George Mason has proven the doubters wrong, now just needs to finish strong

DSC_0601George Mason was picked to finish 12th in the Atlantic 10 by the media back in October, fast forward four months and now they are fighting for a top four seed in the conference tournament. Kenpom now predicts Mason finishing the season 20-11 (10-8 in A-10), which is really an incredible turnaround in a such amount of time for Dave Paulsen and company. They came into this season with an undersized, mostly inexperienced roster, that lacked overall depth. None of that seemed to hurt them much during this season as we watch this team consistently out-rebound and beat teams in the paint while also having one of the most efficient offenses within the conference. With five games remaining on the season, a strong finish could go a long way for Mason in positioning themselves for post season action. Yes that’s right, post season play folks!

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George Mason continues dominance over Richmond with 93-70 win

DSC_3687George Mason is now fighting for position in the top of the A-10 standings after a blowout 93-70 win over Richmond last night. They have now beaten Richmond five straight times and have won 10 of 12 meetings against them. Marquise Moore picked up his 16th double-double on the season (22 points, 12 rebounds) and Jalen Jenkins scored 17 while joining Mason’s 1000-point career club. Freshman Karmari Newman who recently returned from a three game suspension, came in to provide a big lift off the bench, scoring a career-high 12 points. Mason overcame a turnover filled first half by controlling the game in the paint and at the free-throw line. They went 29-for-32 at the line while only allowing the Spiders eight total free-throw attempts. So here’s an update on that famous stat again, Mason is now 15-3 when they make at least 15 free-throw attempts in a game.

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Homecoming victory over Fordham moves Mason to 7-5 in A-10

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First of all, great win and great atmosphere last night. Crowds like that is what George Mason basketball needs more often, it makes a difference. Last night’s victory moves Mason to 7-5 in the Atlantic 10 but it wasn’t easy as Fordham fought back late in the game. They were able to fight off the Rams’ late surge by sticking to their game and getting to the foul line. They dominated the boards with a huge effort from Jalen Jenkins who finished with 13 rebounds (8 offensive). Marquise Moore had another double-double with 15 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists. Otis Livingston II led all scorers with 19 points and led Mason down the stretch going 8-for-8 at the free-throw line. Mason is now 14-3 when they make at least 15 free-throw attempts in a game. They had 25 attempts from there on the night compared to Fordham’s six. Certainly wasn’t the easy win many might have expected but Mason able to get a great win to help them stay in the top half of the conference standings.

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Karmari Newman returned to the line-up and a gave off a spark on offense off the bench that the team has been missing the last few games. Defensively he also gave some good minutes along with Troy Temara. But once again it was the starters that paced the team with all but Jenkins playing over 30 minutes. Otis Livingston II continues to keep things rolling for Mason and he and Moore combined for 10 assists on the night.

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The overall ball sharing continues to be excellent and has really progressed as the season has gone on. They fought through countless double-teams last night and still found the open man often. I really like the confidence we are seeing as it is translating into very efficient offense. That confidence will be put to the test in the coming weeks.

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[Photos by Bill Bride]

Mason handles Davidson on the road

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George Mason finally broke their win-loss-win-loss pattern last night in Atlantic 10 play with a road win over Davidson 76-69. It was a big win because now they are 6-5 in the conference and have a real chance to finish in the top half of the standings. Mason again relied almost entirely on their starters with players still serving suspensions and got another big night from the group. They started out missing a lot of easy looks in the first half but maintained a lead. In the second half seniors Jalen Jenkins and Marquise Moore carried Mason down the stretch with key basket after key basket. The battle in the paint, rebounding and getting to the free-throw line was a big reason Mason was able to control the game and beat Davidson’s defensive efforts. They went 17-for-18 from the free-throw line with Otis Livingston II going 6-for-6 from there. Mason is now 13-3 when they make at least 15 free-throw attempts. Also Moore continued to show why he’s an all-conference player by taking over late (seven points in the final minute) and had another night were he made multiple three-pointers. This turned out to be the game-winner:

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Mason blows past La Salle to reach 5-5 in the A-10

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George Mason once again followed up a loss with a win in Atlantic 10 play last night with a blow out win over La Salle at home 95-75. The team continues it’s win-loss-win-loss pattern in the conference and now sits at 5-5. The explosion on offense, despite a limited bench with a few players suspended, was certainly a surprise. In their previous outing against Saint Louis they needed two overtimes to reach 75 points. Starters Marquise Moore, Otis Livingston II, Jaire Grayer, and Jalen Jenkins all had big games to carry the scoring load in this one. All were efficient and Moore had a career-high 28 points and was one rebound shy of another double-double. He also went 3-for-5 on three-pointers, yes that’s not a typo, something never seen before in a game by him. The team shot over 63% from the field and went 10-for-18 on three-pointers while getting to the free-throw line for 28 attempts. They had a great tempo all night and shared the ball well while never letting the Explorers get into a rhythm despite Jordan Price having a solid night.

