George Mason’s big second half overwhelms Drexel 71-47

It was an ugly game at certain points of the night with 51 fouls being called and three Drexel players fouling out but George Mason just overpowered the struggling Dragons. With all the fouls being called the Patriots attempted more free-throws (21) than field goals (20) in the 2nd half.  Luke Hancock led all scorers with 16 but it was Mason’s defense holding Drexel to a season low 47 points that was the real story. In the 2nd half the Dragons went 5-for-27 from the field after halftime and came out so flat on offense it was practically game over with 10 minutes remaining. On offense the Patriots excelled in transition and the Dragons had no answer for that as they were unable to slow down the game. Drexel by the way hasn’t topped 50 points at the Patriot Center in four years which must have Bruiser Flint thrilled.  Mason pounced on the opportunity given with all the Drexel players in foul trouble and had another solid game from the free-throw line.  They made the effort on the boards all game long which has to have Larranaga pleased. The team also did a nice job keeping Samme Givens off his game and not letting him dominant on the boards.  Credit Mike Morrison for staying out of foul trouble in this whistle happy game and being a force in the middle with 7 rebounds.

After the victory the Patriots are now in a three-way tie for third place one game behind VCU and Hofstra in the CAA standings. On Saturday they go back on the road to face JMU, who is 9-0 at home this season but lost last night to ODU.  Mason now has an RPI of 42 so I’m sure I’ll be hearing the at-large talk again despite the team still not having any “good” wins outside of the Patriots Center.  I’ll save that conversation til after we play ODU and Hoftra again and travel down to VCU in February.  

George Mason holds off Delaware with clutch play from Isaiah Tate

The Patriots looked a little rusty to start off 2011 but used some hot shooting (not from the free-throw line) and some clutch play by Isaiah Tate to hold off Delaware for their second CAA victory.  His three-pointer with about eight minutes ago gave Mason the room they needed to close out the win.  Tate’s 12 points off the bench was something the Patriots needed and could have used in their loss to Dayton.  Luke Hancock and Ryan Pearson again had great box score numbers while Mike Morrison continues to not know be much of a factor on offense.  Mason shot the ball very well on the night going 56.5% from the field but really could have ran away with the game if they just sank a few more free-throws. It is something we have become used to since last season but in this game it really hurts when you get to the line for 31 attempts and only come away with 18 points.

The team’s chemistry this season and overall decision making is much improved from a year ago.  When team’s clog up the middle the Patriots find the open man for an outside three, when the perimeter shots are denied they find Pearson or a cutting Hancock inside for the easy two.  Larranaga has to be impressed with this lately because it’s been the difference in a lot of wins.  Overall I think this team is tough to beat when they are in transition and moving the ball well.  It was evident last night against a Delaware team that was playing a pretty darn good game.

However, defensively the Patriots weren’t as sharp as they have been, allowing the Blue Hens to go on too many runs and Jawan Carter to score 20 points, 13 of which came in last five minutes.  They also gave up too many easy shots as Delaware shot over 44% from the field, the highest percentage the Patriots have given up at home this season.  As a whole the team is still giving up too many offensive rebounds which is really how Delaware kept this game close.
Mason is one of the three 2-0 teams in the CAA. Kind of amazing that ODU and VCU have already dropped a CAA game.  I think it just goes to show you how competitive this league is going to be this season.  Each one of these conference games is going to be important and road wins will probably come a premium meaning Mason has to continue to win these home ones. Mason now has a tough task of going on the road for their next three including a trip to Norfolk against ODU this Saturday.  

George Mason wins thriller against Duquesne in double OT

The Patriots left Pittsburgh with a thrilling double overtime victory over Duquesne 85-79 to improve to 9-2 on the season. This is Mason’s best start to the season since 1983 when they achieved the current team record winning streak of 11 games and started off 12-2. Cam Long and Ryan Pearson might have led the Patriots in scoring with 17 each but Isaiah Tate was the real star in this one.  Tate scored 7 of his 14 points in the second overtime period that helped secure the victory coupled with clutch free-throws from Ryan Pearson down the stretch.  It was just the kind of back and fourth gritty battle you want your guys to experience on the road although I’m sure they were exhausted afterwards.  Neither team backed down at any point and Mason was able to beat the Dukes at their own game: from behind the three-point line.  However defensively you have to applaud the team’s effort because they were facing a very talented offensive group and didn’t let them get into any type of a rhythm.  The Patriots did turn over the ball a lot in the beginning of the game but never let the Dukes capitalize.  It was a great balanced team victory and the Patriots did a lot of things well in this one.

