George Mason collapses in loss to South Florida

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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:

 

  • eaymar

    I’m hoping last night was an anomaly for this season. Collapses after big leads was the norm last year (NE in the CAA tournament), but we’ve won most of the close games we’ve played this year. I’m hoping that the senior leadership that faltered last night reemerges. My bigger question is why, no matter who we play, we ALWAYS have close games. That I put on Hewitt.

    • Kyle Stegner

      It’s probably due to the fact that Hewitt only calls a time out when a lead is chipped away to a single field goal point difference. He has a habit of waiting until the other team ties us, chips the lead away to a few points, or takes the lead over Mason. This is something some coaches do because they are hoping the players can figure it out. After what happened last night and last season it may be time for Hewitt to call a time out much earlier before things turn nasty.

      • Chris Hirsch

        Hewitt typically runs out of timeouts early on in the game as well.

        • Kyle Stegner

          Thank you for pointing that out I didn’t notice that. If that’s the case then here’s something that I have been wondering about. Is it the players or coach Hewitt that is to blame for the three losses so far?

        • mkaufman1

          he used his final timeout late in the game last night, hes gotton better

          • Chris Hirsch

            Small sample size and gotten.

          • mkaufman1

            hes been better this year, in my opinion.

  • eaymar

    Just did the research. Hewitt’s average margin of victory has been by about 8 points. We’ve had more blowouts than I remembered (especially his first year, with Pearson and crew), but we’ve also had more closer games than we should have. Especially this year, with a senior-heavy squad. Hopefully they get their shit together by Saturday, otherwise Oklahoma is going to stomp us.

    • Kyle Stegner

      We need to beat either Oklahoma or Iowa State. We really need to win 1 out of the 2 of them. All of the teams in the A10 who are likely to make it to the NCAA (Umass, Dayton, St. Louis, and VCU) already have 7 or 6 wins over non conference opponents. This looks like another year where 5 A10 teams will make the NCAA and the other 3 will make NIT. After Oklahoma and Iowa State this Mason team needs go on a winning streak (similiar to the 2010-2011 season with Larranaga) against A10 opponents to make up for the three losses they have now. If we lose more than 10 games we are not going to make NCAA or NIT unless Mason somehow wins the A10 tournament in the Barclays Center. This is my 2 cents on the situation now after losing against USF, Princeton, and Iona in a conference many steps above the CAA.

      • Ryan Cioppa

        I’m sorry, but you’re insane if you think this team has the mental make-up to overcome a loss like this. No way we beat Oklahoma or Iowa State. We just blew a 17 point lead with 12 min to go in the game AT HOME with a “veteran” squad. This team has no heart, no desire, and no will to win. We expected losses like this last season with the growing pains the team was going through, but not this year. You would think we have an inexperienced team out there every night, because that’s how they play.

        • Kyle Stegner

          It would be nice if we can beat Oklahoma or Iowa State. But you’re right its very unlikely. Still it would be nice to win 1/2. Right I have them finishing 5-5 before the new year unless they win against one of them. But I am not wrong in saying that this Mason team definately needs to win most of thier A10 conference games if they want to have any chance of making a NIT at least. Lose more than 10 games and Mason is out of contention for a at large bid for both tournaments. It would be shame to see Mason’s seniors graduate knowing the only time they tasted the excitement of a NCAA or NIT postseason was when they were playing garbage minutes as freshmen against Ohio State in 2011. I’m still going to remain optimistic instead of pessimistic for now.

          • David Houck

            Only Johnny played in that game against Ohio St. Sherrod was redshirting and Allen wasn’t there yet.

          • Kyle Stegner

            Thank you for your correction. If that’s the case then it would really stink to see Sherrod and Allen graduate and not experience a NCAA or NIT postseason tournament if this team continues to falter.

          • Ryan Cioppa

            We will not win the majority of our A10 conference games. There really isn’t any reason to be optimistic anymore, not after that last game. It sucks, but it’s the way it is.

