feel that with him.  His moxy is never disproportionate to the game, at least this far.  There will be times when he will carry the team on his shoulders, more and more as he progresses.  There’s a certain glide to his game that I like, even on defense, and our concerns at the beginning of the year about his size haven’t been born out.  His minutes are limited, but so far so good.  I’m impressed.

  • Rick Jank

     Hate to say it, but it sounds like you got something personal against BA.  I think most people on this site would not agree with you, or at least agree that the problem is near as bad as you are suggesting.  Both he and Edwards still need to develop their game, both have had breakdowns.   Assist to turnovers they are about the same.  I give BA the advantage because 1) he has a year on Edwards  2) he is stronger to the rim, tho he does tend to lose control 3) he shoots better, or at least more confidently 4) he has good size and strength 5) and stamina, which shows up sometimes at the end of games when he has been MONEY.  Edwards is quicker, and that may eventually help him get the starting position, but he still has difficulty harnessing it.   We will see plenty of both this season; let’s hope they both improve as they go.

  • Wayne Brown

    Rick!  I don’t have anything against BA other than he is a horrible pt. guard.  We are talking about B-Ball and not personal HATE. 

  • Rick Jank

     Ok, I’ll take that back.  Sorry.  It’s just that you were coming on pretty strong.

  • GMULaw83

    Sounds like the same probs discussed last year…  mainly no point guard… and why Sherrod Wright ever comes off the floor is a complete mystery to me… no one else can create his own shot and score as well as Sherrod..

  • BoredInClass

     BA over Edwards any day… had a bad game against BU but was great against both UVA and New Mexico.. he is the best pt. guard we have and is over 5 inches taller than Corey.. better for the non conference schedule we have

  • James Hubbard

    The URI game was perhaps an improvement over the BU effort, but all the same issues were apparent.
    I don’t like Hewitt’s overall approach, but to be fair to him, the current roster presents real challenges. Neither Allen nor Edwards are convincing as traditional point guards, but the rest of the roster does not offer an obvious alternative. Vaughans, I suspect, doesn’t consider himself a point guard, but I would have given him a chance to win the position. He is quick, smart and tough. I would even be willing to sacrifice his catch and shoot ability in the interest of having a better point guard. Nevertheless, playing Vaughans at the point would be a gamble.
    The other alternative would be to play Wright and Vaughans in the backcourt but with both of them sharing responsibility for bringing the ball up court. Two years ago, Laranaga did something like this. Not an ideal arrangement, but possible.
    Bennett is perhaps not as talented as some of the other forwards, but I would get him on the floor as much as possible, because he has good vision, makes good decisions, and passes well.
    Saying a team has great depth often means that it includes lots of mediocre players and no standouts. Nonetheless, anyone looking at this roster would want to take advantage of the number of players who can contribute. I would like to see a starting five play more time together, so I might revert to the idea of a ‘green’ team — a second five who come in together for three or four minutes a time to change the tempo. Again not a panacea but a way to use the depth and building some real team chemistry within the starting team. 

  • GMULaw83

    Allen is not a point guard. Hewitt seems to be trending towards Edwards, and I agree with that decision. Allen is score first; Edwards is pass first. Sherrod Wright needs to stay on the floor and a regular lineup needs to coalesce, with starters, and regular rotation off the bench.  People are correctly complaining about lack of continuous intensity in games. Having an unsettled rotation breaks up continuity and contributes to that problem.

  • GMULaw83

    Only disagreement is I believe we do have Bigs… Copes, Williams, Arledge, and perhaps Marko can get it done…
    and leave Sherrod Wright on the floor!