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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George Mason and Thompson too much for Wright State

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Paul Hewitt’s recruiting efforts deserve some credit here because he’s brought in some guys that can flat out play. Shevon Thompson and Isaiah Jackson were stars in George Mason’s win over Wright State last night in a game they controlled right from the tip. They led by as much as 17 points, dominated the boards and used their size and athleticism to overwhelm the Raiders. For the second straight game Mason shot the ball well from the field and generally had better ball movement then we’ve seen. The most important stat for the Patriots though is 17 assists, their highest total of the season not counting the Catawba game. While Marquise Moore and Patrick Holloway didn’t light up the scoreboard they combined for 9 of those assists. This is a formula that can work for them, lots of ball movement, points in the paint, tough rebounding, and scoring points off turnovers.

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Sherrod Wright’s buzzer beater lifts George Mason over VCU

I’ll admit it, I called it game over late in the second half when the Patriots coughed up the ball at a critical moment.  I should have realized that this Mason team is prepared for a game just like this. Ugly, scrappy, and gritty right until the end, with the occasional big shot here and there. The Rams kept making free-throws during the final minute, then Ryan Pearson hit a three-pointer to cut the lead to two.  Follow that up with a Vertail Vaughns three-pointer, boy did he pick a good night to make a comeback, and Mason was within one.  Briante Weber went to the foul line and missed the first. Pearson was the inbound passer after Weber made the second and tried to get it into Bryon Allen who was covered. Tip-toeing down the baseline he almost stepped over the line before he hurled the ball into Sherrod Wright. The rest is history as Wright was the hero again. Last week I called him “Mr. Under 5-minutes”, now I think just plain “Mr. Clutch” will do.

Here are four different angles of Wright’s game-winning shot from CSN:

Ryan Pearson and Vertrail Vaughns really kept Mason in this game despite a night full of mistakes.  Seniors Mike Morrison and Andre Cornelius were total non-factors, combining for three points.  Mike Morrison couldn’t stay in the game and threw one of this patented temper tantrums after picking up his fourth foul in the second half. Luckily guys like Sherrod Wright were able to come off the bench and produce. Even Paris Bennett had his moments last night on the boards. Erik Copes also had two monster blocks taking full advantage of the extra minutes he received with Morrison in foul trouble.  

VCU got 10 steals last night and Mason turned it over 16 times.  Some were worse than others and I really thought it would be their undoing in the final moments of the game.  Corey Edwards dribbled into some bad situations but overall I thought he and Bryon Allen did a decent job running the offense.  

I don’t think there is any doubt that Ryan Pearson is the CAA’s best player. Going up against another CAA player of the year candidate Bradford Burgess, he simply looked like a man among boys durng key moments. Burgess hit some big shots last night but Pearson carried the Patriots and would not be denied.

[Photos by John Powell]

College Basketball

George Mason rounds out NIT with win over Albany

Last night’s 66-46 victory over Albany was George Mason’s best game of the season thus far. They started things off by scoring 12 unanswered points and holding Albany’s offense to 1-for-10 from the field in the early minutes.  Defensively the Patriots were tough right from the start, something we had yet to see this season.  In the first half they held Albany to 5-of-28 shooting from the field and forced their uptempo game on them. This is probably more of what Hewitt envisioned for this team.  The most telling stat of the night for what kind of Mason team we can expect this year was points in paint, Mason 52 Albany 22.  The Patriots won’t be lighting it up from behind the arch this season but they will be dominating other team’s front courts at times. The big three (Morrison, Pearson, and Copes) combined for 43 points and 23 rebounds.
-Turnovers were less of an issue as Corey Edwards got the start again at point guard. Edwards continues to look more and more like a leader out there. Edwards seem to be more vocal out there than Allen, which may be another factor fueling his increasing minutes.  
-Sherrod Wright seems back to full form after his wrist injury, however Vertrail Vaughns had an off night going scoreless. This team’s three-point shooting seems to be completely predicated by whether or not Vaughns has a good shooting night.
-Ryan Pearson and Mike Morrison showed how dangerous this team can be when they are both producing in the paint.  Morrison finally grabbed more than just a few rebounds and held his ground better than he has been.  Him playing like this only opens things up more for Pearson.
-Jonathan Arledge continues to produce in his limited amount of minutes. Lost in everything is how this kid is getting to the free-throw line and connecting. On the season he is 10-for-12 from there, maybe he should be on the floor during their next overtime.

George Mason goes into OT for third time in four games, falls to FAU

Game Highlights

Through four games this season George Mason has had three of them that went into overtime.  But after last night in Florida the Patriots are 1-2 in overtime games this season.  Florida Atlantic controlled the boards and took advantage of a lot of points off turnovers to beat George Mason 80-75. Vertrail Vaughns enjoyed a great night shooting the ball and scoring a season high for him at 21 points. Ryan Pearson added 19 but failed to keep his double-double streak alive.  Erik Copes and Corey Edwards both had big contributions in key situations late in the game. Copes had a put back that sent the game into overtime and Edwards hit a big three-pointer in the overtime period.  Sherrod Wright traveled with the team was a late game scratch and Paris Bennett also didn’t play.  So Mason played this game with only eight players.
The Patriots finished with their lowest amount of turnovers in a game yet this season, 14, but FAU took advantage of each one it seemed, scoring 20 points off turnovers. The turnover rate is still high though when you factor in the Patriots number of possessions but I will admit this did keep them to a minimum down the stretch and into overtime.  Points in the paint was another issue however as Mason yielded 38 to the Owls, a lot of which were second chance opportunities.  Mike Morrison continuing to get three or so rebounds a game and fouling out hurts because they don’t have much depth in the front court.  Hewitt must not think much of Jonathan Arledge as a front court player as he started at the three spot for the injured Sherrod Wright.  

