George Mason has a quick turn around from their loss at the Verizon Center on Sunday and hosts UMBC tonight at the Patriot Center. Statistically this is the worst team Mason will face in their non-conference schedule and it would be nice to finally see a decisive blow out. It’s difficult to predict an easy win for the Patriots at this point because they have played down to a lot of competition this season. The Retrievers are allowing an average of 75 points a game from their opponents and actually get to the free-throw line at a less frequent rate than George Mason, so it won’t be a slow game. It’s going to be another one of those, ‘which George Mason team shows up tonight’, but it’s more likely we see the Patriots get back on track in this one.
After tonight’s game, Mason has a tough portion of their schedule: UNI, Richmond, and at South Florida. Those will all be tough tests for this squad and in tonight’s game it would be nice to see them tune up a few areas of their game. For starters, the point guard play has to get better. Neither Bryon Allen or Corey Edwards are dishing out dimes and although they aren’t handing over the ball as frequent as last season, they aren’t making the offense go much either. Sherrod Wright and Patrick Holloway were Mason’s only offensive threats on Sunday against the Terps and they weren’t necessarily being set-up by stellar point guard play. Wright can create his own shots but few others on the roster are capable of that. Speaking of Holloway, at what point does he crack the starting lineup in place of someone like Anali Okoloji? Paul Hewitt loves Okoloji’s energy and defense but Mason’s offense have sputtered a lot early when he’s on the floor. The 10-12 man rotation Hewitt is currently running probably won’t last and I would personally like to see it at 8-9. I think some of their offensive struggles are due to the erratic rotation changes but this is the point of the season where you start to figure out your ideal lineups, so we’ll just have to see.
Another area the Patriots should focus on tonight is their shot selection. Perhaps the caliber of their opponent was the main cause for this on Sunday, but it wasn’t the first time we witnessed a poor shooting second half. Too many guys went blank from the field, most notably Bryon Allen and Marko Gujanicic. Johnny Williams had a tough outing against the Terps front court but he won’t face one that tough for the remainder of the season. It’s important they get him more involved in the offense because they are too easy to defend against without a post presence. Erik Copes is starting to come around with his offensive moves and it seems they are less hesitant to throw it in the post to him as well. Mason has a front court advantage over most of the CAA and they need to start making it more of a focus of what they do on offense.
Defensively the Patriots have done well. They forced a ton of turnovers against Maryland and improved on turning them into easy points. Currently they are ranked 24th in the nation in steals per game (7.2). If they continue this trend and start taking smarter shots on offense, they will be a much more dangerous team. Another area they have improved on during their first eight games is rebounding. They held their own against one of the better rebounding teams in the country on Sunday and that is something worth noticing. With Copes back in the lineup they are getting more second chance points and need to capitalize more on that.