The Dave Paulsen era officially began Friday night with a new tone, new uniforms, a new floor but not a W. While expectations were not high, the loss reminds the fan base that there’s still a lot of work to do to turn this program around. The players played hard, showed great hustle, but couldn’t finish on a lot of offensive sets and missed a ton of free throws. They struggled on defense as well, allowing some easy baskets down the stretch and were outscored in the paint by a smaller Colgate team.
Overall the offense was a mess. They couldn’t buy a basket in the second half shooting and went on to finish 33% from the field, 17% on three-pointers, and 51% at the free-throw line. They finished the game with just five assists and turned over the ball 14 times. Colgate did a good job of denying the ball to Mason’s post players and double-teaming Shevon Thompson, who never looked comfortable in this game. As a result we saw Mason’s young guards settling for a ton of outside shots and turnovers from the big men. Marquise Moore tried to give the team a lift but driving to the lane but at that point it was too little too late.
On paper Mason should have been able to dominate inside with the trio of Jalen Jenkins, Shevon Thompson, and Marko Gujanicic. They won the rebounding battle but overall they were too soft inside. Thompson was easily flustered by the extra defenders and neither he nor Marko or Jenkins were able to make strong moves to the basket. The three forwards combined for 10 of Mason’s 14 turnovers on the night. They did get to the line often but just couldn’t convert. Marko had seven points in the first half and looked like he might carry this team with Thompson struggling but was held scoreless in the second half and struggled on defense.
The bright spots were definitely the freshman, who were certainly thrown into the fire early. Patrick Holloway was out due to suspension and Julian Royal is out indefinitely with a concussion so there were minutes available for the underclassmen. As a result we saw a lot of Livingston, Grayer and Murrell in the back court and they showed confidence. Livingston hit a buzzer-beater at the half to give Mason the lead but struggled to hit shots after that. The intensity and the hustle was noticeable from the young guys but so was some of the qualities that make them raw Division I players.
We knew heading into this season that this team was a “work in progress” and will have to rely on playing good defense and rebounding in order to win games. The offense is a big question mark at this point. I would have thought the back court players would have let down the front court ones but it was opposite last night. This team lacks shooters so when the front court guys can’t get it going they will struggle to put points on the board.
[Photos by Bill Bride]