Patriots Ready for the Hunt


The No. 8 George Mason Patriots (26-6, 26-2 CAA) took to the hardwood of the Quicken Loans Arena Thursday afternoon to practice for their upcoming bout. They will play the No. 9 Villanova Wildcats (12-22, 9-9 Big East) tomorrow at 2:10 p.m. in the second round of the NCAA D-I men’s basketball tournament.

The Patriots have not played a game since their 63-79 loss to VCU in the semifinals of the CAA tournament on Mar. 6. Just two days after that loss, the Wildcats took their fifth consecutive loss, a 69-70 defeat to the University of South Florida in the first round of the Big East Tournament on Mar. 8.

The Patriots stepped off the plane yesterday and headed to their hotel, the Doubletree by Lake Erie for a night of sleep before a police escort took the bus to the arena. Playing in the Big Dance was something new for everybody except for the seniors, Cam Long and Isaiah Tate, who were freshmen when the team took a 50-68 loss against Notre Dame in Denver, Colo. during the first round.

The Wildcats, as far as the press is concerned, seem to be looking past the game. Only two questions were posed to the players and the head coach about Mason. Everything focused on the buzzer-beating Villanova win during last season’s Puerto Rico Tip-Off.

“We were down 13 in that game,” Villanova Head Coach Jay Wright said. “[The Wildcats] know that. And they remember that. And we hit a pretty lucky shot to take a lead and at the end we had an unbelievable defensive position.”

The players thought similarly.

“I know it’s going to be a good game,” said Corey Fisher, Villanova’s leading scorer with 15.4 points per game. “We beat them at a buzzer with Isaiah Armwood hitting the shot at the buzzer to win the game, and I know they’ll come out to play and we’ll also do the same thing.”

But the Patriots kept the same game-at-a-time attitude in their interviews. When posed a question about Villanova’s losing streak, they focused on Friday’s game instead of re-hashing the events of the past two weeks.

“Through Villanova’s eyes, I mean, they’re thinking, hey, we’ve been playing bad, probably, we need to come out with a sense of urgency and ready to hit the ground running,” said Isaiah Tate, the Patriots sixth man. “So we just need to be ready to take their best effort just like any other game.”

Cam Long responded similarly.

“I don’t really look at teams’ records,” he said. “We know Villanova is a great team in general … So we want to take them as being the best team ever.”

They will have to math up against a team with some similar style of play. Junior forwards Mike Morrison and Ryan Pearson, who currently average 12.1 rebounds per game, will fight with forward Antonio Pena and center Mouphtaou Yarou who pull in 14.1 per game. Villanova’s Fisher, Mallik Wayns and Corey Stokes all average more than 14 points per game, while Mason’s Cam Long is the only Patriot to score with that consistency.

The game will be televised at 2:00 p.m. on TNT with Gus Johnson and Len Elmore and broadcast on the radio via Westwood one. The line opened at 1.5 in favor of the Patriots, but will continue to sway up to tipoff. 



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