Thursday, November 15, 2012

Patriots Capture First Win of Season, Beat UMES 64-38

Nothing feels better than grabbing that first win of the season, and the Patriots were able to celebrate their mark at home in front of the Patriot Center faithful on Tuesday night. The great finish in their loss the previous game carried some momentum into the start of this one as George Mason jumped out to a big 37-21 lead at the half. The Patriots resembled almost an entirely different team this game as they found scoring options in the paint, shot well from the floor at the start, and forced plenty of turnovers leading to open looks. The Lady   Hawks were able to chip into the Patriot lead somewhat, hitting 3 three-pointers in the first half, two from Jessica Long and the other from TeAmber Burke.

One of the great surprises in two games here for the Patriots is the production from the Pensacola State College transfer Kyana Jacobs. Jacobs had 11 points and 5 rebounds, and now is averaging close to 8 points per game on the season. Two other key contributors for George Mason this game were Janaa Pickard (10 points, 6 rebounds) and Rahneeka Saunders (13 points, 4 steals). The Patriots played brilliantly defensively this game, forcing 21 UMES turnovers and snagging 13 steals.

The second half for the Patriots did not start off on the right foot, as UMES built a steady comeback forcing Mason to call a timeout around 3 minutes in. But a steady salvo of points, combined with a 17-0 run later in the half, helped close out the Lady Hawks for good. This brings the Patriots record overall to 1-1, as they also celebrated Head Coach Jeri Porter's 200th career victory.

George Mason finished their home-stand against Morgan State on Friday at 7 pm.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Slow Start Plagues Patriots, Lose 62-58 to Oakland

When Mason forward Janaa Pickard hit a jumper 17 seconds into the Patriot's first game of the regular season against Oakland it appeared to set the tone that GMU was going to be a different team on the road this season. Grabbing only four wins away from the Patriot Center last year, Mason had an opportunity to improve on that record right off the bat. But the mood quickly turned sour when it took another five minutes for Mason to score again in a half that found them unable to get anything going as they found themselves stymied by the Golden Grizzlies. While Mason only shot 25% from the floor in that first half, Oakland saw everything go in as they shot 52% from the field including five three-pointers. It was a first half to forget for Mason as they trailed 37-20 at the break.

The offense picked up quite a bit in the second half of play, as the Patriots found their way into a groove. Amber Easter picked up her first double-double of the season, scoring 12 points and snagging 10 rebounds. Pickard finished strong as well, finishing with 10 points. The rebounding improved mightily as well as the Patriots grabbed one more rebound than the Golden Grizzlies, 38-37. Oakland was led by Annemarie Hamlet who finished with 19 points and 4 assists. It may have just been those opening game jitters that kept GMU cold to start, but a 38-25 scoring margin in the second half will hopefully propel Mason heading into their second game.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Preview: GMU vs. Oakland

Another Women's Basketball season is upon us, as the year kicks off with the Lady Patriots visiting the Oakland Golden Grizzlies on November 9th, tip-off scheduled for 5 pm. The 2012-13 campaign brings back some old faces as three starters return: Sr. Guard/Forward Amber Easter (12 ppg, 7 rpg), Redshirt Jr. Forward Janaa Pickard (8.5 ppg 5.6 rpg), and Sr. Guard Rahneeka Saunders (7.5 ppg 5.4 rpg). Sorely missed from last year's graduating class will be the inside presence of Evelyn Lewis and the flashy scoring of Taleia Moton, as GMU will need some of the younger players such as 6'2 Sophomore Talisha Watts and her fellow Sophomore Rachel McNair to help fill the shoes down low.The Patriots finished 15-16 overall last season, losing in the CAA Quarterfinals to JMU. There was plenty of exciting moments last year that Coach Jeri Porter hopes continue to this year's Patriots.

A win on the road to kick off the season would be huge for a team that finished 4-10 on the road last year, one of those four being against these very same Golden Grizzlies (59-48). Look for Pickard to have a strong game as she was able to collect four blocks in last year's victory. Pickard really flourished last season into quite an offensive force, able to hit elbow jumpers on a consistent basis as well as draw fouls. There should be no doubt that she will most likely improve even more on last year's numbers to round out the "Big Three".  Saunders will look to average in double-figures this season with more opportunities now with Moton gone, she will need to have a big scoring game right off the bat to complement the scoring production of Easter.

Some other key names to mention: the sharp-shooting Junior Guard Christine Weithman and the 6'0 Redshirt Senior Forward Joyous Tharrington. Weithman shot close to 40% from long-range last year (2nd on the team) and shoots well from the free-throw stripe. Weithman mainly came off the bench last season but if she can continue to hit bombs on a consistent basis there should be plenty of minutes available for her at shooting guard. Tharrington was another player who really pulled together a strong season, finishing just behind Moton with field goal percentage (.448), also grabbing plenty of boards and making 27 of 33 free-throws last year (.818).

 A major key is limiting turnovers, without Moton handling the ball this year the pressure will be on Saunders to keep those turnover numbers low. They also can't let Oakland have any second chances, losing Lewis down low with her rebounding ability will be tough, but Mason has some players who can really clean up the glass. If they can accomplish these things, GMU can start off the year on the right foot.  

Friday, March 9, 2012

Patriots Fall to JMU, Lose Third Straight to the Dukes 54-64 in CAA Quarterfinals

The Patriots came as close as 4 points aginst the JMU Dukes on Friday in the quarterfinals of the CAA tournament, but just could not come up with the right stuff to finish. JMU would win the game 64-54 to advance to the semifinals of the CAA tournament against Drexel.

Mason would be defensively shutdown by JMU's defenders Tarik Hislop and Nikki Newman who forced a combined 9 steals on the night. The Patriot's would go into halftime with a 4 point lead though, but would be unable to handle the strategy the Dukes would throw at them in the second half.

In the second half, JMU would switch back and forth between a one-on-one defense and a zone. This defensive strategy by the Dukes helped hold the Patriots to 33.3% shooting in the second half, which would lead to Mason losing the rebounding battle 18 to 24 in the half. The JMU defense would contain Taleia Moton to 4 of 13 shooting from the field in the second half, as well as holding Amber Easter to 1 of 4 shooting in  the half. The defensive statistics as well as points off of turnovers, 5 to 14 in favor of JMU, is what helped fuel JMU to the victory. Overall JMU would be more aggressive down low and driving in the lane, which lead to the high differential of free-throw attempts 15 to 37 in favor of JMU. Overall the aggressiveness of JMU's forward Nikki Newman on the boards and forcing fouls down low really put the nail in the coffin for the Patriots.

Mason finishes the season with 15 wins and 16 losses overall, but once again improving on the previous year's record. Watching the Patriots this year should give Mason fans a lot of hope for next season, as the trio of  Amber Easter, Janaa Pickard, and Rahneeka Saunders return and will be the big time play-makers in the CAA as they average 12, 8.5, and 7.5 points per game. The achievements of seniors Taleia Moton, Evelyn Lewis, and Amber Epps cannot be stressed enough in helping this George Mason program achieve its first tournament win in six years.

The positive legacy that these seniors leave behind will leave a lasting impact for years to come on this program. Best of luck to them in the the future. Thank you for your hard work.

George Mason vs. James Madison, CAA Quarterfinals Preview

The Patriots, coming off their first CAA tournament win since 2006, have a giant roadblock standing in their way   of advancing to the semifinal round: the JMU Dukes. Though the Patriots fell twice to Madison during the regular season they definitely have shown that this is a Patriot squad capable of pulling off the upset

Let's first look at some of the numbers between the two teams.
Scoring average: JMU 63.2 ppg GMU 63.3 ppg
Field Goal Percentage: JMU 36.6% GMU 39.6%

Clearly these are two high-powered offenses capable of putting up plenty of points at will. The first time these two teams played, Madison won by four points, 49-45. The second time they faced off George Mason fell again, 66-54, but the final score was not indicative of how close this game really was. Mason edges out JMU on both Field Goal Percentage and Scoring Average.

Next up are the numbers for Assists, Blocks, and Steals.
Assists: JMU 12 GMU 12.7
Blocks: JMU 4.6 GMU 4.4
Steals: JMU 7.4 GMU 7

Again the numbers are very evenly matched across the board. Though the large difference in regular season records, George Mason and James Madison are two very evenly matched teams.

Key Players: JMU's Tarik Hislop. The 5'7 Junior guard is averaging a team-high 14.7 points per game and was named to All-CAA Second Team.

