Thirty-eight days. That is how long it had been in between George Mason’s two most recent losses. Fortunately for the Patriots, their last loss resulted in a nine game winning streak.
On Wednesday the team will look to start a new streak in Atlantic 10 play as they host Massachusetts (10-4, 0-1) at 7:00 in EagleBank Arena.
.@MasonMBB vs UMass
1/4/16 @ 7pm!
— GMU Giant Killer (@GMUGiantKiller) January 4, 2017
This matchup will feature two of the youngest teams in the league with George Mason (10-4, 0-1) having 11 underclassmen on their roster and UMass with three freshmen in their regular rotation. Both squads will be poised for late season runs as the experience on each team continues to grow.
The Minutemen tend to run their offense through their guards, although height is their biggest asset. Eight of the rostered players are listed 6’7” or highe
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Two freshman guards, Luwane Pipkins (11.4 points per game) and Dejon Jarreau (9.5 points per game) are the highlight of one of the best recruiting classes in the country. With Pipkins, lining up across from Otis Livingston II, it will be a key matchup to watch for two players that have similar styles of play. As a more aggressor on defense, Pipkins will be looking to add to Livingston’s five turnovers he had against VCU.
In addition, Mason will have Marquise Moore (17.5 points per game) still nursing a slight groin injury, meaning more of the offense going through Livingston. Moore’s natural matchup will be against UMass’ leading scorer Donte Clark with 15 points a contest. If Moore sees extended time on the bench, expect Ian Boyd to make the switch.
It could turn into a big game for Boyd (5.5 points per game) if he attacks a fouling team. Settling for jump shots will not be a point of emphasis for Boyd with his size.
Do not be surprised though if this is another team that pounds the ball in the paint, like the Rams did last Friday.
Normally there are two forwards (or a center and forward) on the court at all times for the Minutemen. Their true center, Rashaan Holloway averages 10.2 points and 5.3 rebounds. Not a real threat athletically, Holloway’s strength is the space that he commands on the court. On the season he has 17 blocks.
In the paint last game Mason was outscored 46-32 against a team that typically does not control the interior. With the height of UMass, head coach Dave Paulsen will have to combat the mismatch. A lineup change is not likely, but a bit of man-zone mix might be the option the Patriots turn toward.
If the Minutemen run their rare three forward set, only then would there be a chance for Mason to add a second big on the court.
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For George Mason to be successful, look for the Patriots to pick up some early fouls against a team that averages 22 a game. Mason will also have to limit turnovers on another aggressive defense, while also limiting the impact of Pipkins and Jarreau on the perimeter.
All signs point toward a close contest. Under the basket will be a highly contested area on the court and Mason is going to have to find ways to score without Moore.
Prediction: Mason 72 UMass 70