While his players concentrated on their end-of-semester exams, George Mason Coach Jim Larranaga took some time to evaluate his team. On Monday, he watched game film of all the Patriots offensive plays in the eight games they’ve played this season. Next, he was going to watch all their defensive plays. Larranaga concluded that while Mason had done a lot of good things to achieve its 6-2 record, there was still a lot of work to be done.
“We’re learning,” he said. “We are still in the process of figuring out who we are. I thought we would be an uptempo team, playing a lot of guys. As it turns out, we’re playing nine guys and we haven’t been able to run as much.”
A big concern for Larranaga is his team’s defense, particularly its inability to shut down the opponent’s best player. Vermont’s Marqus Blakely went for 24 points against the Patriots. East Carolina’s Sam Hinnant made 6 of 13 from three-point range. And Liberty’s Seth Curry finished with 22 points, including a three-pointer to force overtime.
Larranaga has confidence in John Vaughan and Louis Birdsong and their abilities as individual defenders. He put Vaughan on Mount St. Mary’s go-to player Jeremy Goode after Goode scored 17 points in the first half and Vaughan held Goode to five points after halftime. But Vaughan and Birdsong can’t do it alone. They have to have help from their teammates, as was the case at Liberty where Curry scored most of his points off ball screens.
“Team defense is what we need,” Larranaga said. “We’re third in the league defensively. I want to do better. I think we will.”
As he watched game film, Larranaga made up a list of 15 things defensively and 26 things offensively that Mason needs to work on before conference play resumes in January. The Patriots get back to basketball on Thursday with individual workouts. They’ll practice Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Their next game is Dec. 19 against Radford.
December 9, 2008; 9:14 AM ET
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