After back to back wins against BCS teams, George Mason now finds themselves in the Charleston Classic final on Sunday against 6th ranked Virginia. This team has looked reborn in this tournament from what we saw in their first two games. Shevon Thompson’s dominance on the boards and in the post is opening things up for everyone. Freshmen Otis Livingston and Jaire Grayer are exceeding expectations in the back court and giving this team a real outside shooting threat. Marquise Moore is benefiting big time from their play and setting up the offense to run more smoothly. When was the last time he had 8 assists in a game? Grayer’s big day shooting the ball included 5-for-7 on three-pointers and he’s now the team’s leading scorer. Overall the balanced offense has returned to Mason as five guys are averaging 9 or more points a game heading into Sunday’s final.
UVA is a great defensive team but then can be beaten as George Washington showed earlier this season. GW beat them by winning the rebounding battle and getting to the free-throw. Free-throw attempts have been a rare sighting for Mason in this tournament but if they can play disciplined on offense and continue to make outside shots they certainly have a chance. Tony Bennett loves to slow the game down and grind out wins on the heels of his team’s defense. They will look to lock down on Thompson early and deny entry passes to him. With Grayer and Livingston shooting the ball well they will have to respect Mason’s perimeter attack but I still think a lot of focus will be on Thompson.
Mason probably needs to keep the turnovers under 10 in this game, something they have yet to do this season. A lot of those turnovers are coming from Thompson, who is sometimes easily flustered when facing adding attention. They have to find a way to get him the ball and in good position to score and not cough up the ball. The guards on this team are looking more comfortable each game and this has been less of an issue with each passing game.
These guys know how to compete and have a blueprint for success.
[Photos by Tim Cowie]