Thoughts on last night’s exhibition game

We got our first glimpse of the 2011-2012 Patriots in action last night in a 90-62 win over Lycoming College.  I won’t read too much into this dress rehearsal but there were a few things that we can take from the game last night.  Overall the Patriots shot well from the field but not from the three-point line, they dominated the glass which was expected considered the huge size advantage, and forced a number of turnovers.  It was not encouraging however how they turnovered the ball over 11 times themselves and that the Lycoming zone defense gave them a bit of trouble. A pleasant surprise was the play of Paris Bennett, who showed glimpses of being a “glue-guy” finishing with 9 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists.  
-Erik Copes was as good as advertised and showed a much better scoring touch than I’d thought we’d see. He’ll have a much more difficult time trying to get those jump hook shots off when they play DI teams obviously, but he looked a lot less raw than I thought he was. He’s gritty, tough, inside player that will complement Morrison and Pearson inside nicely this season.  
-Mike Morrison shot 5-6 from the free throw line. Please tell me he’s improved from there.
-Paris Bennett looked a lot more comfortable playing at the 3 spot instead of subbing in at power forward like he did last season.  He won’t score 10 points a night but he will grab a rebound, dish out an assist, and collect a steal whenever he’s in the game. The Patriots will need a guy like this to help fill the void left by Luke Hancock.
-Bryon Allen and Corey Edwards looked comfortable running the point however their roles could change once Vertrail Vaughns is back on the court. Allen looked confident and will most likely see a lot of time running the point this season.  Edwards did not look like a freshman and helped the offense run smoothly, especially in the second half. He will definitely push for minutes in the back court this season.
-Sherrod Wright looked a bit rusty, which was expected.  I was surprised he didn’t attempt any shots from behind the arch but he did finish 5-for-7 from the field.  He showed his ability to get to the rim, which is something fans should get used to seeing this season from Wright. Hopefully he dusts off the rust sooner rather than later.

Post game interviews:

The streak continues as George Mason edges out Northern Iowa

First off, I apologize for those we didn’t get drunk while playing the drinking game I made. The ESPN2 announcers must have gotten wind of it. Regardless we saw a resilient George Mason team come from behind on the road in a tough arena for their 13th straight victory.  Andre Cornelius was the difference with his 24 points and 5-for-8 shooting from behind the arc.  Ryan Pearson added a double-double with 21 and 15 as the Patriots found themselves in a rare close game.  Northern Iowa was hot from the three-point line and were shooting 58% in the first half .  It was so bad that Larranaga benched Mike Morrison for all but 4 minutes in the second half to have quicker guys out there to defend the perimeter better.  In the end it worked as UNI didn’t have nearly as a successful of a half shooting wise. Mason’s offense kept rolling in the 2nd half and ended up with 17 assists by my count I believe they are 12 or 13-0 when they record 16 or more assists.  However it was not an easy victory for the Patriots and you have to appreciate them coming back in this one as they easily could have folded against a team on a hot shooting night.  They continue to surge into March and don’t seem to show any signs of slowing down.

George Mason hammers Towson, continues to blow out bottom of CAA

Photo via TBD

So far this season George Mason has played 5 of the bottom 6 teams in the CAA and so far they have beaten them by an average of 23.8 points. The latest of these blow outs came last night against Towson in an 84-58 victory. Towson who was publicly reprimanded by the CAA for their poor travel planning efforts on Wednesday looked like a team that was probably on a bus for 12 hours the previous day. The Patriots used runs of 23-0 and 17-0 sparked by Luke Hancock (19 points) and Andre Cornelius (15 points). Cornelius ended up with five three-pointers and Cam Long recorded five steals on the night. Towson has never beaten George Mason since joining the CAA in 2001-02.  It was one of those games where the whole bench got minutes, even walk-on Thomas Armistead.

The Patriots remained unbeaten at home and won their sixth straight game.  They are now tied for 2nd place in the CAA with Hofstra, who they play at home against on February 2nd.

George Mason blows out Delaware, takes sole possession of 3rd place in CAA

The Patriots had another explosive 2nd half last night en route their 7th conference win and fifth in a row.  They now are in sole possession of third place in the CAA only one game behind VCU and Hofstra, both of whom had close calls last night. This game almost seemed like it had potential to go down to the wire as Mason led by only 3 with 3:35 remaining before halftime. But then Mason went on a 9-0 run to close out the half and dominated Delaware in the 2nd half on both ends. That 9 point run turned into a 23-3 run after the start of the 2nd half and Mason never looked back. Both teams didn’t have great shooting nights and some of that was a credit to Mason’s defense that held the Blue Hens to a season-low 30.4% from the field. The Patriots also held Jawan Carter, the CAA’s 4th leading scorer to zero points.  Cam Long followed up his 30 point performance against JMU with 20 points last night and has been shooting the ball extremely well. 
It was a total team effort once again from the Patriots as Ryan Pearson had 13 points and Luke Hancock added 12. Mike Morrison was aggressive on the glass and finished with 8 rebounds. Mason also dominated the paint in this one scoring 34 of their 69 points from there compared to the Blue Hens only scoring 12. They continue to get to the free-throw and have been improving on their shooting from there, which has prevented a lot of teams from storming back against them in the 2nd half.

The Patriots winning ways recently have been doing wonders for their RPI. Just this morning they are at #28, that’s good for best in the CAA. While it’s impressive to be ahead of a lot of BCS team it also will position them to get a solid road game Bracket Buster opponent.  The pairings for that will be announced Monday January 31st and it’s looking like the Patriots will face either Wichita State, Saint Mary’s or Valparaiso in a nationally televised game February 19th.