Preview: WVU - George Mason

West Virginia opens play in the bracketed portion of the Puerto Rico Tip-off with a Thursday night contest against George Mason.


SCOUTING THE PATRIOTS

George Mason split its opening pair of games, losing to Cornell 68-60 before knocking off patient Princeton 63-60. From those results, its tough to tell exactly where GMU might stand in the pecking order of Mountaineer opponents to date, but it is easy to discern who the big guns are in the Patriot lineup.

In both games, junior guard Patrick Holloway (6-1, 165 lbs.) has led the scoring attack. He is averaging 20.5 points per outing (the only Patriot in double figures) and has taken more shots from both the field and from 3-point range (6-16) than any other player.He has yet to record an assist, but his 42% shooting accuracy is second on the team. On the glass, Shevon Thompson (6-11, 230 lbs.) is grabbing 9.5 boards per game, and provides an obstacle on the interior defensively. He's not overly powerful, though, wich should make for an interesting matchup with WVU's Devin Williams.

While GMU has three seniors on the roster, it is actually sophomores and juniors behind them that get the bulk of the playing time. Sophomores Marquise Moore (G, 6-2, 200 lbs.) and Jalen Jenkins (F, 6-7, 225 lbs.) stand behind Holloway on the scoring list, averaging 9.5 and 8.5 points respectively, while sub Vaughn Gray (F, 6-5, 192 lbs.) is the lone senior to provide notable support. Past Holloway and Thompson, the Patriots are built from a team contribution standpoing. Five players average between 5.5 and 9.5 points per game, while four add to Thompsons rebounding total with averages between 3.0 and 5.5 per outing.

Like West Virginia, George Mason has not shot the ball well this year, and is hitting just 36.6% from the field and 28.9% from distance. The Patriots have also made just 53.7% of their free throws, with ten misses contributing heavily in their loss to Cornell. The Patriots do attack shots well, however, having blocked a total of nine in their first two contests. Reserve forward Trey Porter (6-10, 200 lbs.) leads the team with three.


OUTLOOK

The Patriots have some height, so they can be expected to give West Virginia's depleted front court a challenge.

BlueGoldNews.com
Game Info
Thu Nov 20
7:30 PM E
Coliseo Roberto Clemente
San Juan, PR
Records
WVU 2-0, 0-0
GM 1-1, 0-0
Series
WVU 3-0
TV
ESPNU
Sirius/XM
108/199
RPI
WVU - 65
GM: 105
While West Virginia should have a strength advantage, GMU can throw five players who stand 6-8 or taller at the Mountaineers, and back that up with a couple of 6-7 forwards. As happened in WVU's first two games, though, the opponent faces a tough choice. If it attempts to go big, it could get buried in a rash of turnovers caused by not having enough ball handlers on the floor. WVU has pressured relentlessly through its first 80 minutes of action this year, and while ti doesn't always jump into immediate traps in the backcourt, it also doesn't let the ball come up the floor unhindered.

One question about WVU's press remains -- is this non-stop action simply a training ground for the Mountaineers, or will it continue unabated throughout the season? Fans aren't likely to get an ultimate answer to that question this weekend, but for the duration of this tournament it can be expected that Bob Huggins will continue to send his defense forward to seek out the opposition.

With the status of Brandon Watkins and Elijah Macon up in the air (both traveled to Puerto Rico, but their readiness to play is still in doubt), West Virginia must get more productivity from Nathan Adrian in the front court. He's done fine on the glass, grabbing 11 rebounds while filling the void left by Watkins, Macon, BillyDee Williams and Kevin Noreen, but he has also been in a bit of a shooting slump, hitting just one of his eight attempts through the first two games. Granted, moving down to the blocks and then occasionally shuttling back out to the perimeter is a new assignment for him, but West Virginia needs his contributions at both locations, so he is definitely a player to track this weekend. Watch Adrian to see how WVU uses him in offensive sets, and where he is playing on the offensive end. Most importantly, though, watch the net. If he's ripping them with some shots, West Virginia becomes that much more difficult to defeat.


FAST BREAKS

As befits a school located just minutes from the nation's capital, George Mason features players from six different states and two foreign countries. Thompson hails from Clarendon, Jamaica, while reserve forward Marko Gujanicic is a native of Serbia. Both are starters, but Gujanicic is averaging just 7.5 minutes per game.

* * *

The importance of non-conference games is often overlooked, the 12 or 13 games prior ot the start of conference play are often critical in determining a team's postseason hopes. For example, WVU lost six non-con games in 2012-13 and five last year -- totals that kept it out of the NCAa tournament. The six losses were WVU's highest out of conference total since 1990, and only one other time (2001-02) did it lose five non-league games.

Little wonder, then, that head coach Bob Huggins' reply to a question concerning the three most important things for his team to accomplish in the Pureto Rico Tip-off was "Win, win and win."

* * *

Puerto Rico is the only place outside of the U.S. that the Mountaineers have played official basketball games. WVU is 5-1 in the commonwealth, having won a three day tournament over Thanksgiving weekend in 1997 and taking two of three at the Coliseo de Puerto Rico on this same weekend in 2010. Attendance at the 1997 event totalled 477 for all three Mountaineer games.


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