So it now comes down to the fact that George Mason almost certainly needs to beat George Washington if they want to finish in the top half of the Atlantic 10 this year. The Colonials have won two straight while the Patriots have lost their last two with only three games remaining on the regular season. The Revolutionary Rivalry is alive! Well sort of. Mason desperately needs to bounce back and win at GW after two tough games against URI and Dayton. Perhaps the five day lay off between games will serve them well as their starters have been logging a ton of minutes towards the later half of this season. It certainly looked like they may have run out of gas against Dayton on Tuesday despite playing hard. But we’ve seen this team bounce back many times this year, especially on the road, and it’s no better time than now for that to happen again.
Mason needs their top four guys to all be sync or they will end up going on scoring droughts. It has happened for two straight games now and they just need to have Marquise Moore, Jalen Jenkins, Otis Livingston II, and Jaire Grayer finish in double-digit scoring. That is when they are at their best. The team will occasionally get help from the bench in Karmari Newman and Ian Boyd but often it’s not enough if two of those top four guys are quiet. A balanced offense, that features their rim-attacking style, can be difficult for opposing teams to defend against when they get going. This opens up three-point looks, which is why they need all four guys to be having good games. Three-point shooting has helped them get to eight conference wins this season but it has cooled off lately. They simply won’t upset any A-10 teams if they that continues. Jenkins and Moore attack the paint while opening things up for Otis and Grayer on the outside, it can often be as simple as that but they’ve got to find some long range consistency.
Turnovers were a big issue against Dayton and almost single-handedly gave the game away for them. As a team they haven’t had less than 13 turnovers in a game since the win at Davidson earlier this month. The issue is that they often have been getting down early in games and then cough up the ball trying to do too much to get back into the game. Jalen Jenkins, for all he’s down well this season, has been one of the biggest culprits. This needs to be a priority going forward.
Defensively, they’ve got to be more disciplined and limit the fouls. They still manage to out-rebound their opponents and get more free-throws but yield too many more freebies than they were earlier in the season. Freshman Karmari Newman has really been a great on-the-ball defender off the bench and I wouldn’t be surprised to see his minutes go up as we reach closer to the A-10 tournament. Speaking of foul trouble though, Jenkins has done a good job recently of staying out of it but still tends to get the quick two early that limits his first half.
How Dave Paulsen manages the minutes over the next two weeks will be interesting. Does he run a short rotation that has produced a lot of success this season or does he try to keep his starters fresh for the conference tournament? As a fan I want them to keep their foot on the gas pedal and ride our best guys as far as they can go. However the long season could be taking it’s toll, especially with how hard these guys play each night. The conference tournament will be a nice reset for them and a fresh start but they got to do the work now to make sure they are in a better position to make a run.
[Photos by Bill Bride]