Mason goes for the upset

Coach Jim Larranaga speaks at a press conference (John Powell)

At 5:00 p.m., the No. 8 George Mason Patriots (27-6) will attempt to defeat the No. 1 Ohio State Buckeyes (33-2), for the second upset in the East Region.

The Buckeyes are led by Jared Sullinger, who has put up big numbers with 15 points and 12.8 rebounds per game during the postseason. William Buford adds to the inside and Jon Diebler has put made 11-of-26 from outside the arc since the regular season ended.

The game should be a tough defensive matchup. Ohio State’s opponents have a 37 percent shooting mark from the field this postseason. The Patriots allowed just over 40 percent this season.

“We’re going to have to score more points than they do, I think,” Mason Head Coach Jim Larranaga said during Saturday’s press conference. “Our defense needs to be at its very best on first shots. We’ve got to limit second shots … We’re going to have to make 2s and 3s and shoot the ball the way we have all season long.”

Historically, the matchup has gone in favor of the Buckeyes. Ohio State has a 3-0 all-time record against Mason, but the teams have not met since playing three games between 1995 and 1996.

The Buckeyes have only missed the NCAA tournament once since 2006, going 7-4 in that span. Isaiah Tate had something to say about the importance of the so-called “major” teams in history.

“I’m pretty sure a lot of BCS teams got knocked out yesterday, the last couple of days,” Tate said. “We’re all in the same tournament playing for the same team. On any given day, a team can take out another team, regardless of what their ranking is.”

The Patriots will need point-producers to step up their game. Luke Hancock will need to follow up an 18-point first-round performance with one of similar stature. Andre Cornelius and Vertrail Vaughns will need to get their outside shot working, in contrast to their play against Villanova.

ESPN Insider even ran a report on the matchup, saying that Mason’s defense, paired with their pick-and-rolls on offense may give them an advantage over the favorite.

Both teams are playing for keeps. One wants to put their names back in the record books even more.

“We’re trying to make our own name, trying to do our own thing,” said Hancock. “We’d like to [have] people talking about us instead of the ’06 team.”

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