Home loss to UNI underlines George Mason’s flaws

George Mason had their 14-game home winning streak snapped on Saturday in an overtime loss to Northern Iowa. The Panthers were able to expose some of the Patriots more glaring weaknesses; point guard play and perimeter defense. UNI’s Marc Sonnen had way too many catch and shoot opportunities from the behind the arch. The Patriots never made him put the ball on the floor or try and force him into uncomfortable situations. On top of that, late fouls really set Mason back, Erik Copes fouled out very early and it hurt them on the boards. The last couple of sequences before the overtime period was especially frustrating and puzzling to watch. I feel like I’ve said that a lot already this season. Late in games recently, I can’t remember watching a Mason team come out of timeouts so poorly on offense in a close match.

Mason had their opportunities to win despite their mistakes in this one but the issue at point guard seems to be getting worse. Corey Edwards got his second start but Bryon Allen played most of the second half and overtime. The last play before overtime was not Allen’s best moment and he failed to even put Mason in position to even get a shot off. Earlier in the night, players were open all over the court and neither Allen nor Edwards seemed to be able to find them. Marko Gujanicic and Patrick Holloway were left open a couple of times and never got the ball. How badly did this team need those two guys to get more shots off in this one?   
Not all of their problems were due to Bryon Allen and Corey Edwards though. Something that was easy to notice in this one was how Mason’s bigs seem to have trouble catching the ball in the post. I’ve criticized both Allen and Edwards for not giving their supporting players the ball in good spots but Copes, Williams and Arledge all seem to have trouble simply just catching a pass in the post. The lack of consistent post scoring is starting to take it’s toll and you can’t blame all of that on the play from the point guards. It’s a factor but it’s also due to Mason just really not having much there offensively. Sherrod Wright is doing great but think of what he could do with a solid post player complementing him every game.
The Patriots defensive efforts continue to be a half by half thing in turns of production. In the first half on Saturday they forced a ton of UNI turnovers and had them off their game a bit. In the second half they continuously fouled and left guys open on the perimeter. It wasn’t the first time we saw something this occur in a game for Mason this season. I’m still undecided on if the full court press is really helping the team this season. Before Saturday’s game they had the conference’s best field goal defense but too often it seemed like UNI was breaking the press with ease. It has helped them force a lot of turnovers and create some fast break points but it also seems to make them play sloppy later in games. When the fouls start piling up and it’s double bonus time at the free-throw line, things have can unravel quickly for this group.

The real issue here on defense is Mason not having a good on-the-ball defender, think of a shutdown corner in football. Andre Cornelius was one, John Vaughan was one, even Cam Long was a better one than what this team currently has on the roster. Vertrail Vaughns is most experienced but hasn’t looked great on either end of the court this season. When UNI’s Sonnen continued his tear in the second half Hewitt put Sherrod Wright on him and it didn’t make much of a difference.

  • GMU6

    I did feel sorry for Byron, of course many years ago the saying “been there done that” flashed in front of my eyes acted as my reason. You are so right. 2 numbers bother me and they are 8 and 13. 8 turnovers by our guards and 13 shots by are big guys. If there is a good side it is we know what is wrong.

  • Rick Jank

    I still have the game on my TIVO as I thought about watching it again, painful though that might be, to see what I can see. Ryan’s comments convince me I should, to see just WHAT can be done to fix our post play and our point guard play, which yes may be very much connected. Re Copes: 5 fouls in 15 minutes of play is ridiculous. I still say the offense looks a little smoother with Allen at the helm than Edwards. FWIW, after that awful play at the end of regulation, Hewitt seemed to point the guilty finger to himself — could it possibly be that they didn’t know how much freakin’ time they had left? That play turned out to be our one chance at a victory, and we lost the chance inbounding the ball for flip sake. It’s times like that that I miss Coach L for sure. I have to say I’ve been waiting for the time that we can say our new coaching staff was a factor in a victory, and that time hasn’t arrived yet.

  • BP99

    You said Allen and Edwards combined for two assists but those stats say they had three each?

  • gmuhoops

    Good catch, was looking at the wrong stat line.

  • LongTimeFan

    Northern Iowa gave a clinic on movement in offense. Everyone moves, opens up more than one. Mason just seems to move to get one guy open. Almost looks like with pressing the whole game they look at their half-court offense as a chance to rest.

  • GMURULES

    It was amazing how bad we were coming out of each timeout.
    It was not just at the end of the game, it was the whole game. We gave this game, New Mexico game away. The team does not seemed fired up at all. I know Hewitt is laid back, but his team is playing too laid back. No sense of urgency or energy.

  • Section 118

    Agree. Mason should watch UNI actually RUN plays without getting stuck in the lane, looking for … who? Ryan Pearson? Sorry, he’s not there any more.

  • James Hubbard

    Hewitt faces a tough choice over the next month. Does he stick with his usual tactics and his initial choices for the rotation or does he go to plan B? Plan A has not worked so far. He could assume that it’s only a matter of time and his players will start getting it right. That’s what he did last year and things did improve until the disastrous first half against VCU. Even the most pessimistic fans sense that this team will win plenty of games between now and March. The real test will be the key games against strong opponents — in the CAA tournament and hopefully beyond. Can they do better at the end of the season than last year’s lot?
    Changing now would almost certainly mean losing the next two games, as the team adjusts to a different approach and maybe even some losses in the early conference games. But it might also mean a better chance of winning in Richmond in March.
    I suspect that Hewitt has no notion of a plan B and to be fair the current roster does not offer many alternatives. Nonetheless without basic changes I suspect that the best anyone can hope with the current approach is the same sort of limp ending we witnessed last year.

  • GMULaw83

    This is getting redundant… why wasn’t a decent point guard recruited last year? If we make it anywhere interesting this year, I will eat my season ticket book.

  • StopWearingPurple

    I am glad to see the post play being mentioned. I noticed a lot of stop and pop during the UMBC game. Right now there seems to be little inside scoring, either from the post or from drives to the hoop. Until they can establish some inside presence Mason will be streaky and inconsistent on offense.