Game Preview: VCU v George Mason

VCU fans will welcome Mason back to the Stu for the first time since the two teams last played as CAA rivals.
VCU fans will welcome Mason back to the Stu for the first time since the two teams last played as CAA rivals.

VCU welcomes the Patriots of George Mason back to the Stu for the first time since the two teams were CAA conference foes just two seasons ago. The Rams are looking to build on their current four-game winning streak while Mason looks to get back on the good side of the win column after losing a road game at Old Dominion. VCU defeated that same ODU team by 21 but went down on the road to another common opponent, Northern Iowa, a team George Mason defeated by six earlier this season in Fairfax.

VCU (12-3)
George Mason (7-7)


Once a part of the dominating CAA trio of Mason, VCU and ODU, the Patriots struggled in their final season in a weekend CAA, finishing 10-8 in that conference before eventually falling in the conference semi-finals to Northeastern.  The Paul Hewitt-led squad has been just as inconsistent this season, winning games against the likes of UNI and St. Mary’s but also dropping head-scratchers to the likes of ODU and Iona. A major part of that inconsistency has come on the offensive end where GMU has struggled to hit shots and hold on the ball. Mason’s effective field gold percentage of 47.5% ranks 245th in college hoops while their 21.6% turnover percentage ranks 305th. That is not that type of stat that a team wants heading into a game against VCU. On defense the Patriots have struggled to defend the paint, giving up 51.4% shooting (259th nationally). George Mason is led by a couple of familiar faces in PG Bryon Allen (14.1 ppg) and Sherrod Wright (13.9 ppg), the same Sherrod Wright that hit a buzzer-beating desperation three to down the Rams the last time the two tipped it up in Fairfax. New to the Rams will be 6’1 guard, Patrick Halloway, who’s been the Patriots best three-point shooter this season at 42.6% as well as 6’8 Serbian forward, Marko Gujanicic, who has struggle to score as of late but opened the season with double-digit performances in seven of Mason’s first eight games.


VCU has been dangerous as of late, winning their last four by an average of 20.5 points including neutral court blowouts of two ACC teams. Senior Juvonte Reddic has been much more active in the last three in particular, averaging 11.6 points and 7.6 rebounds while connecting on 64% of his attempts. The Rams have seen a sophomore hot streak from Melvin Johnson as well. The Bronx native is averaging 17 points in just 20.3 minutes per game over that same three-game stretch, connecting on 58% of this three-point attempts and providing a Troy Daniels-like range to help stretch opposing defenses. While the offense has been impressive, it’s the defense that’s been the star of the show as of late, as VCU has held opponents to just 55.5 points per game while giving up no better than 41.4% shooting from the field and holding three of those last four squads to under 40%. As always, a major part of VCU’s defensive attack is the turnover-forcing havoc system that leads the nation in turnover and steals percentages.


Scoring Offense: VCU 75.9, Mason 66.4
Scoring Defense: VCU 64.7, Mason 67.2
Effective Field Goal% Offense: VCU 48.8%, Mason 47.5%
Effective Field Goal% Defense: Mason 48.6%, VCU 49.3%
3-Point Field Goal%: VCU 34.9%, Mason 32.2%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: Mason 28.8%, VCU 31.5%
Rebounds per game: VCU 35.2, Mason 33.7
Turnover Percentage Defense: VCU 28.6%, Mason 20.1%
Turnover Percentage Offense: VCU 17.2%, Mason 21.6%


Havoc. That’s my one word answer. A sellout “Check the Stu” crowd (gonna look awesome), former rival returns to the Siegel Center, one team turns the ball over a lot, the other turns teams over a lot. On paper this is just a baaaaaaaad matchup for George Mason. It is however a basketball game, and they don’t play those on paper, so the Rams will need to come out like a pack of hyenas looking for a meal. If VCU focuses on defense, the offense should come to them, and when the offense comes to VCU, you don’t want to be in the Siegel Center if you aren’t wearing a black and gold uniform.


The Patriots have some talent on that roster, we’ve seen it. The trick for them has been getting all that talent on the same page. If Mason can play a poised game, keeping the turnovers to under 20 — more like under 16 — while forcing the Rams to play at Mason’s pace, they could certainly upset the black and gold. The last time that happened in a one-point win GMU turned the ball over 16 times, out-rebounded the Rams by eight and held VCU to 36.2% shooting while hitting 40.7% themselves. That team however included senior Ryan Pearson and his 24 points, Vertrail Vaughns (14 points) and seniors Mike Morrison and Andre Cornelius. Those guys have all moved on, so it’ll be interesting to see how this new group does against their first taste of havoc.


Watch: CBS Sports Network. Official watch parties at Baja Bean Co. in the Fan as well as Buffalo Wild Wings locations at Virginia Center and downtown on Cary Street in Shockoe Bottom.
Listen: 107.3FM
Live Tweets: @VCURamNation

A two-time graduate of VCU (School of the Arts '07, Center for Sport Leadership '10), Mat is a co-founder of VCU Ram Nation and a longtime fan as the ...