This was definitely not the same George Mason squad that made that magical run to the Final Four two years ago, that's for sure. What also can be said is that this is not the same Notre Dame bunch that bowed out of last year's first round of the NCAA Tournament either, as they dominated the Patriots 68-50 last night. Right from the start the Irish jumped on George Mason and never looked back as they advance to the second round against #4 seed Washington State.
Big East Player of the Year, Luke Harangody, paced the Irish with another double-double (18 points and 14 rebounds), as he rebounded from a not so stellar performance a week earlier at the conference tournament. Guard Kyle McAlarney led the Notre Dame attack from the outside with 15 points, while the game's X-factor, Zach Hillesland had six points, 11 rebounds, and kept the Patriots' leading scoring Folarin Campbell to four points!
Much can be said about the Irish's offense, but it was the defense that did the most damage to George Mason. Campbell who shot 1-of-12 from the floor acknowledged that Notre Dame kept at him all night long.
"If I would get past or have one [defender] on my hip, there was another big guy right beside him," Campbell said. "I mean, Notre Dame just played great defense. All my shots were contested. I tip my hat off to their defense."
Notre Dame made no doubt who was going to win this contest as they advanced into the second round for the fourth time in five tries under Mike Brey. The Irish contested every shot, got after loose balls, and won the battle of the boards against the smaller Patriots. Notre Dame out rebounded George Mason 42-31, that included guard Tory Jackson's eight rebounds!
George Mason did not have an answer on defense to stop the inside and outside of the Irish, as Notre Dame connected on 9-of-21 from behind the arc and shot 45.6% overall.
Next up for the Irish is a 6:40 pm contest with Washington State, who crushed Winthrop 71-40. The Cougars held the Eagles to just 11 points in the second half after being tied 29-29 at the half.
All week long leading up to last night Brey reminded his boys of last year's one and done in the tournament and last week's short stay in New York City. It definitely struck a cord as they pushed the clock forward to midnight way too soon on George Mason.