GEORGE MASON 74:68 DUQUESNE
There just doesn't seem to be a lot to glean from this one. George Mason came to Palumbo Center looking for its first-ever Atlantic 10 win, and they got it, dispatching Duquesne and nearly holding the lead from start to finish.
As Dukes coach Jim Ferry said afterward, "we were never in synch." Duquesne showed a few glimpses of a cohesive defensive web and had some of its typical flare on offense, but, again, it couldn't sustain.
The Dukes trailed by as many as eight points in the first half but closed the deficit to one with back-to-back 3-pointers by Derrick Colter and Micah Mason just before halftime. They even took a one-point lead, 33-32, half a minute into the second half, when Dominique McKoy hit a jumper.
Even then, Ferry said, "it never felt like we were playing together."
After L.G. Gill splashed a 3-pointer at the 16:30 mark, the Dukes didn’t make another field goal for nearly seven minutes, and their deficit stretched to nine points.
A Mason 3-pointer with seven minutes remaining made it a four-point game, but that’s as close as it would get, as the Patriots scurried away with a quick, 14-6 scoring run.
"It just never clicked tonight,” Ferry said. “It's frustrating because it's too late in the season for that to be happening."
Added Ovie Soko, who had 21 points and 8 rebounds: "We're not the only team in this league to have gone on a three-game losing streak," Soko said. "You have to have a short memory, turn to the next page and be prepared."
Duquesne is the first to lose three in a row twice, though.
"It's going to happen twice to a lot of people," Ferry said. "This stretch of the league is tough. ... You can't put your head down. You can't mope. You can't sulk. You've got to same the same after a win or after a loss."
WAS THAT BAD?
Going by the numbers, this was a game Duquesne should have won. The Patriots had lost nine games in a row and were winless in the Atlantic 10. They'd been close in almost all of those defeats, though, so this wasn't going to be a cakewalk.
So ... the loss isn't as bad as it looks on paper. George Mason isn't anywhere near as bad as their record.
"You're telling me that's an 0-8 team?" Ferry asked. "That's a talented basketball team."
But if you want to climb out of the Atlantic 10 basement, you have to beat up on the other cellar-dwellers, and Duquesne just hasn't done that.
"To be honest, every single team can beat anyone in this league," Ovie Soko said. "They'll win more games. This isn't the only win they'll get. They just haven't been able to close out."
Credit to the Patriots, who came in and grabbed the early lead, survived the (only) Duquesne run in the middle portion of the game, and shot 61.9 percent in the second half. Senior guards Sherrod Wright (23) and Bryon Allen (17) had 40 combined points.
"We just couldn't stop them," Mason said.
ALIVE FROM THREE
Micah Mason, who entered the game with the best 3-point percentage (.583) in Division I, scored 16 points and hit 4 of 5 3-point attempts.
"I'm not too worried about hitting threes," Mason said afterward. "I'm more worried about getting wins."
As a team, Duquesne was 10 of 24 from 3-point range. So, that helped.
Not so good?
The Dukes couldn't hit the ol' 15-footer. They were 12 of 21 from the free-throw line. They are rarely outdone at the charity stripe, but the Patriots hit 20 of 28 free-throw attempts.
"We normally make more free throws than our opponents attempt,” Ferry said, “and they basically did that do us tonight."
BOARDS AND WHISTLES
A common theme in its current three-game skid, Duquesne was again beaten on the boards, as George Mason took advantage of a size disparity to gain a 36-30 rebounding edge.
"They beast people on the glass,” Ferry said.
McKoy, who averages 7.5 rebounds per game, spent much of the game on the bench with foul trouble and finished with two points and no rebounds.
And that leads us to the foul thing ...
There's been a recent uptick in foul calls, as you well know, but this seemed like maybe the time I'd seen the fouls affect Ferry's game plan the most. McKoy is the team's most consistent contributor, but he was completely taken out.
I asked Ferry if that was more or less accurate.
"I really don't want to comment on that," he said (and then, of course, he went right into a comment on it) "I thought there was a bunch of stuff early that has been called fouls all year. One of those guys I've never seen in my life, one of those officials. I don't know. And again, it's not their fault that we lost, but I think it definitely frustrated Ovie early with what I thought several times was several people colliding into each other, and there's no whistle. Call something; call a block, call a charge, call something. But it wasn't the reason that we lost."
Ovie was similarly frustrated.
Fouls: "It's hard, man. With all the rules they're implementing this year, with so much change from last year it's just hard. You have to see how the game is being called from game to game. There's really no consistency. I'm sure you could watch 10 games over college basketball and you won't see much consistency with the hand-checking calls and the petty calls. You just have to adjust."