After surviving and advancing yesterday over Fordham, the 11-seeded George Washington Colonials advanced to the 2nd Round today against the 6-seeded George Mason Patriots.
This will be the second meeting of these two teams this season, as they last met exactly 8 days ago at EagleBank Arena in Fairfax, a game in which the Patriots prevailed 63-58.
Let’s talk about that game, especially since it was so recent. In the first half, George Washington came out and really punched George Mason in the mouth. They opened up a 25-11 lead via a 16-2 run, and led by 13 points at the half. The Colonials shot the ball at a 61% clip while holding Mason to just 23%. But the second half is where it all went off the rails. The Patriots stormed out of halftime on an extended 12-2 run, which was later followed by an 8-2 run, an 8-1 run and a 9-2 run. Add all those stretches together, that’s 37-7. In total, Mason out-scored GW 40-22 in the second half.
I asked Jamion Christian about what he felt the team learned from their last meeting with George Mason, and he stressed the importance of controlling the offensive glass. Coach said, “I mean  offensive rebounds in a performance, it’s hard to overcome that. But we defended pretty well besides that. So we gotta come out here and defend again, finish the ball on the backboards and make shots like you do every time.” Christian also emphasized the importance of playing under control, saying “Both teams are gonna be fired up, our strategies are to attack one another. It’s gonna come down to emotional control, who can make the biggest plays in the biggest moments.”
Coach Christian was very optimistic, overall though, saying “As you can tell, I really like our team. I feel great about our team and I’m privileged to coach these guys everyday and I’m excited to stay on the journey with them.”
On the flip side of things, George Mason hasn’t played since Saturday since the Patriots’ 89-54 thrashing of La Salle. I talked to Dave Paulsen after that game, and we discussed the upcoming A-10 Tournament. He touched on the fact that they wouldn’t know who they were playing until a day before. In trying to prepare for that, Coach indicated that he would have his team preparing for a multitude of situations. Said Paulsen, “We gotta be able to execute different coverages based on, you know, we have no idea who we’re playing, but we gotta get ready to guard a dominant post guy or a dominant ball handling guard, or teams who run a motion offense like a Davidson. We like to think our defense is built robustly and we can play against all these different styles. We just gotta get better at playing style A, style B, and if we can continue, 21 assists, 7 turnovers and shoot 50% from three, good stuff is gonna happen.” It’s worth noting that conversation happened before the bracket was released, so it’s ironic that Mason ended up in Davidson’s half of the bracket. But one game at a time first.
Dave simply emphasized saying, “It’s not about who we’re playing, but how we’re playing.”
Finally, when asked about the possibility of yet another return trip to Dayton this year, Paulsen said, “If we were to go to Dayton for the Championship game, I’d be pretty darn excited…It’d be a happy trip and you know what, nobody else in the conference, minus Dayton, has played two games at Dayton so it’d be as close to a home court advantage as anyone could have.”
Mason’s first step to getting there starts today. Tipoff from the Robins Center is set for 5:30 on NBCSN. The winner will advance to face 3-seed Davidson on Friday at 5:30 on NBCSN.