Friday, November 20, 2009

George Mason Post Game -- Freshman Arise!

Time Stood Still
The Patriots were supposed to be a tough out, but they were supposed to go out in the end. I guess Coach Larranaga and his guards, Cam Long and Andre Cornelius who fueled the 21-8 Patriot run to open the game. The 'Cats, staggered with the pregame loss of Mouphtaou Yarou (transfer Taylor King started) were ice cold to start the game, but launched a run 15-5 run of their own to close the gap to 26-23. And the Patriots responded with another 11-5 run to close out the half, 37-28. It took the 'Cats 12 ½ minutes into the second half to erase the 9 point deficit, but they tied the Patriots at 54-54, and the game then went down to the wire, with neither team able to open a lead larger than 5 points. The Wildcats mounted a 7-2 run in the last minute of play to pull out the game. Thank the freshmen, Maalik Waynes and Isaiah Armwood for knocking down a pair of 3s to notch the win. posted a very brief recap, amidst the notes on Yarou and the preview of Dayton. Publisher over at Villanova Viewpoint penned a paean to Armwood in honor of the victory. The Villanovan Sports Blog also posted a quick recap. Nova News filed a longer recap with analysis -- "Thunder in Paradise". IBBW appears to be last to the party (except for my post...). And then there is the AP wirestory and box score posted on the official website, along with a short set of game notes and post game quotes. The breakdown by halves...

OpponentGeorge Mason 
 Offense Defense

The half-time adjustments are obvious -- note the jump in Villanova's offensive rating, half-over-half (green highlight). The bump derived from a small raft of improvements, largely but not exclusively, related to field goal shooting. Villanova's eFG% is a mixed stat that includes 2FG% & 3FG% conversions -- note that both improved in the 2nd half. The team apparently eschewed the take 'em aspects of the offense in favor of rotating the ball -- note the bump in the 2nd half assist rate. An important component is the dramatic cut in the turnover rate (even as GMU's FTA/FGA rate grew significantly -- note the red highlight). The Patriot's relatively strong point per shot (note the red highlighted PPWS) was due to the relatively large number of fouls which put GMU players on the free throw line. Villanova's shot defense (good in both halves -- note the blue highlight) held the PPWS and score down. Lack of consistent field goal defense has been a troubling part of Villanova's defense during the past 4 or so seasons. Last season's squad addressed the problem and the team prospered. Good to see the squad is maintaining that kind of pressure on opponents. Solid defense kept this game within reach. Despite having the ball, a timeout and 17 seconds, the veteran Patriot squad was unable to get a shot off in the last 17 seconds of the game.

Notes & Observations
1. The referees warmed up by stopping play 24 times for fouls in the 1st half. Then they got hot and blew it 30 more times in the 2nd half. On site reports note the play was choppy, frequently interrupted with free throws and out of bounds plays. A whopping 34 FT were attempted in the 1st half, only to be surpassed by another 41 (not a typo folks) free throws in the 2nd half. 75 FTAs make it hard to get into a flow.
2. Four Wildcats (starters Antonio Pena, Taylor King and Corey Stokes, joined by rotation player Maurice Sutton) were DQ'd by the zebras. GMU foward Kevin Foster was also benched for fouls. Four other Patriots, starters Mike Morrison and Louis Birdsong were, along with subs Luke Hancock and Andre Cornelius were tagged with four fouls.
3. Antonio Pena logged his 2nd career double-double, snagging 12 rebounds to go with 10 points. Also noteworthy is that this is the 2nd consecutive game in which Pena has reached double-double numbers.
4. Villanova absolutely dominated the boards on both ends of the court today, gathering a staggering 50% of the offensive misses in the 2nd half, while limiting the Patriots to an eyepopping 13.3% of their misses in the 2nd half. Villanova snagged 86% of the available misses. For the game, the Patriots were limited to less than 1 in 4 misses on their end of the court, while the 'Cats rounded out to 45.2 for the game. Mason returned a veteran front court this season, a game like this from Pena, Stokes, Sutton and King -- even in the absence of Yarou -- was very comforting. That Corey Fisher and Maalik Wayns chipped in 6 rebounds apiece is shocking. I think Nova Nation fans would have to go back to the days of Randy Foye to find a guard performance to match the board work from Fisher and Wayns.

Roster Notes
Freshman Mouphtaou Yarou was a DNP. Eyewitnesses report he did not suit up and was not on the bench. Unofficial word has circulated that Yarou left Puerto Rico to return to Philadelphia for an undisclosed medical problem. The speculation spinning in the late afternoon to report he -- had already/was about/would definitely -- return to the island (and the tournament) before the last game on Sunday. No official comment on the circumstances surrounding Yarou's condition.

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