Offensively it was another good shooting night from the three-point line for Mason as they shot better form there (42.3%) then they did from the field (38.9%).  They dominated the boards and ended the game with 26 offensive rebounds, they had been averaging about 11.5 up until this point.  Of course they had a lot of opportunities for offensive boards because of their poor shooting from the field but they made good on a lot of second chance points.  Both teams got to the free-throw line about the same but Mason ended up having the last laugh in OT.  They have been slowly improving in this area this season and I think it’s going to pay off a lot by the end of the season. Another area the team did well in again was dishing out assists as they finished with 16 in this one.  The Patriots are 7-0 this season when they record 16 or more assists.

The veterans on this squad really stepped up in this game. Luke Hancock was badly a sore shoulder and didn’t play his usual game.  Even without Hancock’s crafty scoring the Patriots didn’t miss a beat down the stretch as Cam Long, Isaiah Tate, and Ryan Pearson filled the void and really carried the team.  Last season the team was desperate for moments like this and it’s really a big improvement this year.  Coach Larranaga in the post game says they “played George Mason basketball” and they really didn’t stray away from their game in this one even when the Dukes kept battling back. They never let the Dukes force their game onto them and that’s something you really want to see out of your guys on the road.

Mason continues to roll at home with win over Loyola (MD)

Photo via Flickr

The Patriots finished their homestand 5-0 and improve to 7-2 on the year with Cam Long joining the 1,000 point club at George Mason.  They have won each game during their home stretch by at least 14 points, however Loyola was the first team to shoot higher than 38% from the field against them. Still an impressive game for the Patriots who ended up forcing 17 turnovers and getting 18 points off them. Luke Hancock had another complete game which he started off by assisting on the first four baskets for Mason Their free-throw numbers weren’t great but they continue to get to the line more than the opposing team. Defensively they weren’t as tough as they have been as the Greyhounds got a little too many open looks in the 1st half. They were also beat on the boards more than I would like to see against a team like this. Some of that was masked by great scoring efforts from Cam Long, Ryan Pearson, and Luke Hancock. The team needs to see more scoring nights like this from Pearson because it can really establish an inside presence.  Long has been consistent and Hancock usually is too but Pearson can be a tough man to guard for opposing teams and we haven’t seen the team take advantage of that enough. His spin move to the basket in the 1st half showed how dangerous of a scorer he can be when he’s not frustrated. Meanwhile Mike Morrison was a total non-factor and played all of 3 minutes in the first half after two quick fouls. Paris Bennett and Jonathan Arledge got more minutes because of this and Arledge looked good. In the first half he left after it looked like he hurt his shoulder and that opened the door for Johnny Williams who looked pretty awful.  I think all those commenting here asking why he doesn’t play much should go back and look at the tape from this game.

After getting a lot of scoring from their bench against UNCW we didn’t see anything from Isaiah Tate or Vertrail Vaughns.  Jonathan Arledge looked good off the bench and the coaching staff has be excited about his defense and toughness in the middle.  I think Arledge, who could still use a lot of work on his offensive game, will end up being a solid rebounder for Larranaga. Paris Bennett and Johnny Williams continue to look lost on defense at times which isn’t a good thing as the full CAA schedule is just around the corner.  With Morrison on the bench as long as he was you have to wonder what is going to happen against team’s like JMU and ODU who have much better front court players than Loyola.

The Patriots do enter these next couple of road games with some confidence as they have showed dominance on offense and defense through their last couple of games.  It will be interesting to see how they do against some better competition away from the Patriot Center.  Rebounding is probably the only area they need to improve on to be successful on the road.  They are shooting the ball better, getting more assists, and forcing more turnovers than they were at this point last season.  Overall they are a more disciplined squad and it seems like more players are comfortable with their roles on the team.

George Mason opens CAA play with a blow out victory over UNCW

Coming into the game most thought the Patriots would work the ball inside where they had a significant advantage over UNCW’s front court.  That wasn’t really the case last night as Mason started firing threes in the early minutes and connecting on almost all of them it seemed.  During a 6 1/2 minute span the Patriots made 7 of 8 three pointers, including Vertrail Vaughns hitting 3 consecutive ones in 63 seconds. Bench players led Mason in scoring for the first time this season after being called out by Larranaga after the GW game for not playing solid both ways. Vertrail Vaughns and Isaiah Tate combined for 8 of 9 shooting from behind the arch and each had career nights in scoring. I honestly thought Mike Morrison and Ryan Pearson would be the stars in this one and not Mason’s guards but I guess when you are left that wide open so often how can you pass up that shot opportunities? Senior guard Cam Long is now 2 points shy of a career 1,000 points at George Mason after a quiet night finishing with 5 points.  Andre Cornelius and Mike Morrison were quiet as well and I don’t think it’s a bad thing because this team is more dangerous with a continuous balanced attack.  
The coaching staff had to be pleased with the defensive efforts of the “Green Team” who to this point haven’t had trouble scoring but just needed to stop their guys from scoring to get more playing time.  The efforts from the bench have been spotty this season but the more games like this we see the more confidence one has to have in this team’s ability to stay atop the CAA.  I still need to see the bench perform like this against a better opponent before I’m ready to call this team “deep”.  Midway through the season I might come back to this post and laugh that I once questioned the team’s depth but we’ll see how things unfold.  

George Mason earns bragging rights, gets revenge with win over George Washington

George Mason avenged last year’s disaster in Foggy Bottom last night and earned the Battle of Orange Line bragging rights for this season.  The final score (60-46) might show that the Patriots covered the double digit sports betting spread but it was an ugly game at times and they gave George Washington way too many chances.  Both teams started off shooting the ball terribly but Mason’s defense gave them the edge early on.  It was the first game this season where you saw the Patriots sputter on offense to begin a game. However despite poor numbers from the field they were perfect from the free-throw line in the 1st half which turned out to be the difference in the score at halftime.  The slow start might have been the Colonials constantly double-teaming Luke Hancock, who so far this year has set the tone for the Patriots on offense.  If not for some strong moves to the basket by Mike Morrison Mason probably would have been down at the half.  The Patriots weren’t playing their game in the 1st half and the full court pressing by GW slowed everything down.  It was a little concerning how easily they were able to throw Mason off their game.  

The 2nd half is where the Patriots found their groove.  They used a 9-0 run capped off with a Mike Morrison dunk to take a strong hold on the lead and never look back.  Their defensive intensity picked up and Ryan Pearson, who was a zombie in the first half, really picked up his game on both ends of the court.  A combination of steals and getting to the free-throw line sealed the deal for the Patriots in the end of this game. They were still a bit throw off by the constant pressing of GW, who actually ended up playing better defense last night then I thought they were capable of doing.  Luke Hancock got a lot of jeers from the Mason fans in attendance for his inability to hold on to the ball at times. Despite leading the Patriots with 15 points he seemed a bit too frustrated by the double teams in the 1st half and will have to learn to work through when teams key in on him like that. Hancock and the other starters had to log way too minutes to close this game out as Larranaga didn’t show much faith in his bench.  It seemed as if the starters played nearly the entire 2nd half.  Even with a double-digit lead Larranaga didn’t feel safe inserting Bennett, Arledge, or any reserve guards.  In the post game interview Larranaga had this to say about the bench players:

“They don’t clearly understand how to get it done yet,” said Larranaga. “I didn’t want to take a chance on putting them into a situation where they’d turn the ball over a couple times and we’d lose the lead.”

Rebounding: The Patriots didn’t do a great job on the boards in this one and were out rebounded 37-31.  They let GW get way too many second chance opportunities and when your playing a team that shoots that poorly you can’t have that happen.

Bench Support: So much for this being a deep team.  Mason got almost no help from their bench last night and it’s obvious after Coach L’s comments post game that he doesn’t have much faith in their ability on defense. If he doesn’t have faith in them with 8 minutes to go and up by 10 against a team like GW what’s going to happen when they play VCU or ODU? The starters won’t last playing this long all season and it was rare that no one was in foul trouble in the 2nd half. Also, Paris Bennett continues to get minutes over Johnny Williams in the front court, which is still puzzling to me.

Free throws:  I can’t remember the last time I praised Mason for their free-throw shooting, probably because I never have.  Not only did they do an excellent job getting to the line more than GW (as you can see in the chart below) they also made them pay for it.  It still wasn’t a great percentage (69.7%) overall but they connected on a lot in the first 30 minutes of the game which helped them maintain a lead.  At times it seemed as if Cornelius, Hancock, and Pearson could get to the line whenever they wanted, I’d like to see more of that.