St. Joe's-George Mason Preview

St. Joe's rebounded from last week's loss to VCU with a critical win over Rhode Island Sunday afternoon at Hagan Arena. The Hawks, now 12-3 on the year, are 2-1 in Atlantic 10 play. They are looking to notch their second road win in conference play Wednesday when they travel to George Mason. A full preview is inside.

St. Joe's got 22 points from DeAndre Bembry and 19 from Aaron Brown on Sunday afternoon as the Hawks survived a late scare from Rhode Island. The Hawks had a 52-43 lead over the Rams on Sunday, but URI went on a 10-0 run to take the lead. An and-one by James Demery and then two corner threes by Aaron Brown gave the Hawks the lead back, and they wouldn't give it up this time. St. Joe's improved to 12-3 on the season with the 72-67 home win over Rhode Island.

Isaiah Miles was limited to 27 minutes due to foul trouble, finishing well below his season average with just 10 points and 3 rebounds. He had a critical offense rebound and ensuing 2-2 trip to the free throw line though in the game's closing minutes however.

St. Joe's shot 15-23 from the free throw line, good for 65%. The Hawks did miss three straight front ends of one-and-ones though in the second half, leaving six points on the board as URI went on their 10-0 run. After being a strength earlier in the season, the free throw shooting essentially cost the Hawks the VCU game and nearly came back to bite them on Sunday.

The win Sunday brought St. Joe's up to 32nd nationally in RPI, per the NCAA. The win also reinserted the Hawks into the national Bracketology discussion, with Jerry Palm including the Hawks in his Last 4 In, while ESPN's Joe Lunardi has the Hawks as one of the first teams out of the field. On Wednesday, the Hawks travel to George Mason for a game that, to put it bluntly, they really can't afford to lose.

George Mason enters Wednesday's game at 6-10, and 0-3 in Atlantic 10 play. The Patriots have two great wins this year, both from the Charleston Classic back in November. On back-to-back days, GMU beat Ole Miss and Oklahoma State. Since then, it's bee rough sledding, however. Their other four wins are against Wright State, Penn, Longwood, and Wagner. They have lost three straight, to VCU, Saint Bonaventure, and Davidson, to open league play.

That's not to say that the Patriots are without talent. Senior center Shevon Thompson is one of the best big men in the league. He had 19 points and 16 rebounds in the win over Ole Miss, then went off for 20 points and 17 rebounds in the win over Oklahoma State. St. Joe's doesn't have a body to match up with the 6'11 230-pounder, so what will the Hawks do? The flip side of the equation is that Thompson lacks the quickness to defend either Isaiah Miles or Pierfrancesco Oliva on the perimeter. If the Hawks bring Javon Baumann into the game to guard Thompson too, look for the Hawks to play him physically. Shevon shot just 1-9 from the free throw line in the season opener against Colgate. He was 2-9 from the stripe against Saint Bonaventure last week. On the year, he is just a 38% free-throw shooter.

Shevon Thompson is the big name to keep an eye on tomorrow. Junior Marquis Moore and freshman Otis Livington make up the Patriots' starting backcourt. Livingston has had a really strong freshman year, scoring in double-figures in 9 of George Mason's last 10 games. Livingston is not so much a shooter, but more of a paint-getter. He's not exceptionally quick, and only 5'11, but he is crafty with his dribble and a more-than-capable scorer. Moore is a strong 6'2 junior who epitomizes the term slasher. He's made just one three all season, but is averaging a team-high 11.1 points per game. Moore is a gifted scorer, and a tough player, but DeAndre Bembry and James Demery both have a good 3-4 inches on him, and should be able to make life difficult for him.

The one other player that I'd say to keep an eye on tomorrow is freshman wing DeAndre Abram. The 185-pound Texas native has one of the more strange scoring splits on the year. Abram has scored 8 points or less in 14 of the Patriots' 16 games. The other two? Back to back explosions of 24 and 27 points against Longwood and Wagner, where he went a combined 9-18 from three. Over the years, random players have hurt the Hawks. While his numbers on the year are modest (6.4 points in 17.9 minutes), he has shown an ability to put points up. The Hawks need to keep him in check.

St. Joe's is probably better at positions one through four than George Mason. The fact that this is a road game and the fact that Shevon Thompson can put a team on his broad shoulders and almost single-handedly win it gives me some pause. St. Joe's is currently favored by six points in Vegas. I do like the Hawks in this one, but think it will be a nail-biter. My official prediction, for whatever little it's worth, is Hawks 68-Patriots 64. I think Isaiah Miles is too tough a cover and returns to his First-Team All-League form.

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