The good, the bad
and the ugly of the first 20 games of the season were on display in Thursday's
58-54 loss to Drexel at the Patriot Center. Not that George Mason can dwell on
the disappointment of a loss after getting up 20 points late in the first half.
There are road games Saturday against James Madison and Monday against Old
"It's very difficult," said Sherrod Wright
about emotions after Thursday's disappointment. "We've got to come together as
a team, make sure we practice hard (Friday) to get ready for the next game.
That's all we can do."
The good news is that, apart from CAA leader
Northeastern (8-1), the Patriots (5-4) are among six teams closely bunched in
the standings along with JMU (7-3), Delaware (5-3), Georgia State (6-4), Towson
(6-4) and Drexel (5-4). And for the seven-team CAA tournament, Georgia State
(leaving the conference) and Towson (academic progress rate) are among the ineligible
Stan Van Gundy, a long-time NBA coach who
was the color commentator for Thursday's game, predicts an interesting finish
to the regular season and the CAA tourney.
"I like Paul's team," said Van Gundy of head
coach Paul Hewitt. "They play really, really hard. Great intensity
defensively. I thought their half-court
defense was good. I thought their press was good. I thought their transition
defense was a problem."
It was. Drexel held a 14-2 advantage in
fast break points.
There were other difficulties that surfaced
after Corey Edwards hit a contested three to give Mason a 33-13 lead with 3:45
left in the first half. At that point, the offense was clicking and the defense
was stifling. Drexel made eight turnovers in the opening half, leading to nine
"We got off to a slow start because they got
up on us to start the game," said Drexel coach Bruiser Flint. "It had nothing
to do with us missing wide-open ones. They were there and they were playing
tough defense on us. I told them to stop panicking."
Late in the first half, Drexel started
generating momentum, especially when Damion Lee hit a deep three at the buzzer
to cut the lead to 13 at 38-25. In the second half, Lee went on a tear and the
Patriots went cold.
The Patriots scored 16 points in the second
half, on 7-for-25 shooting (25%). "They don't have a lot of scorers so they run
into droughts," said Van Gundy, mentioning last year's senior trio of CAA
Player of the Year Ryan Pearson, Mike Morrison and Andre Cornelius. "They lost
a lot of guys from last year so they're missing some offense."
Lee outscored the Patriots in the second
half with 20 points, finishing with 29 on 11-for-19 shooting. The dagger was a
catch-and-shoot three from the left wing, after he ran Vertrail Vaughns through
some off-the ball screens, to break a tie at 54 with 23 seconds left.
"Lee does that though," Van Gundy said of
the 6-6 sophomore. "I think Lee is an NBA prospect with his size (6-6). I love
Wright, but Lee's bigger and can shoot over the top. He was terrific the second
half. He guarded Wright in the second half and I thought he did a really good
Wright , who shot 1-for-6 in the second
half, finished with 15 points, 13 in the first half. The Patriots got 14 points
from post Jon Arledge, starting in place of Johnny Williams, out indefinitely
with a concussion.
The problem was rebounding in the second
half. Mason went from a first-half advantage of 16-13 to a deficit of 26-12 in
the second half. Drexel outscored the Patriots 11-1 on second-chance points.
"We played hard," Hewitt said. "They played
a little harder than us, especially on the boards there down at the end. We've
got to address that issue of getting that big rebound late in the game
especially when we have leads and playing from ahead. We can't allow people to
just to be more physical and want the ball more than us."
The boards have been a source of concern the
whole season. Too many teams have gotten too many second and third chances
during possessions. When asked Thursday if there's a solution, Hewitt replied:
"It's fixable. It's fixable. You've got to
ratchet up your intensity level. You've got to ratchet up your attention to
detail in terms of boxing out. We'll get there."