George Mason blew a 17 point lead in the second half and lost on a last second shot to South Florida last night. The Patriots essentially collapsed before that final shot by Corey Allen Jr. and let the game get away from them. The turning point in the game was a technical foul called on Anali Okoloji, with about eight minutes remaining, that completely swung the momentum in South Florida’s favor. It was basically a six-point possession for the Bulls and Mason completely lost their composure after that. The ending result was a 23-1 run by South Florida that included almost no outside jump shots. Mason couldn’t match USF’s energy at that point and really got away from what was previously working for them on offense.
So what exactly happened? Below is a replay of the sequence that led to the technical foul call on Anali Okoloji (UPDATE: he’s now been suspended):
Prior to this everything Mason did on defense was a foul and it was obvious the players were frustrated by the officiating. Okoloji was definitely fouled on this play but there was no call and he retaliated on the other end. I was sitting right behind Stan Heath and it definitely looked like he stepped on him and the video is pretty clear. A bone-headed play by a guy who is fighting for minutes. It was a huge turning point and gave USF the help they needed to get back into the game.
Regardless of the officiating, yielding a 23-1 run to any team is unacceptable. Especially considering USF couldn’t make a jump shot to save their lives. They got lay-up after lay-up and Mason constantly sent them to the foul line. They had 37 free-throw attempts compared to Mason’s 19. What’s crazy about that stat is that it looked like it was going to go the other way at the beginning of the second half. Sherrod Wright was scoring at will and getting to line often. USF starting to keep him out of the lane, then the technical happened and things unraveled for Mason.
I’m not sure why Paul Hewitt abandoned zone defense against a team that was having a terrible night from the field up until their big run. Mason’s man-to-man defense has been frustrating to watch for some time now and it didn’t seem to matter who was covering Corey Allen Jr. Adjustments on defense continue to be an issue for them.
Bryon Allen had some heroics hitting clutch three-pointers in the closing moments but both he and Wright couldn’t capitalize on ‘and one’ opportunities at the line late in the game. The team’s free-throw shooting overall continues to be atrocious and it once again killed them in a foul heavy game.
This is another example of the a team just not knowing how to win. They lack mental toughness and it doesn’t look like they have grown past the same problems that plagued them last season. They let things get out of hand and lost their composure last night, something you shouldn’t see from a veteran group of guys. The game was far from over after that technical foul but Mason had no answer to USF’s punches after that. You can blame the officiating all you want but get used it because this is how college basketball is being called now with the rule changes. Other teams are adapting and Mason needs to as well.
Photos by Bill Bride: