Patriots Travel to Wichita State for BracketBusters Game

Posted: February 17, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

The Patriots will play at Wichita State University tomorrow at 8 p.m. EST in only the second nationally-televised regular season game in school history. The game, to be shown on ESPN2, is part of the BracketBusters presented by eBay.

Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Commissioner Tom Yeager determined yesterday that Mason’s Tony Skinn and Drexel University’s Kenell Sanchez, both ejected from Wednesday night’s men’s basketball game for receiving dead ball flagrant technical fouls, will not be subject to the CAA’s Sportsmanship Rule violation and the accompanying minimum one-game suspension.

Yeager concluded that because of the misapplication of specific video replay rules, the penalties and accompanying ejections should not have been assessed.

What makes Saturday’s game so important? At 20-5 Mason is off to its best start in school history and the Patriots sit just outside the top 25, the closest they’ve ever come to cracking the national poll. A win could put Mason in the top 25 for the first time ever.

The Patriots will be playing a Shockers squad that has lost just once at home, is in first place in the Missouri Valley Conference, and is 21st in the RPI. Mason is 27th in the RPI and in first place in the CAA. Both teams will be looking to make their case for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament in case they fail to win their league’s automatic bid.

While a loss will hardly doom either team’s chances, it will certainly go a long way toward cementing an invitation.

The Patriots will need their best effort to beat a team that is 21-6 and 13-1 at home on the season. The lone home loss came against a Northern Iowa team that was nationally-ranked at the time. The Shockers are fresh off a one-point overtime win against Creighton in which Wichita State made a 3-pointer with 0.5 seconds remaining to win. They had lost to Creighton on the road earlier in the season by two.

Creighton beat Mason at the Patriot Center earlier this year, 72-52.

Wichita State has been led this year by 6-foot, 10-inch senior center Paul Miller. He leads the team with 13.0 points and 6.6 rebounds and he’s shooting .519 from the field on the year. Matching up against him will be Mason’s Jai Lewis, who leads the Patriots with 13.9 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. Lewis is shooting .565 from the field.

Also defending in the post will be Will Thomas, who leads the CAA in field-goal percentage with a .582 mark. He is second on the team in rebounding with a 7.0 average, and he has been one of the conference’s top defenders this year, consistently matching up with and slowing down the opposition’s top interior threat.

Wichita State has other weapons, including Sean Ogirri, a 6’2″ sophomore guard. Ogirri is scoring 11.5 points per game and has handed out 78 assists while making 65 3-points. Kyle Wilson and P.J. Couisnard are also scoring in double figures.

While Mason trails the Shockers in the RPI and the AP poll, the Patriots do lead them in the ESPN/USA Today poll. Mason also has an edge in some important statistical categories.

Mason entered the week sixth in the nation in field-goal percentage defense (.380), 10th in scoring defense (58.0), 16th in field-goal percentage (.486) and 17th in scoring margin (+11.8). Mason improved on most of those numbers in Wednesday’s win over Drexel, the seventh straight victory for Mason and the 13th win in the past 14 games. Mason’s current winning streak is one of the longest active streaks in the country.

Wichita State is 39th in the country in field-goal percentage defense (.403) and 35th in scoring defense (61.3). The Shockers are also 44th in the country in scoring margin (+8.5). Perhaps their most impressive stat, however, is their rebounding margin. Wichita State is grabbing 6.5 rebounds more than the opposition, which is 13th in the nation.

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