          • mkaufman1

            Johnny played but Allen and Arledge were both around and on the team.

          • David Houck

            Ah, my bad.

  • David Houck

    I said it when we were up 17, FINISH THE GAME. I have yet to understand why teams get up big and then let off the gas. Continue playing with what got you to that point. I thought Gray should have played more in the 2nd half. They closed the lane down, and he is a guy who can stretch the defense out. Also, while Allen was hitting 3′s, I really hope he doesn’t make a habit of pulling up with 30 sec on the shot clock because has never been and will never be his shot, and it’s not Marko’s either. Patrick had some great floaters in the lane but he completely forced almost all of his 3-ball attempts and it just wasn’t necessary. In practice, this team should run sprint for 40 straight minutes, just to learn how to do something consistently for that long. After sprints, shoot free throws. It amazes me that Hewitt clearly has not put an emphasis on free throw shooting, even with the rule changes that put it at a premium.

  • Rock

    As I see it, Mason will win some games but they just don’t have the level of talent needed to beat better blue chip teams. Yes, that means 6-8 of the A 10 teams. Mason’s defense is so porous down the middle. I hope Copes helps, but come, on he will foul out of most games. J2 and Marco, way too slow. The USF guards caught on quick, they just drove right by both of them. They don’t have the quicks and agility to compete with fast guards. sure they didn’t hit outside shots, they didn’t need to!! And why did Jenkins play so few minutes. Why would he put Okolojie in at a critical time? The guy is just lost on the court. At lease Kory Edwards showed a little better. Instead of just passing off he started to penetrate some. He needs to keep it up. Hewitt just seems so passive. How could he defend what Okolojie did?. He should be suspended. Baloney he was pushed in the back. He used his foot in a kicking motion
    Finally what in the world are we going to do next year, good bye to Sherod and Allen. Who is going to score?

    • David Houck

      Okoloji has been suspended

    • Kyle Stegner

      Julian Royal and Marko Gujanicic will most likely carry the majority of scoring duties next year. Vaughn Gray and Patrick Holloway will be replacing Sherrod. One of them will be the starting shooting guard. We also have three freshman players coming in next year but they are raw on offense and will have to adjust thier defensive skills with the new NCAA rules now doing more to protect shooters and increase scoring in Division I basketball.

      • Ryan Cioppa

        I have no idea where our scoring comes from next year. Nobody on our roster, or any of the recruits currently coming in, can step in and be the next Sherrod and Allen. Gray isn’t Sherrod and Holloway isn’t either. Our offense looks stuck in the mud right now with Sherrod and Allen as our main scoring threats from the guard positions. I don’t see how that gets better next season. You need more than Marko and Royal.

  • TonyD

    At this point in the Hewitt era it’s at least not surprising to witness these meltdowns

    • Bill Bride

      Speaking of meltdowns…

      Alex Prewitt ‏@alex_prewitt 1m
      Turgeon won in a unanimous judges decision. Best milkshake in the BB&T Classic.

  • gmusigs

    I don’t like how Mason was getting whored by the refs and Hewitt never really seemed to get fumed and voice his displeasure to them. Don’t players want a coach who sticks up for them? Ridiculous

  • Mike

    It wasn’t just that the defense was bad, it was that the transition defense was bad. It seemed that every missed shot or turnover resulted in a USF score.

    The Collapse began when Allen missed a free throw on the front end of a 1 and 1. If he makes those two free throws, we’re up 17 and there is no chance for USF to run the floor after the missed shot. The free throw shooting has got to improve. Period. We’ve got guys like Allen and Wright who have inexplicably turned into Shaq. Wright’s and 1 free throw to tie the game late was cringe worthy. It barely nicked the front of the rim. If Allen and Wright make their late free throws we would have won the game despite The Collapse.

