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St. Joe's doomed by offensive struggles in loss to George Mason

01/11/2017, 12:00am EST
By Zach Drapkin

Charlie Brown (above) went for a career-high 17 points but St. Joe's fell just short to George Mason. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)

Zach Drapkin (@ZachDrapkin)

If Saint Joseph’s head coach Phil Martelli took away one thing on Tuesday, it’s that practice doesn’t always make perfect.

Martelli’s Hawks felt confident after Monday’s practice, but that feeling didn’t translate to success in the team’s tilt with George Mason.

After sticking around with the Patriots for 38 minutes, St. Joe’s let the game slip out of its grasp and took a 75-67 loss to its conference rivals.

St. Joe’s (8-7, 2-2 A-10) recorded just five assists while turning the ball over 14 times and shooting 5-for-21 from 3-point range, struggling to score especially in the final two minutes.

“I’m really disappointed because practice last night offensively was very good,” Martelli said postgame. “But that was bad offensive basketball. Really bad. We’re not winning games at 67 points.”

In a game with 14 lead changes, George Mason (12-5, 2-2 A-10) couldn’t seem to shake St. Joe’s, but the Hawks’ valiant effort came up short.

Squandering a pair of one-point leads between the two and three-minute marks, they allowed the Patriots to mount a 13-4 run over the final 1:42 to close out an eight-point victory.

“I would consider it a wasted opportunity,” Martelli said. “You get 30 opportunities and we just wasted one.”

“We should have won this game at least by 15 points,” freshman wing Charlie Brown added. “It was just making mental mistakes, turning the ball over, missing shots that we usually don’t miss.”

Brown, who scored a career-high 17 points and six rebounds in the loss, had his attempted three-pointer tipped with St. Joe’s down two. On George Mason’s next series, Marquise Moore hit a pair of free throws to make it a two-possession lead, and he and his teammates converted eight more shots from the stripe down the stretch to secure the W.

Moore and Otis Livingston (10 points) were able to score timely baskets to regain advantages over the final ten or so minutes, whereas the Hawks couldn’t convert their chances when it counted.

St. Joe’s especially had trouble containing Moore in the second half. The 6-foot-2 senior finished with game highs of 24 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists, and four steals, reaching 1,000 career points on the night.

Moore had a tough time in the first half, with the Hawks packing the paint to prevent his drives to the basket, but after halftime, he was able to use the drive-and-kick to open up high-percentage chances for him and his teammates.

It showed on the stat sheet, as the Patriots shot at a 60.9 percent clip in the second half after struggling over the first 20 minutes of play.

George Mason had just as tough a time as St. Joe’s had manufacturing quality offensive looks in the first half, committing 15 turnovers on the game and making just 41.4 percent of their first-half shot attempts.

“I thought we both struggled. It was almost like we were playing on ice skates, both teams,” George Mason head coach Dave Paulsen said. “We showed a lot of heart and grit. That’s what you need to win a game on the road, a game when neither team was in a great offensive flow, even though the percentages were pretty high, but we just found a way to win.”

The Patriots were actually the ones playing catch-up early on, trailing by a point at halftime, but an 8-2 run five minutes into the second half flipped the script and forced the Hawks to respond, which they did, scoring five unanswered points of their own.

Each time George Mason’s lead hit two possessions in the second half, Brown, Lamarr Kimble (team-high 18 points), and James Demery (16 points, six rebounds) were there to cut the lead back to a point, even taking the lead with under three minutes to go.

Things just didn’t come together for the Hawks in the end and the result favored George Mason.

“It’s such a subtle difference between winning and losing,” Paulsen said. “It was a grind-it-out kind of game and we just came up with a couple key stops, a couple key steals that were pivotal.”

“What happens happens,” Brown said. “But, you know, practice and you’ll only get better at it.”

Perhaps practice will produce a win for St. Joe’s when they return to action against Richmond on Saturday.

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