Sorry for the delay here. Buried in work during the latter part of the week and whatever free time I had was spent on a longer-term project, the results of which you will hopefully see here in the next couple weeks. Intrigued? Good! Anyway the Dutchmen tip off against Drexel in a little more than four hours so here’s a quick buffet of thoughts from the 72-62 loss to George Mason (i.e. The Bad Guys):
1.) It’s just the same ol’ situation for the Flying Dutchmen, who took a 56-54 lead on Nathaniel Lester’s old-fashioned 3-point play with 5:52 left and appeared to have all the momentum after Mike Morrison (snicker snicker snort snort) picked up a technical foul for mouthing off (as always, you can take the Larranaga out of Fairfax, but not the Larranaga out of his players). But yet another awful #CAAHoops officiating crew inexplicably handed out off-setting technicals, with Stevie Mejia picking one up as well, and George Mason outscored the Dutchmen 18-6 the rest of the way.
Sherrod Wright, whose traditional (yay for synonyms!) 3-point play in Hempstead gave the Patriots the lead for good with less than two minutes to play two weeks earlier, once again delivered the dagger with a 3-pointer immediately after Lester gave the Dutchmen the lead. It was yet another example of the Dutchmen running out of gas at the end of an otherwise fine defensive performance: While the Dutchmen held the Patriots scoreless from the field during the last 10 possessions of the first half, Mason scored on nine of its last 11 second half possessions. Well, technically it was nine of 12, but with Larranaga gone, Ryan Pearson didn’t call timeout after stealing the ball at midcourt in the waning seconds so that he could set up another 3-pointer. Progress!
2.) This marks the sixth time in CAA play the Dutchmen have lost a game in which they led or were tied with less than eight minutes to go. Less painful than leading Mason, James Madison and Northeastern with less than two minutes to play at home, perhaps, and certainly less painful than squandering a chance to take the lead against Delaware with free throws in the final 20 seconds in Newark, but still, in a season filled with near-misses, leading one of the CAA’s tri-leaders in the final six minutes on the road stung.
3.) Like the other near-misses, there were some reasons for optimism to be found in the defeat. In addition to the usual resiliency displayed by the Dutchmen, Stevie Mejia (11 points on 5-of-11 shooting) had perhaps his best and most inspired game of the year as the Dutchmen finally had somebody other than Lester and Mike Moore to shoulder some of the offensive load. Mejia played his most minutes (27) since Nov. 25 and scored his most points since Nov. 26, which, not coincidentally, were the two games just before he suffered that lingering hamstring injury against Boston University. Lester (14 points) scored in double figures for the 22nd time this year, matching his career total entering the season. Stephen Nwaukoni (eight points, eight rebounds and three steals) snapped out of his recent slump as well by scoring his most points since Jan. 11 and pulling down his most boards since Jan. 14. And the Dutchmen were an impressive 19-of-21 from the free throw line.
4.) But all but two of Nwaukoni’s points came from the free throw line as he and fellow starters David Imes and Dwan McMillan combined to shoot just 4-of-16 from the field. Imes played just 18 minutes, only the second time this year he’s failed to play at least 20 minutes, and made two or fewer field goals for the third straight game. McMillan had five assists but was just 1-of-7 from the field and is 4-of-25 from the field in the last six games. And Mejia accounted for all but two of the Dutchmen’s bench points while Mason’s depth (32 bench points) once again wore down the Dutchmen.
5.) And while Moore scored a game-high 18 points, he scored his final points with 9:44 left and took his last field goal attempt with 10:54 to go. The Dutchmen scored on just three of their final nine possessions following Lester’s go-ahead points. Moore needs to be more involved late and Imes, in particular, has to get untracked in order for the Dutchmen to have any hope of ending their string of gut-wrenching conference losses and to construct a bit of a run in the CAA Tournament three weeks from now.
3 STARS OF THE GAME (vs. George Mason, 2/8)
3: Stevie Mejia
2: Mike Moore
1: Nathaniel Lester
Mike Moore 55
Nathaniel Lester 38
Dwan McMillan 17
David Imes 14
Stevie Mejia 9
Shemiye McLendon 9
Stephen Nwaukoni 8
Moussa Kone 3
Bryant Crowder 2
Matt Grogan 1