"Well if we take all these things and we bury them fast, And pray that they turn to seeds, to roots and then grass, It'd be all right, it's all right, it'd be easier that way.
Or if the sky opened up and started pouring rain, Like it knew it was time to start things over again, It'd be all right, it's all right, it'd be easier that way."
I've thought about these lyrics from Brand New's "Daisy" often--so often I made a part of them my Twitter handle--since my sophomore year at George Mason, when the titular album Daisy was released. In the context of the album as a whole, these lines are fairly depressing; no wounds get buried, the sky never opens, nothing changes. But in the context of the song, where they are the bridge after lead singer Jesse Lacey rips off a string of self-deprecating metaphors, they take on a hopeful air. Perhaps the seemingly insurmountable problems we face may be overcome, if only we bury the past and let it grow into new life. It's no surprise, then, that they felt particularly profound coming from my car stereo as I drove to the Patriot Center for Mason's season opener against the University of Rhode Island Rams.
I don't need to tell Hoops Nation about the departure of a certain head men's basketball coach. Losing Coach L (or Shaka Smart, or Brad Stevens, or any exceedingly capable coach) would be enough to lower the expectations of any team below the Red Line. But this Mason team has had to deal with a host of other issues as well. Versatile guard Cam Long graduated. Luke Hancock, an integral part of last year's run to an NCAA at-large bid and the proverbial hero of Mason's Second Round win over Villanova, transferred to Louisville. Rising senior Andre Cornelius ran into legal trouble and was suspended.
These may seem to be a perfect storm of coincidences leading ultimately to a mediocre season at best. But as I entered the gym and took my seat atop the student section, the crowd's energy was invigorating. During his introduction a chant for new coach "PA-UL HEW-ITT" arose from students a dozen rows below me and quickly swept through my yellow-clad peers and I. My fellow students--and, I realized at that moment, I--believed that that it would be okay, that we would find a way to win.
The game was marked early on by sloppy ball handling, bad fouls and missed layups. Both teams had to kick off a bit of rust; the Rams did so first, and built a sizable ten point lead at the U4 timeout. The white jerseys responded with some quick transition buckets for a 15-5 run, and the squads went into the locker room tied at 33 apiece.
Both teams picked up the tempo in the second half. Rhode Island guard Jamal Wilson took over much of the scoring for the Rams; he ended the night with 38 points in 41 minutes. The Patriots, however, responded to virtually every bucket. I lost count of lead changes somewhere around the fifth. The lead didn't change when Jonathan Holton dropped a #superhoop late in the half, but it did tie the game at 80-80. Thirty seconds and one Ryan Pearson missed FG attempt later, we were headed to overtime.
Overtime brought more of the same. Mason sped out to an early five point advantage, but Wilson once again kept the Rams in it and they eventually took the lead. Pearson responded with a layup to put the Patriots up 89-88 and in the process recorded the final lead change of the game. A few minutes later Orion Outerbridge missed a last second three point attempt and Mason escaped 92-90.
As my car idled in the post-game traffic, I wondered: will Mason's season be like "Daisy," the song in which a veritable flood of problems gives way to a hopeful future? Or will it be like Daisy, the album that ends--as our collective seasons tend to--in failure? In this first round, the Patriots took their punches from a tough full-court press and managed to come out on top. In the end, though, this early in the season nobody can predict how things will go for any team. One thing I know for certain, however, is this:
at GEORGE MASON 92, RHODE ISLAND 90 11/11/2011
RHODE ISLAND 0-1 (0-0) -- J. Wilson 13-22 11-12 38; M. Powell 3-11 4-4 11; J. Holton 2-11 7-10 12; N. Malesevic 5-11 0-0 12; O. Outerbridge 4-9 2-4 11; D. McKoy 3-4 0-1 6; L. Shengelia 0-2 0-0 0; R. Harris 0-1 0-0 0; T. Buchanan 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 30-71 24-31 90. GEORGE MASON 1-0 (0-0) -- S. Wright 8-13 1-2 17; R. Pearson 11-22 6-9 28; B. Allen 4-10 1-3 9; V. Vaughns 5-10 5-6 17; E. Copes 1-4 0-2 2; M. Morrison 5-7 1-2 11; J. Arledge 2-3 0-2 4; C. Edwards 1-2 2-2 4; V. Gray 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 37-72 16-28 92.
Three-point goals: URI 6-25 (J. Wilson 1-2; O. Outerbridge 1-3; N. Malesevic 2-7; J. Holton 1-7; M. Powell 1-6), GMU 2-14 (R. Pearson 0-3; V. Vaughns 2-4; S. Wright 0-2; B. Allen 0-3; J. Arledge 0-1; C. Edwards 0-1); Rebounds: URI 37 (J. Holton 14), GMU 39 (R. Pearson 12); Assists: URI 13 (M. Powell 6), GMU 18 (B. Allen 7); Total Fouls -- URI 27, GMU 23; Fouled Out: URI-N. Malesevic; GMU-M. Morrison.