BY NATALIE HEAVREN SPORTS EDITOR
Men’s basketball defeated the University of Rhode Island 84-67 Sunday, Jan. 14. This is the Patriots’ first win over the Rams since they entered the Atlantic 10 in 2013.
Mason struck first after sophmore Javon Greene hit a three 30 seconds into the game. However, the Patriots wouldn’t score again for nearly five minutes while URI went on an 8-0 run.
Mason would take the lead for good with 11:17 left in the first half on a layup from redshirt sophomore AJ Wilson, the only points he scored in the game. A 38-27 lead was taken into halftime, with the Patriots not allowing it to become less than seven in the second half.
Junior Justin Kier led the team in points (19) and rebounds (10), tallying his sixth double-double in seven games and scoring 13 of his points in the second half. Greene, Otis Livingston II and Jordan Miller also scored in double figures.
- Jordan Miller is not redshirting, but he is not the only freshman making an impact
Until he entered the game in the first five minutes, many believed that Jordan Miller would redshirt his freshman season. However, Miller made his presence known early, tallying a steal, a dunk, a block and a layup in less than one minute of play. He finished the game with 14 points, 11 of which came in the first half, two steals and two blocks from 23 minutes of play.
After the game head coach Dave Paulsen said, “I told the guys in the locker room the only problem I have is that I’ve probably got a hundred text messages asking what the heck I was thinking redshirting Jordan Miller. But Jordan Miller coming off a first game, it doesn’t get much better than that.”
According to Paulsen, the freshman guard improved significantly in practice after he said he was going to redshirt. “As soon as [Miller] said he was going to redshirt he stopped worrying about expectations, he stopped worrying about ‘what if I don’t play,’” Paulsen said. “…We talk a lot about the process of getting better and not worrying about results, not worrying about playing time and he was the epitome of that.”
He went on to say that part of the decision for Miller not to redshirt came from practice—and part was opportunity. The Patriots have seen two starters go down with a foot injury, senior Jaire Grayer and sophomore Goanar Mar. Grayer has not played since November, while Mar is currently out indefinitely in order to correct a foot fracture.
Paulsen was not the only one excited by Miller’s performance. After the game Greene said, “[Miller]’d been killing it in practice for a long time. It wasn’t a surprise from him, he just came up to play when his name was called and he had a terrific game. We were all hype for him, in the locker room we were just jumping on him telling him he played a great game. Hopefully, he brings this energy for the rest of the season cause we’re going to need it”
While Miller stole the show, he was not the only freshman making an impact. Jason Douglas-Stanley made two important threes, scoring a career-high six points in a career-high 12 minutes.
Paulsen praised his efforts after the game saying, “Jason Douglas-Stanley who’s been trying to get minutes and get in the rotation came in and hit a couple big threes, big defensive plays.”
2. Getting to the free throw line can change the game
Mason only shot three free throws in the first half, but the team able to get to the line in the second half with 15 free throws. The Patriots went 17-18 from the free throw line overall, their best free throw percentage since they went 19-20 against CSUN on Nov. 18, 2017.
The importance of getting to the line and making free throws was not lost on Paulsen. “It was really important [getting to the free throw line] because there was a stretch there when we were struggling when they were amping up the defensive pressure when they were getting down getting some buckets, you know I think we got the line a couple of times and that was important to stem the tide,” he said. “And obviously we did a nice job of stepping up and knocking them down and that’s really, really important.”
3. Making threes makes a difference
Coming off of their worst three-point shooting performance of the year, going 2-20 from behind the arc against Davidson, the Patriots continued their trend of shooting well from behind the arc on the road, making seven of their 17 attempts.
“It was very important [to knock down early shots] because we were struggling from three especially last game,” Greene said after the game. “I think we were like 2-20 so just by me knocking down early shots it helped boost my confidence and also the team’s,”
The threes were a game changer for Mason as URI, who came into the game as one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the country, went 3-25 from behind the arc. The tone was set in the first half when Mason went 5-11 from behind the arc while URI went 0-11. Freshman Omar Silverio hit all three of the Rams’ threes, including one in the last minute when the Patriots had already wrapped up their win.
Mason continues their road swing at the University of Massachusetts Jan. 16 at 7 p.m. The Patriots next play at home on Jan. 19 against Fordham University.