    Of course Okoloji’s bone head play was a critical part of The Collapse. But immediately following it Edwards passed the ball to TWO USF players. Result: fast break score. Then Allen looked so distracted that the ball was stolen from him for another easy score. Those turnovers and guys eager to put up quick ill-advised threes marked a total Collapse of the offense. When things are going that bad they have to learn to get the ball to Wright so he can drive to the basket and at least draw a foul. I agree with others. A timeout was in order once the ball crossed mid-court so that Hewitt could run a set play to Wright.

    A bright spot is once the team recovered from The Collapse they still had a chance of winning because the offense had spotted them such a large lead that they could Collapse in the first place and still be near-tied. The stats line reveals a key to the improved offense. Edwards played more minutes freeing Allen from point guard duty. We really need Moore back in the line up. Any word on his injury?

    Another bright spot is Copes’ line, which is very nice on the defensive stats for 14 minutes of play. Copes suspension means he’s going to take a while to catch up with the others in adjusting to the new rules, so I expect he’s going to continue to have foul trouble in the near term. Hopefully he will learn. I’m resigned to the fact that Copes won’t contribute to offense. Wright should know that, too. Why oh why late in the game did Wright pass to Copes who predictably missed a short shot rather than Wright finish his drive and take the contact for at least a foul?

  • Matt Cerilli

    Still, this was supposed to be our year with all of the seniors. Who
    really has the confidence when you say Gray or Holloway will be starting
    next year? What have they proven in the past to get us excited about
    that??

    And I love how everyone keeps calling this our
    year because of how many Seniors we have, yet we are all begging for
    FRESHMAN Moore to come back to somehow “save” this team.

    I have stuck up for this team/Hewitt when a lot of people haven’t but
    last night really got to me. No excuses what so ever. This is our
    basketball program going in the totally wrong direction. I don’t care if
    we just switched to a better conference. If we are always at the bottom
    looking up it’s not much better.

    • mkaufman1

      Wednesday night bothered me a lot as well. I rationalized the “whys” when it happened against Drexel last year but saw it kept occuring all the way through until the Northeastern game. I knew it was just the sort of team they had and understood there were new roles. This time around I certainly dont give them that much leeway and place more blame on the coaching for letting it happen again. AT the same rate, I don’t think there would be much they could do as everyone tried to hit 10 pointers. It seems when they play their best free throws fall, but when they start faltering the free throws dont.

      While there are bigger fish to fry than USF, I am concerned about the general direction of the team, especially considering I believe the team is built to be successful this year. I am still going to see about my expectations once the team hits 10 games (after Iowa STate) and my judgement on hewitt (at around 75%) once this year is fully over. I do think Hewitt is generally trending towards a small extension (3 years or so) since he has been winning, but this year will tip the scale whether that actually occurs this soon.

      I did really like what I saw for 30 minutes on Wednesday and saw a team that really got what Hewitt has been teaching them. I saw strong defense, rebounding, and a smooth offense. But they got mentally rattled and never could recover appropriately. Hopefully the team grows from the loss, but at this point its not the first time, so who really knows what will happen.

  • Jeff Schuler

    That makes 3 of the last 4 games (all losses by the way) where a part of the game the opponent has had huge runs on us Iona 34-5, Princeton 25-11, and now South Florida 23-1. Most of this scoring is layups. If these runs didn’t happen or were marginalized we win every one of these games. This is a pattern that I don’t want to see continue and one would think is something that should be preventable.

    • David Houck

      It all comes down to making adjustments, something Hewitt is seemingly incapable of doing.

  • Rick Jank

    I would have lots to say about this game, but I already kind of blew my cork about how we were going nowhere fast after the Princeton game.
    But I would just say “wow” about the Anali suspension because the way I saw it (after lots of replay), it had all the markings of an inadvertent step, it looked like his foot got caught up when he tried to remove it, and then he had to step back down to regain his balance. He wasn’t even looking down at Collins during the whole thing — it looks like someone had just said something to him, probably a Bull player. Then when he went to shake Collins’ hand the ref nearly pushed him away, which kind of showed the ref’s attitude at the time. So yeah, he may have been mad or frustrated from the play before, but I don’t think he intentionally directed anything at Collins. Oh well, maybe Anali admitted to something, but if not, I think all involved have to get a grip here.

