George Mason (2-1) vs. New Mexico (2-0) (ET)
GAME NOTES: The New Mexico Lobos continue their quest into the top 25 as they square off with the always dangerous George Mason Patriots in the semifinals of the Paradise Jam at the UVI Sports and Fitness Center in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The Patriots are 2-1 after their narrow 52-49 win over the Mercer Bears in the first round of the tournament on Friday. GMU shot 47.6 percent from the floor despite missing all eight of its three-point attempts. Neither side led by more than a single basket throughout the closely fought battle. Sherrod Wright came up in the clutch with 12 second half points. The Patriots opened up their season with a surprising victory over Virginia before they were taken down by a talented Bucknell Bison squad.
New Mexico's program is on the rise under Steve Alford's watch. The former NBA guard took over as head coach in 2007 and led the team to 22 wins or more every season since. The Lobos finished at the top of the Mountain West Conference with a 28-7 overall record and a 10-4 mark in league action in 2011-2012. They seem to be destined for the 22-win plateau once again after a pair of strong performances to open this year. New Mexico took down the defending Southern Conference champion Davidson Wildcats by five points in its season opener before downing Illinois-Chicago in a much more low-scoring affair in the first round of the tourney. The Lobos have shown already they have the versatility to play at different speeds, which makes them nearly impossible to prepare for.
This will be the first time in history these two programs square off on the hardwood.
Wright is leading the Patriots this season on the offensive end of the floor with 15 ppg on 57.1 percent shooting from the floor. The junior guard is a pure scorer with slashing and outside shooting abilities. Junior forward Johnny Williams is a key asset for GMU as he brings a post presence to the table. The 6-8, 240-pound forward paced the team versus Mercer with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Junior guard Bryon Allen (8.7) and freshman forward Marko Gujanicic (6.0) are third and fourth on the team in scoring.
The Lobos have a very talented player in the backcourt of their own in Kendall Williams. The junior point guard is a below average shooter from the floor, but he has the ability to get by defenders and to the rim where he is consistently drawing fouls. Williams is making 12.5 free throws per game and scoring a team-high 20 ppg. He is also adding five rebounds and 4.5 assists per contest. Junior guard Tony Snell is a capable backcourt companion for Williams. Snell is second on the team with 16 ppg despite being held to seven points by UIC.
George Mason has played the role of giant killer in the past, but the Lobos are on the rise right now. New Mexico needs to force the Patriots to get out and run to build a wide margin, as George Mason is not a run-and-gun team.
GAME NOTES: The New Mexico Lobos continue their quest into the top 25 as they
square off with the always dangerous George Mason Patriots in the semifinals
of the Paradise Jam at the UVI Sports and Fitness Center in the U.S. Virgin
FACTS & STATS: Site: UVI Sports and Fitness Center (4,000) -- St. Thomas,
Virgin Islands. Television: CBSSN. Home Record: George Mason 1-0, New Mexico
1-0. Away Record: George Mason 0-1, New Mexico 0-0. Neutral Record: George
Mason 1-0, New Mexico 1-0. Conference Record: George Mason 0-0, New Mexico
0-0. Series Record: First meeting.Game Date and Time
Sunday, November 18, 6 p.m. (et)Predicted Outcome
New Mexico 68, George Mason 60