George Mason is looking to rebound from an 0-2 road trip as they host Rhode Island tomorrow. Although URI is an A-10 opponent this game won’t count as a conference one, due to the fact that this is the end of a three-year series started before Mason joined the conference. The Patriots have won both meetings in this series but they have also been very close games. This is probably the Rams’ best team in the series to date and I would expect another close one. URI only has losses to SMU and Arizona and have been steadily improving since Dan Hurley arrived as head coach. Leading scorer Xavier Munford returns, you may remember him from last year as he dropped 24 points on Mason. They also have a legit inside presence in 6’8″ forward Gilvydas Biruta, so it’s a good thing Erik Copes is finally returning.
Both teams are similar, they each turnover the ball at a pretty high rate and they both get to the free-throw line often. On paper Mason has the better offense but they also did against Princeton and despite refs having a happy whistle, they couldn’t take advantage. If both Mason and URI are attacking the rim and a lot of fouls are being called it could be a very close game. The Patriots can’t let things get out of hand like they did against Princeton and need to control tempo right from the start. That all starts with taking care of the ball.
Erik Copes returning should help out on defense but I’d imagine he’s going to be rusty. However, his presence alone in the lane greatly helps them out because Johnny Williams and Marko Gujanicic haven’t been great defending there. Also those two have been responsible for a lot of turnovers and perhaps Copes can bring some steady hands in the post.
Dan Hurley’s strategy on defense involves a lot of ball pressure so Mason’s turnover problem could be exposed once again. They need to do a better job making better decisions in the first halves of games because that’s when this problem has been the worst. Finding a way to get the offense going early has plagued them this season as well and that is linked to this problem.
This game will be televised on MASN.