    Three other quick things:
    1. College hoops is starting to remind me of the NFL where the refs are intent on enforcing a newly implemented rule that the players need to adjust to, resulting in many “teach you a lesson” foul calls, making the refs too much a part of the show, as they alter the course of the game.
    2. Holloway looks utterly lost defensively, which is punctuated by the new rules. I think because of his size, eliminating the hand check affects him more than normal. Ditto for Marko because of his lack of footspeed.
    3. Will Copes ever get to 20 minutes in a game, or will all his fouls prevent that?
    4. I don’t think that at the beginning of the year Marko and J2 thought they would ever be our frontcourt, but there they stand.

  • Mason Mom

    We were at the game last night–heartbreaking. You can only blame the coach so much, this team lacks court sense and heart. Where was Sherrod Wright for 7 minutes during the SF run. He touched the ball about 3 times but never shot. You cannot have your best player not shoot especially when your team is in the middle of a scoring drought. If Byron Allen is running the point, it seems Sherrod gets fewer touches. During that SF run Marko lost the ball, Allen had it stolen because he was not paying attention, Copes missed an easy layup from Sherrod, bricked a foul shot, the AO incident was a 6-8 pt swing–it was horrible. Mason scored 1 point in 6-7 minutes, you cannot compete when your offense disappears. Yes, the defense was bad at times but the offense was worse during that run. Sherrod —PLEASE takeover the game when your team is struggling!!!!!!

    • David Houck

      Well it is kind of like you said, he can’t take over the game when he isn’t given the ball.

  • Season Ticket Holder

    Attendance is down for obvious reasons. Given the
    league change, this team will do well to finish at 500 this season. Perhaps an 8th place finish in the A10 regular season.

  • http://www.benjaminbradley.com benjaminbradley

    I’m now pretty confident that we will end the season 9-19. The lack of players wanting to play the FULL game is the demise of this years squad. In our next 20 games, only 1 team has a losing record (Penn) and we’ll probably lose to them. It is a shame but I fear most of the A10 teams view us as a cupcake game on their schedules.

    • Kyle Stegner

      You may want to add 2 more losses, or 2 more wins, or 1 more win and 1 more loss to your prediction. Mason will be playing 2 more games regardless of the outcome against Iowa State in the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii. So the total number of games played will be 30 by the end of this season. George Washington, Richmond, St. Bonaventure, and Rhode Island are considered to be equivalent in roster talent to George Mason. So far George Washington, Richmond, and St. Bonaventure are doing way better than Mason. Rhode Island is starting to settle and sink down a bit. 8th place finish seems very likely if the capability of this team to win games has already reached its limit.

      • Rick Jank

        No matter how you slice it, it looks like we are in grave danger of finishing below .500 for the season, maybe far below, and I can’t remember the last time that happened.
        The Oklahoma game will probably be painful to watch. After that we get a break and maybe a chance to COLLECT OURSELVES and then take a trip to Hawai’i and play a good Iowa State team. Hopefully we can play good ball against them, give us something to build on, and then we might be prepared for the familiar foes coming up on our schedule, ODU and VCU. Right now I shudder to think…

  • GMURULES

    I see some people figuring out if we win this and we win that, we have a chance at decent season. At this point, if it looks like a duck, acts like a duck and sounds like a duck, it is a duck and in this case the duck is an unmotivated team with terrible coaching. Hewitt is a nice guys, good recruiter but horrible coach. I so wanted to not believe all the GT fans that said we would regret the hire. Well I regret the hire. This team totally underperforms. They are way better than this and who blows a 17 point lead with 12 to go? We do. Our coaching staff is HORRIBLE!

    • Tom

      Hewitt make GMU basketball ugly to watch. We should ask the university to look for a new coach. Fire Hewitt.