Penn State vs George Mason Preview: Homecoming for Reaves As Lions Seek Revenge

By Eric Gibson on December 15, 2017 at 2:28 pm
Otis Livingston

Rafael Suanes-USA TODAY Sports

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George Mason
George Mason Patriots
5-6 (0-0 A-10)
4 p.m. EST - Sunday, December 17, 2017
TV Info: N/A | Live Stream
KenPom Rank: 211
KenPom Line: Penn State -10 (75-65)

If Penn State fans had to pick out the worst loss of last season's rollercoaster ride, most would pick the 19-point loss at home to George Mason. The Nittany Lions were poor throughout as the Patriots' guards embarrassed PSU's defensive effort. The visiting team ran away with a close game at halftime, winning the second period by a whopping 20 points. 

The back half of this home-and-home series will be played on Sunday, and surely the Nittany Lions will recall what happened last year. Fortunately for PSU Marquise Moore has graduated (he went for 25 points and 13 rebounds in that game), and the Patriots aren't as strong as last year's outfit that won 20 games. Penn State, meanwhile, is an improved team with a clear advantage in size and talent.  

Projected Starters
Penn State   George Mason
No. 10 - Tony Carr - 6'5 - So. PG No. 4 - Otis Livingston II - 5'11 - Jr.
No. 33 - Shep Garner - 6'2 - Sr. SG No. 1 - Justin Kier - 6'4 - So.
No. 23 - Josh Reaves - 6'4 - Jr. SF No. 32 - Ian Boyd - 6'4 - So.
No. 11 - Lamar Stevens - 6'8 - So. PF No. 5 - Jaire Grayer - 6'5 - Jr.
No. 24 - Mike Watkins - 6'9 - RS So. C No. 0 - Goanar Mar - 6'7 - Fr.

George Mason is coached by Dave Paulsen, the former Bucknell head man who is in his third season in Fairfax. The Patriots are a very young team with no seniors in the rotation, and as such they are not expected to contend in the Atlantic-10 this season. While they gave Louisville a scare in their second game of the season, GMU has yet to defeat an opponent in the top-200 of KenPom's current ratings. They are coming off their worst loss of the season after losing to Georgia Southern on Tuesday by 23 points at EagleBank Arena. 

Scouting Report

Otis Livingston was another guard that torched the Nittany Lions last year for 18 points. He'll be the focal point of the Lions' defensive gameplan, which will surely include a heavy dose of the 1-2-2 press that devastated George Washington last weekend. The diminutive point guard is averaging 14.8 points and 4.5 assists as a junior and has converted 45 percent of his three-point attempts this season. 

Junior wing Jaire Grayer and true freshman Goanar Mar are the other Patriots averaging double digits. Mar is actually producing 12.8 points per game despite playing the five at just 195 pounds. He can step out and shoot the three, but he's been most effective drawing fouls and getting to the line. Mar's battle against Mike Watkins should be the most intriguing individual matchup in this game. 

George Mason Four Factors (KenPom Rank) eFG % OReb % TO % FT Rate
Offense (255) 48.8% (243) 28.2% (193) 20.5% (237) 33.2 (207)
Defense (170) 51.4% (188) 27.9% (137) 18.1% (225) 29.8 (89)

Also of note, former Penn State recruiting target A.J. Wilson comes off the bench for Paulsen in his redshirt freshman season. Wilson was an AAU teammate of current Temple guard Alani Moore and former Nittany Lion Joe Hampton. He was the only Patriot that showed up to play on Tuesday night against Georgia Southern, notching his first career double-double in 26 minutes.

Keys to the Game

Josh Reaves hails from the Fairfax area and expects to have a large contingent of supporters in attendance. His high school alma mater, Paul VI, is less than three miles from George Mason's campus. This will be a good test of Reaves' maturity, as the junior has really come on recently as the emotional leader for the Lions. If he can control his aggressiveness at the top of the press and cause his usual havoc, surely that will give Penn State a distinctive edge in this game. If he lets his emotions get the best of him and picks up early fouls on foolish steal attempts, PSU's limited depth on the wings could once again be exposed.

George Mason lacks the size necessary to defend Watkins and Lamar Stevens in the paint. This should be a great opportunity to get the frontcourt more involved offensively. Only one Patriot (Greg Calixte) in Paulsen's eight-man rotation weighs more than 215 pounds, and he's been a fouling machine in his limited minutes. 

If the Patriots are able to effectively beat Penn State's press, the Lions must run them off the perimeter. While George Mason is only shooting 32.3 percent as a team, they do have numerous shooters due for better shooting performances. For example, Justin Kier is 0-14 on the season after shooting 41 percent last year as a freshman - something's gotta give there. With Watkins' shot-blocking down low, I'd expect the Patriots to seek out threes to keep pace with the Nittany Lions. 


While Penn State couldn't prove a corner has been turned during a critical three-game stretch two weeks ago, they have been able to dominate lesser opponents this season. Between Reaves' homecoming, last year's embarrassing loss, and a weaker George Mason team, Penn State should be able to run away with this one. The Patriots will give a better effort than they did on Tuesday, but they'll need to rely on threes to have a chance. I don't think it happens two years in a row. Penn State 80, George Mason 61

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