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Saint Louis downs Mason in double OT

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George Mason lost to Saint Louis yet again last night, 76-74 on a last second bucket in double overtime. It was a heartbreaking loss even despite the fact that Mason didn’t play well for most of the game. Marquise Moore was not himself and they had to go without him for most of the second half and the overtime periods due to an illness. Otis Livingston II picked up the lack and had one of his best shooting nights of his career. He went 10-for-15 from the field and was 5-of-7 on three-pointers. Jalen Jenkins had a tough time getting going in the post with the fact that the refs were really letting both teams play, especially late in the game. But where they lost this game was on defense as they allowed the Billikens wide open looks most of the night. Yes, they only made 8-of-28 from behind the arch but rotations were just bad last night and it led to a lot of opportunity for Saint Louis.

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Mason continues road success, wins at UMass

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George Mason continues to be road warriors as they won another one today in Amherst to beat UMass again 76-74. It came down to the last possession with Mason’s seniors Jalen Jenkins and Marquise Moore making key plays down the stretch to secure the win for Mason. Jenkins had a key defensive stop against UMass big man Rashaan Holloway and Moore had a key basket to maintain the lead:

Otis Livingston II however carried Mason most of the way in this one and has bounced back nicely these last two games from a bit of a slump. He led Mason with 22 points and helpled the offense run smooth as they finished with 17 assists. As a team they only had five total assists against George Washington. Jalen Jenkins, not being in constant foul trouble, was a big difference for them as well. He played 31 minutes and scored 15 points, had 12 rebounds, and three assists. They are so much better when he stays in the game for longer periods. With Jenkins playing more minutes it was less of a roll of the dice between the backup forwards. Only Troy Temara played among them and showed improvement while giving some of his best minutes of the season. But in the end they need Jenkins to be that rock in the middle to be competitive up front.

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Revolutionary Beat Down

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George Mason has yet to beat George Washington since joining the Atlantic 10 and last night they were blown out at home by the Colonials. The officiating was pretty awful and made the game nearly unwatchable but Mason still was not able to get anything going on offense all night or make any stops on defense. GW connected on 11-of-19 three-pointers and denied Mason in the paint all night. On both ends of the court Mason looked frustrated and let their early mistakes dictate the rest of their game. They would go on runs to close to gap within single digits but then the Colonials would respond with a three-pointer or easy basket inside each time it seemed. Mason also had trouble defending GW’s bigger players Tyler Cavanaugh and Yuta Watanabe who seemed to score at ease inside.

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Mason takes down first place Richmond

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George Mason bounced back after their loss to last place Saint Louis with a road win against first place Richmond. Since joining the Atlantic 10 in 2013 Mason is now 5-1 versus the Spiders and today’s win brought them to .500 within the conference at 3-3. Mason got off to a great start in the first half and led by as much as 23 points. They had to fight off a big Richmond run late in the second but their victory on the boards and at the free-throw line prevented them from letting this game slip away. Marquise Moore had his 12th double-double on the season with 25 points, 10 rebounds, and even three blocks. One of which was on 6’9″ TJ Cline that definitely deserves some recognition. Jalen Jenkins had success in the post against Cline and was able to get him into early foul trouble. That gave Mason a chance to build a solid lead for the majority of the game because the rest of the Spiders were struggling from the field. Defensively it was another great effort, as they continue to defend well on the road this season.

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Marquise Moore continues to put up ‘mind-boggling’ stats

DSC_0715Marquise Moore seems to be on track to a first-team all-conference selection at the end of this season. His unique style for a guard his size has caught the attention of a lot of folks in the college basketball world and it’s been a fun story line to follow this season. Here is the latest ‘well how about that’ stat from the Atlantic 10’s Chris DiSano:

“Moore does all of his destruction inside the arc, making his numbers that much more impressive. He’s made exactly zero three point shots on the season, only attempting seven. He ranks sixth in the league in scoring and is the only player in the top 10 to not have made at least 20 three-point shots.”

It is amazing that Moore can continue to score at such a high level, as a guard in today’s college hoops game, without three-pointers. On top of that he’s got 50 more rebounds than the next closest A-10 competitor for the league lead in that statistic. Wow.

[Photo by Bill Bride]