Patriots See Potential For Mismatch

Ohio State never got the frenetic pace it expected from second-round opponent Texas-San Antonio. As it prepares for the Buckeyes on Sunday afternoon in Cleveland, George Mason claims it is planning to play the style of game OSU expected Friday night from the Roadrunners.

In sizing up his team's contest with top-seeded Ohio State, George Mason guard Andre Cornelius feels his team has an advantage it can put to good use.

"I'm going to pick them up full court and dog them out, get pressure to them," the junior said. "We'll run them. They don't really get back on defense that well sometimes. We can run them if we get stops on defense."

His primary message was echoed by a number of his teammates inside the GMU locker room at Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena. With nine players averaging at least eight minutes per game, the Patriots feel they have a stable of horses capable of running against the Buckeyes.

The question now is whether or not head coach Jim Larranaga will allow them to try. As OSU prepared for its second-round matchup with Texas-San Antonio, it did so with the belief that the Roadrunners would try to beat the Buckeyes up and down the court. Instead, UTSA scored a season-low 46 points while holding the ball until the final seconds of the shot clock.

Seated in his team's locker room, OSU head coach Thad Matta said he has no idea whether he should expect the Patriots to try and push the ball or not.

For the season, GMU averages 73.0 points per game and ranks 14th in the nation with a plus-11.8 scoring margin. Cornelius credited his team's overall depth for helping the Patriots push the issue up and down the court.

"We've got a lot of depth," he said. "We've got a lot of good three-point shooters. We've got a good defensive team that can push the ball. We're one of the best at pushing the ball and scoring like that. If we get stops on defense and push the ball, I think we'll be successful."

The trade-off is that the Patriots do not boast an overabundance of size in the paint. Starting forwards Mike Morrison and Ryan Pearson check in at 6-9 and 6-6, respectively. The Buckeyes, meanwhile, start Jared Sullinger (6-9) and Dallas Lauderdale (6-8) and boast a size advantage on the perimeter.

In order for GMU to be able to get out and run, Morrison said his teammates will first have to assert themselves in the paint.

"We definitely want to control the pace whether it's fast-breaking or halfcourt," he said. "We can get out and run. We have to rebound first. They're a very big team. We have to get the ball to the guards and let them be playmakers. We're talented with the ball on the break."

The Patriots average 35.1 rebounds per game but have been out-rebounded on the offensive glass by a 365-351 margin. The Buckeyes average 34.5 boards per game and hold a 392-321 edge at the offensive end.

Senior guard Isaiah Tate said OSU's size reminds him of Old Dominion and Dayton. The Patriots split their season series with ODU and lost at Dayton by six points.

"(Those games) will help us out a lot," he said. "We've been stressing rebounding and defense all year. What we'll need to do is match Ohio State's physicality and hopefully keep them off the offensive glass. If we can do that and run, I think it will be a great game."

Throughout the season, Morrison said his team's lineup has forced teams to play with a smaller lineup. Although Lauderdale is a starter, he is replaced by freshman guard Aaron Craft at the first media timeout and sees limited playing time thereafter. Of OSU's six most-played players, five are guards or wings.

The Buckeyes have stressed all season long that they prefer to play an up-and-down type of game. Sullinger said teams such as Penn State, Michigan and Purdue have tried to pressure OSU's guards throughout the season.

Senior guard Jon Diebler said a season of Big Ten basketball has helped prepare the team for a number of different styles of play.

"We're very excited if teams want to try to run with us," he said. "Obviously we would like to push the tempo. (Friday) was a unique game and we got that out of the way. We know we can play against a team like that if a team tries to hold the ball, but they're very athletic and they've got some great players. We think they'll try to run with us."

Regardless of how the Patriots aim to attack the Buckeyes, Sullinger said he is excited for the challenge.

"I think it plays in our favor either way,"' he said. "With this team, we can play halfcourt or we can get out and run with the athletic guards that we have. Either/or, we're in good shape. We love to get out. Easy outlet passes lead to layups. We're looking to score the basketball in transition (Sunday)."

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