The George Mason Patriots crushed the La Salle Explorers in Fairfax, 89 to 54. This was La Salle’s second matchup against George Mason this season. The first time these two teams met, the Patriots went on to win 75-42. Offense was a problem for the Explorers in the first matchup as the team struggled to manufacture points against the Patriots.
Sadly for La Salle fans, today’s game was no different from the first one. The Explorer’s struggled to score any points in the half court. In addition, La Salle looked extremely undisciplined on both offense and defense.
On the other side of the ball, George Mason continued to build momentum off of their previous wins. The Patriots added to their four game win streak. A streak which now includes wins against teams such as: Fordham, VCU, George Washington, and La Salle. However, tonight’s win against the Explorers was by far Mason’s most dominant performance.
George Mason dominated this game on both ends of the court. The team shot 54% from the field, as well as 50% from the three point line. Another stat that was in GMU’s favor was free throw attempts. The Patriots went to the free throw line 15 times. Compare that to La Salle’s dismal six free throws. Finally, GMU was able to own the glass and secure 35 rebounds in tonight’s win.
However, while the final box score is stuffed with stats, anyone who watched the game knows it was over by half time. At the end of the first half George Mason was leading by over 24 points. While they were able to score an impressive 47 in the first half, they also were able to hold La Salle to only 23 points for the first 20 minutes. The Patriots were in a grove on both offense and defense, and the first half gap between these two teams illustrates this point well.
AJ Wilson led the way for George Mason with 16 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 blocks. Freshman Tyler Kolek also contributed to the win by scoring 15 points in only 19 minutes of play. However, the most notable part of the player contributions was just how many were able to make their way into the game. Coach Paulsen was able to play over 17 different players throughout this matchup. Simply put, if a coach has that much freedom in his rotation it means that this game was a blow out.
La Salle Slides Backwards
La Salle’s win against Duquesne this past Wednesday felt like a month ago. Especially when watching GMU dismantle the Explorers in such a clinical fashion. As mentioned earlier, La Salle looked extremely undisciplined. In both games this week La Salle has led its opponents in turnovers. Against Duquesne they had 22, and against GMU they had 15.
While the turnovers are concerning, what should worry La Salle fans most is how disorganized this team was in the half court tonight. There was simply no system to this offense. What appeared to happen was that the ball would get thrown to different players, and then they were told to try and score on their own. There were no back door cuts or screens set. Instead, La Salle ran an isolation heavy offense and tonight’s box score proves it.
First, the Explorers shot 22% from three and 37% from the field. There was no way for La Salle to manufacture easy points without a definitive offensive strategy in place. Instead, La Salle’s offensive sets ended in multiple failed, and heavily contested, isolation attempts.
In addition to the shooting percentages, the assist numbers tell an even scarier story. La Salle finished with only 4 assists for the game! Compare this to George Mason’s 21 assists. What makes the assist differential even worse is that all four came from the same player for La Salle, Jhamir Brickus. Simply put, the Explorers played with way too much isolation and not enough ball movement.
The Real Issues are Uncovered
Tonight’s game put all of La Salle’s flaws out on display for the entire conference to see. La Salle had no offensive scheme to speak of. Even if they did have a system, they still have no true point guard who could actually run it. Jhamir Brickus, a freshman, is the only player who resembles a passing point guard. Yet, even then, I believe his skills better suit him to be an effective sorcerer rather than as a true “distributor”.
Another issue is that La Salle still does not have a dedicated number one option. It appeared that Sherif Kenney had begun to move into this role about two weeks ago. However, his play is so inconsistent I do not believe that he can be a number one option. Some nights he is scoring 17 points and on others he has only 2. I would love for Kenney to prove me wrong, but until then, La Salle needs to find a more consistent scoring option if it hopes to pull itself out of the basement of the conference.
La Salle did have a few players who contributed in scoring tonight. Jared Kimbrough finished with 21 points and David Beatty also had 12. But quite frankly, does Jared Kimbrough scoring 21 points, or Beatty scoring 12 points, matter when the team is losing by 35? We have seen La Salle play well this year and really flash its potential. However, watching them come off a great Duquesne win to then play horribly against GMU is just baffling. How many times will we see La Salle take one step forward only for them to take two back?