For most of this season, defense hasn’t been one of George Mason’s biggest problems. By the numbers they were pretty efficient on that end and kept teams below their averages. Last night against Northeastern though, it was a total collapse, and they allowed the Huskies to score 54 points and shoot over 64% from the field in the second half. Sure, they’ve had problems all season long with closing out on the perimeter but it wasn’t just three-point shooting that doomed the Patriots last night. They were so bad they allowed a freshman, who normally averaged 6 points a game, to go off and score 15 points, most of them in the second half. Northeastern just plain shredded Mason and at one point late in the second half “scored 11 straight in less than two minutes to turn a one-point deficit into a 73-63 lead.”
The lack of intensity and desire the Patriots demonstrated in the second half was just embarrassing. Not only were they giving up countless looks on the perimeter but they were allowing the Huskies to drive and dish with ease. On the offensive end, it was the same old song and dance, the occasional Sherrod Wright spurt and lots of confusion. In the beginning of the game they made an effort to go inside, which made sense considering that Northeastern has no big bodies inside. It worked and Erik Copes and Jon Arledge were having some success in the first half. For whatever reason they abandoned this strategy after taking a lead into the locker room at halftime and came out in the second launching up ill-advised three-pointers. Northeastern feasted on the Patriots poor shot selection and pretty much beat them at their own uptempo style.
Corey Edwards looked good at the point in terms of dishing out assists, something we rarely ever see with Bryon Allen running the position. Edwards finished with seven assists and zero turnovers but failed to maintain any sort of rhythm for the team on offense in the second half. It’s amazing to me how lost this team looks on offense after it being 13 games into the season. The 4-out, 1-in motion offense worked for about 10 minutes last night with Erik Copes muscling in a few baskets but then it turned into guys like Anali Okoloji making terrible passes into the post. When you don’t have a consistent post player scoring it all falls apart. Sherrod Wright freelancing seems to be the only real offensive threat and we saw last night what happens when he scores less than 24 or so points.
After watching last night, it seems the prediction that Mason wouldn’t have too much trouble winning the CAA is completely inaccurate. The CAA is looking pretty wide-open right now with everything coming down to that March weekend in Richmond. The Patriots making the NCAA tournament looks like such a long shot at this point and team in general plays in complete disarray. Yes, the CAA is bad this year but Mason also just isn’t that good either.
A few notes:
-Johnny Williams continues to be a huge disappointment. He just cannot stay in games and was yanked early in the game with two quick fouls. In the beginning of the second half he quickly picked up his third and finished the game with 2 points and 4 fouls in only 10 minutes of action. Remember when we thought this guy would be the second go-to scorer?
-Why is Anali Okoloji still starting? This is another thing Paul Hewitt does that confuses me, continuing to play a guy that rarely provides anything on offense and makes countless mistakes on defense. The “high-energy guy” talk is tired at this point and Mason needs someone in the lineup who can guard the 3 spot and score a few baskets. He had three terrible passes where he tried to get it into the post player and just handed the ball over to the other team. The CAA is full of teams that start a three guard, two forward lineup, yet Hewitt keeps running this two guard, three forward one. Does he think he has an advantage or mismatch somewhere? He doesn’t.
-The rotation of Vertrail Vaughns, Vaughn Gray, and Patrick Holloway continues to be unbalanced. At least last night Vertrail looked much better and reminded some of his 2010 days from behind the arch. But don’t Gray and Holloway have a higher ceiling? Holloway might not be as good of a defender as Vertrail but I think he’s worth more than three minutes of action. As for Gray I have no idea why he seems to be in Hewitt’s doghouse. He had a bandage on his face last night so who knows what’s going on there.
[Photo by Bill Bride]