The beginning of the 2017-18 season has been underwhelming for George Mason and for their next opponent, Morgan State.
Dropping four out of their last five and six of their last eight, the Patriots are looking for a turnaround against the team selected to win the MEAC. In that stretch of games, the Green and Gold has been outscored by 67 points.
There are multitude of problem for George Mason (5-7) early in the season, in addition to their lack of depth. Aside from Otis Livingston II (14.3 ppg, 4.25 apg), no one on the roster has been able to generate their own shot, whether on the ball or off. Players are resulting to their jump shot rather than running the offense, and quite frankly it doesn’t look very good. Granted the competition they have been playing is far superior than many may expect.
Against Morgan State, George Mason will have a chance to get back to the basics that worked well early in the season. Ball movement should be cleaner, Goanar Mar (11.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg) will be free(r) in the post, and their opponent will gift them some turnovers.
Hopefully for the Patriots they are able to get their deep ball game going as well in this contest. In their last three games they are 9-59 from three-point range. The Bears allow teams to shot 38.1 percent from that range and give up eight a game.
With a similar roster to the Patriots, Morgan State (4-6) has had their fair share of troubles on the year as well. They run a four guard system, with a dominant big-man, Phillip Carr down low. Of course, strong post players have caused Mason to leave wide-open shooters on the edge this season.
What makes this match-up so dangerous is that the team’s leading scorer and 2017 All-MEAC First Teamer, Tiwian Kendley is making his first appearance of the season.
Morgan State's top scorer from last year, Tiwian Kendley (21.0 ppg) is anticipated to make his season debut against George Mason on Friday.
— Tyler Byrum (@theTylerByrum) December 21, 2017
Kendly (21.0 ppg in 2016-17) has been practicing with the team all year and missed the first ten games of the season for a violation of team policy.
The 6-9 Carr is hard to control alone with 12.3 ppg, 8.3 rpg and four double-doubles on the season. Now his fellow senior is back alongside him and Kendly has some work to do to defend his all-conference selection. Losers of four in a row, the Bears are looking to get on track before conference play.
The guard is also the team’s most dynamic shooter, inside the paint and from behind the arc. Junior Antonio Gillespie is 14-31 from three-point range, coming off the bench but other than that, no other player really stands out from deep.
Match-ups will be fun to watch in this contest. The duo of Mar/ A.J. Wilson will square off against Carr, Jaire Grayer will likely have the fresh Kendly to cover, and Livingston will have a more than formidable match-up against Cameron Martez.
Due to these match-ups, the savior may be Justin Kier depending on how head coach Todd Bozeman decides to square up for the Bears. Reaching double figures in the last three contests, the 6-4 guard appears to be back on pace. Averaging 9.7 points, Kier’s production dropped significantly after Mason’s overtime win over Northridge. If he is covered by LaPri McCray-Pace, he may have some difficulty matching speed.
Here are three things to watch for vs. Morgan State:
- Match-ups; already alluded to it but this should be fun to see how some of Mason’s guys square-up one-on-one against good individual players
- Unforced turnovers; the last two games were ugly for Mason. They have to clean it up now.
- Offensive rebounds; both teams thrive with the extra possessions. Whoever gets more offensive boards will likely win the contest.
Do not expect Greg Calixte to start over Ian Boyd again in the line-up unless Morgan State does something funky. Calixte’s size is not needed as it was in the last game and will keep the post open for Mar to work.
This season the Patriots are 4-0 against opponents currently ranked below them (currently 220) in the KenPom rankings. Additionally it is their final non-conference contest on the year.
Otis Livingston II (1,039) four points away from Andy Bolden for 32nd all-time and nine points away from Byron Allen for 31st.
Overall three pointers:
Jaire Grayer (131) is 11 three pointers behind Patrick Holloway for 11th all-time.
Otis Livingston II (111) is seven three pointers behind Brian Miller for 14th all-time.
Otis Livingston (267) is two assists behind Amp Davis for 16th all-time.
Jaire Grayer (58) is six behind Shevon Thompson for 19th all-time.
Prediction: Mason 75, Morgan State 71
Prediction Record: 9-3