UMass-George Mason Preview
Massachusetts has played some close games during its win streak but would appear to have a chance to break that trend with a visit to the lowest-scoring team in the Atlantic 10.
George Mason, though, hasn't suffered any lopsided defeats at home this season as its hosts a Top 25 team for the first time when it faces the 16th-ranked Minutemen on Wednesday night.
UMass has won its past four games by an average of 4.8 points, earned one victory in overtime and needed a pair of comebacks for a 2-0 start in A-10 play. The Minutemen (14-1) rallied from a nine-point deficit in the final 6 1/2 minutes for a 66-62 win over Saint Joseph's last Wednesday and came back from 13 points behind in the last nine minutes Saturday for a 73-68 victory against St. Bonaventure.
"We're trying to stand our ground as much as possible and be ready for whatever is thrown at us," senior guard Chaz Williams said. "We know it's not going to be easy. Today we got down on ourselves early and had to play comeback. That's not how we want to play, but, fortunately, an ugly win is a great win."
Raphiael Putney led UMass with 17 points and eight rebounds while Williams was held to eight points on 1-of-7 shooting.
Williams, averaging a team-best 15.4 points, has played a significant role for the A-10's highest-scoring team (78.3 points per game). The Minutemen's next opponent is averaging 66.6 points but matched its highest output of the season in an 84-80 loss to Saint Joseph's on Saturday.
The Patriots trailed by single digits for much of the second half and made a 10-point deficit a little more respectable in the final 44 seconds. George Mason (7-9, 0-2) made a season-high 11 3-pointers on 23 attempts and shot 49.2 overall, but it also allowed the Hawks to shoot 59.2 percent.
"We didn't defend the way we're capable of defending," coach Paul Hewitt said. "They shot the ball at a 60 percent clip. I don't care what kind of shots you take, when people are shooting 60 percent, you're not going to give yourself a chance to win."
Leading scorer Bryon Allen (14.4 ppg) had 20 points against St. Joe's and freshman forward Jalen Jenkins matched that total while scoring 10 more points than any of his first 15 collegiate games. Jenkins recorded his first career double-double in the Patriots' conference opener, a 71-57 loss at Virginia Commonwealth on Thursday, with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
George Mason has lost six in a row to Top 25 teams and fell 79-67 to then-No. 17 Iowa State on Dec. 22 at the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii.
UMass, which begins a three-game road stretch, is 7-1 away from home this season and 2-0 on the road.
"It's going to really test us and see where we are," coach Derek Kellogg said. "Three in a row is tough. I wish we could have played the Elon game (on Saturday) earlier, but it is what it is. We'll know what we're made of by the time we get back."
The Minutemen are facing the Patriots for the first time and will try to help Kellogg earn his 100th victory. Kellogg's first full-time coaching job was an assistant at George Mason from 1997-99.