Playing against their toughest opponent on the season George Mason was clearly outmatched in one of their worst performances. Hitting the worst cold spell on the season, it matched the weather outside of EagleBank Arena. Georgia Southern took advantage of every weakness the Patriots had, except perhaps depth, exploited it and took care of business 74-51.
The Eagles (8-2) kept forcing the Patriots to switch defensively and firing off deep shots off of those switches. They forced George Mason into careless turnovers and made Otis Livingston II and Jaire Grayer to hit toughly contested shots.
From deep there were only two Patriots to torch the weak three-point defense of Mason but they just did enough. Mike Hughes had his most productive night from behind the arc since their home opener against Wake Forest, going 4-11 from deep accounting for 14 points and eight rebounds. The 6-5 Jake Allsmiller was 4-8 from deep, his only baskets on the night.
All night there were countless open shots by the Eagles Quite honestly they did not even have that strong of night shooting at 45.2 percent. The two seniors, Hughes and Allsmiller, played about five feet behind the arc and Mason just would leave them open. In the rotation of offense, the Patriots would get sucked into the paint and they step up to hit dagger shot after dagger shot.
It is clear after tonight that Mason cannot continue to keep the ball out of the paint and allow open jumpers. Unlike last year this team’s close out ability is not as strong.
“We have a big thing in our philosophy is no emotional baggage on offense, like you miss a shot, let it go. Get on the next play. I’m not sure how good the camera angles were but there were a lot of hanging the head, the one second delay when you miss a shot you normally make that led to them in transition,” head coach Dave Paulsen said. “That is more than anything a maturity issue.”
Four players in total reached double figures for Georgia Southern, including redshirt freshman Quan Jackson who provided the production off of the bench. He had a career-high 16 points on 7-11 shooting, taking playing time away from David-Lee Jones Jr. for most of the contest.
In the paint Mason was decimated 38-20 in terms of points and only 13 points of those for the Eagles were by players taller than 6-5.
Offensively Mason (5-6) had their own problems, in the game they accounted for 19 turnovers while only making 11 baskets in the entire game. Shooting 24.4 percent as a team, no one had a good night. Their highest scorer was A.J. Wilson with his first double-double of his career with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
“He played with an edge. He played with an intensity level and that was good,” Paulsen said. “If this brings A.J. that next step forward then our team will continue to evolve.
When the deficit reached double-digits the Patriots continued to take ill-advised shots with Livingston and Justin Kier (12 points) trying to generate something from nothing.
Despite how bad it was in the game there was not a stretch worse than opening twelve minutes of play. George Mason had 10 turnovers and was shooting an abysmal 33 percent. Nothing could go right for the Patriots whether it was miscommunication on ball screens or the team having to use their third timeout. Yet Mason was only down 13 points.
Redshirt freshman Wilson provided a small spark for the Patriots off of the timeout with five points, including a three pointer, four rebounds, and a block in a 4:33 span.
But the opening half set the tone second with not much alteration in terms of productivity.
FINAL: Georgia Southern 74, George Mason 51. Most lopsided home nonconference loss for the Patriots since Nov. 29, 1997 (82-53 vs. Akron).
— Patrick Stevens (@D1scourse) December 13, 2017
Combined Livingston and Grayer were 4-18 with only 12 points on the night. Livingston in particular was responsible for six of the turnovers.
Like the game before, the walk-ons got some minutes on the court and Zach Garrett had a steal while Jack Tempchin had a rebound and an assist to go with last game’s point. Nick DiClementi also had a rebound.
“Now what is the response,” Paulsen said. “Our guys response after getting knocked to the mats will determine everything about us as a team and about the individuals.”