Many believe that current George Mason head coach, Dave Paulsen is a pretty darn good coach. Given his background at Bucknell and his successful second season turnaround a year ago, it is a fair assessment on paper.
However, his counterpart on Wednesday will be one of the best in the Atlantic 10. And in his 23rd year with the Saint Joseph’s program this could be one of Phil Martelli’s best.
After an injury riddled 2016-17 season, which cost them their leading scorer Shavar Newkirk, the injury bug has caught the Hawks again. This time it is Lamarr Kimble and Charlie Brown Jr. Brown not has played a minute all season and Kimble will be sidelined for the remainder of the year.
For those not familiar with the program, both of these players were huge in keeping Saint Joseph’s afloat in 2017. They limped to an 11-20 record, 4-14 in the Atlantic 10 after preseason picked sixth in the conference. Kimble, a junior, averaged the most points outside of the injured Newkirk with 15.5 and became the facilitator on offense with 4.5 apg. Still, he missed the final seven games of the year. He re-injured last year’s fracture in his foot during the team’s home opener in the fall.
Brown was an A10 All-Rookie selection a year ago. On top of his iconic name drawing looks, he was a sharpshooter from deep, hitting a team-high 71 three-point shots at a 38.4 percent rate. A return this season is still unknown.
Yet, Martelli has led this team to the two of the three biggest upset in Atlantic 10 play so far. The Hawks (7-7, 2-1) upset both VCU and St. Bonaventure at home. Winning three out of their last five, Saint Joseph’s is playing the best they have all year.
Much of Martelli’s success has to be attributed to the return of the 6-0 Newkirk. He is the quintessential point guard one needs in college basketball. Second on the team in scoring (17.1 ppg), the senior can hit from all corners of the court. A Marquise Moore-type that is physical, and not afraid to draw contact, in the paint. Easily he is a contender for A10 First-Team honors on his play-making abilities alone. If they make it to the top-five in the conference, he should be a lock.
READ MORE: GEORGE MASON’S MIDSEASON AWARDS
Senior, James Demery is the team’s leading scorer at 17.4 points a contest, and a likely match-up against the smaller Jaire Grayer. Standing at 6-6, Demery has to be respected to spread the floor but prefers to play down low and the short mid-range.
Its a rare line-up that Martelli implements in the guard-heavy Atlantic 10; two guards, three forwards. They live in the post, rely on one-on-one match-ups and offensive rebounds.
Do not forget about 6-9 freshman Taylor Funk, he has 43 three-pointers on the year for the Hawks off of the bench. Could be a nightmare for the Patriots given their history with bench shooters.
A tall task is ahead for the Hawks to live up to their preseason rank of third in the conference, but with beating the Bonnies and VCU a double-bye is definitely in play for them.
It is another opportunity for the Patriots (7-9, 1-2) to ride or die through Otis Livingston II. Scoring 20+ points in back-to-back games for the first time all season, Livingston (15.8 ppg, 4.3 apg) has turned a corner on the year. Starting the offense exclusively through him opened up doors in a few games this year. When he is not going, the offense is almost non-existent.
The Hawks do not shoot the ball particularly well (40.7 percent) and certainly is not in line with Davidson’s numbers. They bring down just over 10 offensive boards a game, but with three forwards on the court at all times they have been out-rebounded on the season. Behind the arc they are not that great either, 31.5 percent.
Here are three things to watch for vs. Saint Joseph’s:
- Turnovers; the Hawks force 12.4 a game and Mason averages 14.0. Defense will likely swarm the Patriots.
- Offensive rebounding for both teams
- Post defense; Saint Joseph’s scores 47 percent of their points from two-point baskets
Mason won the 2017 contest, 75-67 in January only the sixth meeting ever between the two. Demery had 16 points in 34 minutes of action to lead the players that will be playing at EagleBank Arena on Wednesday.
For St. Joe’s it does feel like a trap game after the run they have been on. They are also 1-3 away from home including a loss to George Washington.
Otis Livingston II (1,120) 72 points away from Steve Smith for 24th all-time
Jaire Grayer (144) 11 3pters away from Cam Long for 10th all-time
Otis Livingston II (117) is 1 3pter away from Brian Miller for 14th all-time
Otis Livingston II (285) 5 assists away from Raoul Heinen for 12th all-time
Jaire Grayer (64) 4 behind Michael Sharp for 18th all-time
Prediction: Saint Joseph’s 76, Mason 69
Prediction Record: 13-3
Sidenote: After Wednesday’s contest, the #RootForMason series will start back up to assist fans in which teams Mason fans should root for.