George Mason narrowly escapes Lafayette in the opener

First off, the new video boards, lighting and overall game day experience is very much improved this season. The intro video was awesome and it pumped up the crowd, we’ve been waiting a long time for something like that. For game George Mason edged out Lafayette in the closing seconds with some clutch full court defense and free-throw shooting. Not the start to the season we wanted, especially when you consider the Leopards were picked by most to finish last in the Patriot League.

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Photo by Alexander Rogge

Mason started off hot on offense, pushing the tempo early and getting transition baskets. Freshman Goanar Mar, who with the current roster limitations, started at the five but looked very confident. His first basket was a three-pointer and hit two more on the night on his way to 11 points.

As expected Jaire Grayer led the way with 17 points and nine rebounds and looked assertive all night long. Otis Livingston II uncharacteristically went 0-for-3 from the free line but finished with 14 points, six assists, and only one turnover. Justin Kier was the late game hero, going 5-for-5 from the line on a night with very few free-throw attempts for either side. He finished with 15 points and four steals, career highs for him.

Speaking of steals it was great to finally see a Dave Paulsen team play some full-court defense. They have small quick lineup on the floor at all times this year, might as well use that to their advantage. Lafayette had a great night shooting the ball, especially in the first half, but Mason was able to clamp down when they needed to in order to get the stops they needed down the stretch. Overall, their defense might be a work in progress all season, especially with out a real rim-protector on the back end. It will be a process this season and they certainly have a lot to work on.

Zero points from the bench is not very surprising but I had thought coming in we’d see more of a spark from freshman Javon Greene. His three turnovers reminded us he’s still a freshman out there. Greg Calixte and AJ Wilson looked very raw out there and were often out of position on defense. They certainly need Calixte to be that bigger body in the middle, Mar certainly can’t defend the post himself all season. Also, Mason gave up 12 offensive rebounds and way too many second chance opportunities. This could be a problem that plagues them all season.

Mason wasn’t going to ever get a ton from their bench this season and to me it’s less of a concern considering the starters had such a balanced scoring attack. Kier and Boyd shooting the ball better and being productive each night is what will help make this team good this season. It’s the question of what happens when one of the starters has a bad night, can they survive that or is the depth just too shallow?

Paulsen’s Post Game comments:

Box score:

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  • Foolsrushin63

    For the first game of the year I’ll take it. Saw lots of good things. Balanced scoring, solid ball-handling and, for the most part, decent defense. Give Lafayette credit. They had a good game plan and executed well. They exploited our aggressiveness on defense. Don’t like the new video board. No individual stats such as number of fouls. I am watching the game live, I don’t need to see it on the screen.

    • gmusigs

      Mason could have done better on defense but I agree credit is due to Lafayette they played a hell of a game. Balanced scoring between our top 4 guys will be crucial

    • Nathan Minarik

      You’re kidding, right? The new scoreboard is a huge improvement.

      • Foolsrushin63

        Not kidding. Board is better quality, but they just streamed the game. What is point of that? We are watching game live. At least old board we knew how many fouls someone had, points etc…

        • Nathan Minarik

          I hear you on those points. But I imagine that’s something they will be able to address. Overall, it’s providing a much better viewing experience. But agreed that it would be nice to have the stats displayed consistently throughout the game. Still it’s a step forward.

        • StopWearingPurple

          The board is a great addition, but they do have some growing pains. The line up, fouls and points used to be on the old score board. Now they are occasionally on the corner screens and the type was hard to read. Several times I looked to check who was on the floor or how many fouls somebody hand and the corner screens were ads. One screen can have the advertiser and the other can have the roster info. Also, put it in yellow like the other stats so they are easier to read.

        • Masonfan01

          They are still working some things out, remember it’s brand new to the arena team running everything. Also fouls/stats were on the video boards in the corners.

          • Foolsrushin63

            Understood, but the stats were only on the corner boards briefly. Most of the time just advertisements. It is a simple fix, but an important one. It is a big disservice to fans to not have the stats, particularly when they were available previously. Let’s hope they get if fixed soon.

  • Gamoo79

    Love the extended highlights and postgame with coach. For those of us who may only get to one game every couple of years, its a great addition.
    Thanks, Ryan!!

  • Days of Yates

    Last year we also opened with a Patriot League opponent, Loyola, and lost, and last night;’s game was starting to feel like a repeat with Lafy being in position to take the game down the stretch. And that’s coach’s old conference, so that makes me doubly glad we were able to pull out the win.

    • gmuhoops

      We opened vs Towson last year

      • Days of Yates

        Closed! I meant to say closed! 😉 That said, we have simply not started off the season well in the past few years, so it was great to avoid an opening loss this time around.

        • StopWearingPurple

          Last year there were early losses to Towson and Mt. St. Marys so I take the close call with the might Leopards with a grain of salt.

  • TonyD

    I’m worried we will get eaten alive in the post this year, hopefully AJ and Calixte shake off the jitters and provide more there.

  • mason2004

    Was hoping Calixte would help us on the boards, especially on the offensive end. We can’t lose those battles each night and expect to compete in the A-10 this year. I’m hoping it was nerves and that Calixte and AJ will be more helpful going forward.