GMU's Taleia Moton. Moton has singlehandedly won ball games for her team this year with her ability to take over the offense. Look for Moton to try and ensure her Mason career does not end tonight.

5:00 PM Tip-Off, CAA Quarterfinals at the Showcase Arena

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Patriots Silence the Huskies 70-60, Advance to the CAA Quarterfinals for the First Time Since 2006

The George Mason women's basketball team did something they hadn't done since 2006, win a CAA tournament game.  On Thursday the #7 seeded Patriots traveled to the Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro Maryland and faced off against the very hot #10 seeded Northeastern Huskies. It was a back and forth match-up that had 15 lead changes between the two teams, but once the Patriots got the lead they would hold on to it 70-60.

Evelyn Lewis played tough since the tip
The key for Mason (15-15, 8-10) finally quenching their post-season winless drought was their focus and understanding of who they were playing and how they had to beat them. Coach Porter talked post game on how they knew Northeastern's  record (8-22, 6-12) was deceiving, saying "We thought, minus Delaware, they were the hottest team in the league coming into the tournament". Coach Porter also acknowledged that she felt both  Northeastern's starting forwards deserved All-Conference Team honors, saying "Not sure why Jewel Tunstull or Christine Hurber weren't on any of them, they are amazingly good". Both players showed why Coach Porter made sure to scout them pre-game. Both Tunstull and Huber both exceeded their season averages in scoring, tallying 15 and 25 points respectively to lead Northeastern. But the Mason defense did a good job to make it tough on the rest of the shooters including All-CAA Third team selection Deanna Kerkhof who only had 5 points on 2 of 8 shooting, 10 points below here conference scoring average.

Even with Mason's efficient defense, the Patriot's were still down 4 points with around 7 minutes remaining in the game. This is the point in which Coach Porter pointed out that this Patriot team has really changed from the beginning of the season, "We have matured I think into a team that knows how to put 40 minutes together and that's not something we've been able to say all season long". 

Mason was focused from the beginning, playing unselfish
Down the stretch in this game I personally  saw a totally different team then I've seen all year. The passing went all around the perimeter, inside and out, until the person with the best shot or path to the hoop was open and took it. This win truly was a win for the team, even though Taelia Moton had 20 points and Amber Easter had a double-double with 22 points-13 rebounds. From the point that Mason tied the game at 57-57 on a Janaa Pickard jumper with 6:43 remaining, the Patriots would hold Northeastern to just 1 of 9 shooting till the final buzzer. On the other hand in the same time frame, the Patriots would go 7 of 9 from the field with 4 different players recording a field goal or made free-throw. And you may ask where did this killer instinct come from all of a sudden? It can best be described by Amber Easter who said "We knew that this was a game we needed to win, and wanted to see tomorrow".

The Patriots also set a Colonial Athletic Association tournament record in a stat nobody would ever believe, consecutive free-throws made. Mason went an incredible 18 of 18 from the line for 100% efficency. This shows the focus of the Patriots when players like Evelyn Lewis and Janaa Pickard, who shoot 50% and 68% for the free-throw line, are able to go a combined 8 of 8 from the stripe. That is 18 free points the Patriots converted, and it helped keep them in the game when they would get down early. Senior leader Taleia Moton nailed it on the head when she commented "We practice that(free-throws) everyday, and we knew stepping up to that line we needed to focus....Sometimes in a close game it comes down to that one or two free-throws".

Nikki Newman names Defense POY in CAA
Now Mason gets to look forward to facing the JMU Dukes for the 2nd time in 10 days. In the last match-up, the Patriots lost 54-66 in a game that was closer then the score appears.  In our wrap up post of the team's last meeting, we highlighted that Evelyn Lewis had her way early in that game but then seemed to trail off towards the second half. In Friday's match-up, Mason will need Lewis to be as aggressive as she has ever been if the Patriots want to pull the upset over the #2 seeded James Madison Dukes. The Patriots have a big chance to win this game, but they will have to move the ball similar to what they did in the last 5-6 minutes against Northeastern, and box-out against the CAA Defensive Player of the Year Nikki Newman as well as fight through the screens in order to maintain tight one-on-one defense.

Tip-off is 5pm on Friday Feburary 9th at the Show Place Arena between #7 George Mason (15-15) and #2 JMU (23-6).