Jon Teitel had an opportunity to visit the BB&T Classic. Here are his observations in part two of a two part series. (Part one here)
2:45 PM: Game #2 (Maryland-George Mason) tips off with a big group of red shirts filling the stands and some smaller pockets of green and yellow shirts. Both teams were ice-cold from behind the arc, combining to shoot just 6-28 (21%). The George Mason fans have very good memories of the Verizon Center, as it was the site of their legendary upset of UConn to get them into the 2006 Final Four. However, my own lasting memory from the first 12 minutes of today’s game is the fact that the Patriots had a whopping ZERO assists. Despite Mason’s slow start, their poor shooting, and a distinct disadvantage on the boards, they were somehow locked in a tie with 12 minutes left in the game (thanks to only six turnovers and a 7-0 advantage in second chance points).
The five players who caught my eye:
Maryland sophomore shooting guard Dez Wells was the player of the game. He had a red-hot start (eight points in the first four minutes) by getting to the basket twice early for easy layups and then making two jumpers. Unfortunately he followed that with four first half turnovers. He uses all of his 215 pounds to get to the rim and is great in transition. He also used his athleticism to make a great steal and pass that led to an alley-oop dunk by Nick Faust. As the Terps were losing momentum, he later made a circus shot and got fouled en route to a career-high 25 points.
Maryland sophomore center Alex Len was also impressive. Even when guarded by 6’8”, 245 pound Erik Copes he still looks huge. He used his 7’1” size quite well, getting easy baskets inside, including an alley-oop from Pe’Shon Howard and blocking a shot by Copes. He has a good free throw stroke and finished 4-4 from the line. He does not always get the rebound but will keep chasing after loose balls. He did attempt too many tip-ins instead of just grabbing a rebound and then dunking it.
George Mason sophomore small forward Anali Okoloji picked up three fouls in the first half. He scored five points in the first three minutes of the second half, then picked up his fourth foul and finished with seven points in only 14 minutes.
George Mason junior shooting guard Sherrod Wrigh had a nice start to help keep the Patriots in the game scoring his team’s first six points (his teammates were 0-9 in the first eight minutes). He also had three turnovers in the first 11 minutes while the rest of his team had none.
George Mason freshman shooting guard Patrick Holloway made a classic freshman mistake by fouling Seth Allen during a three-point attempt, but made up for it by draining three long-range shots of his own. He scored a career-high 17 points in 22 minutes without committing a single turnover, but ended up fouling out after his team was forced to foul late in an effort to come from behind.
Manhattan coach Steve Masiello: “We missed a lot of opportunities in the second half. They hurt us a lot on the boards, which does not usually happen to us. I am not sure if George “struggled”, but I do not think he is 100% with his ankle. We cannot win many games when he shoots 3-13, but his 3-6 performance at the free throw line tells me that something is wrong.
George Washington coach Paul Hewitt: “We have just been up and down all year offensively. Some of our decision making at key times was inexplicable. I think conferences do not matter anymore. We are all independents. It is a joke now. You cannot tell the strength of anyone when you have 16 teams in a conference.”
Maryland coach Mark Turgeon: “It took us a long time to get used to their quickness. It is not something that we can simulate in practice. I thought our defense was fantastic, with all 10 guys playing well. Dez Wells just flipped the switch and got very aggressive, although I told him that he is on pace to set a record…for turnovers! We tried to play through our post in the second half, and when we passed out of the double-team, we had space to drive. If you are not going to make jump shots, you had better get to the foul line. I anticipated that Nick Faust would play well after he had two great practices last week. Dez is a smart player who asks too many questions sometimes. Every time we missed a shot I just told them to keep guarding.”
Maryland player Dez Wells: “I am not sure if I have ever had a hotter week than this, but I will cool off sometime. It is too early to tell right now. In January we can start to judge how good we are. I talk to my high school teammate John Wall almost every day. He just tells me to keep my head up. This is the happiest situation I have been in during my entire life. Coach Turgeon tells us not to listen to people who say how good we are.”