It has been just over a week for George Mason to ponder their inexplicable loss to St. Louis last Saturday. Today the team will use their focus and motivation to face off against one of the hottest teams in the Atlantic 10, Richmond.
Last time out for George Mason (12-6, 2-3), the team had a terrible shooting night on the floor. Making only 39 percent of their field goals the Patriots allowed the disorganized Billikins (5-13, 1-5) to control a majority of the contest.
This was a result of the attention put onto Marquise Moore and Jalen Jenkins to stunt the Mason offense.
Although both Moore and Jenkins would end up with 13 and nine points respectively, a combined 1-8 shooting performance in the opening half put the team in a huge hole. Their fellow starters were unable to bail them out and for the game the remaining three went 5-17.
Limiting Moore and Jenkins in the opening minutes, while trying to get them in foul trouble, has been the focus of all the teams Mason has lost too in the Atlantic 10. The Patriots strength is in the paint and mid-range jumpers by both Moore and Jenkins.
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The Richmond Spiders (11-7, 5-1) have the ability control the production of the two seniors. The anticipated matchups will be Khwan Fore on Moore and 2016 All-Atlantic 10 Third Team member, T.J. Cline on Jenkins.
Both have combined for 50 steals on the season but are prone to foul trouble.
Playing as a stretch five, Cline really opens up the court for the Spider offense allowing the slashing guards to penetrate under the basket without an extra defender in the area. Jenkins will have to respect Cline’s ability to pull up from deep, as he has hit 22 threes on the season and averages 17.9 points.
The real difference maker for Richmond though, is the freshman De’Monte Buckingham who was made a starter after Marshall Wood went down with an injury. In conference play, Buckingham has shoot over 50 percent bringing in 15 points a game. His playing style is similar to Moore’s, except he adds an extra element: three point shooting.
Opponents in the conference have not been able to stop Buckingham in one-on-one matchups. When teams double-team the 6’4″ guard to try and slow him down, it leaves all other shooters for Richmond available.
His production has been instrumental in Richmond’s incredible run to start Atlantic 10 play. The only blemish on their A10 record so far is a 75-59 loss to the Dayton Flyers this past week.
Combine Buckingham with Cline who can shoot from anywhere on the court, and guards Fore and Shawn’Dre Jones, Richmond may compete with Dayton and Rhode Island for one of the best starting lineups in the league.
For Mason their keys to this game will be similar to previous contests.
Getting players involved early besides Moore and Jenkins will prevent the team from getting into a scoring funk. Sophomore Jaire Grayer has averaged 13.8 points in conference play while making half of all three point baskets he attempts (14-28) and extended minutes from him will do enough to just keep another scoring threat on the court. Another player that needs to get going though is Otis Livingston II who’s conference field goal shooting is down to 26 percent.
As always Mason will need to control the rebounding advantage consistently in the contest and the team needs to get Richmond into foul trouble and force Chris Mooney to use his bench.
If the Patriots can accomplish two out of the three, Mason will have a strong chance at the upset.
Prediction: Richmond 72 Mason 70
Prediction Record: 12-6