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NCAAB: No. 24 Wisconsin, George Mason meet in last-minute matchup

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It is not quite the playground cry of “Who’s got next,” but perhaps it will be another example of the college basketball nonconference equivalent in the COVID-19 era when No. 24 Wisconsin hosts George Mason on Thursday night.

When the Badgers’ originally scheduled game against Morgan State on Thursday was canceled because of COVID issues within the Bears’ program, Wisconsin basketball’s official Twitter account put out the word that that the team was interested in filling the void with another opponent.

George Mason (7-5) stepped up to do so after its scheduled game for Thursday was canceled. Coincidentally, that contest was shelved because of COVID problems for George Mason’s opponent, Baltimore-based Coppin State, the crosstown rival of fellow MEAC school Morgan State.

Give the Patriots credit for doing this on short notice, because they will be at a bit of a disadvantage, having played Tuesday night. George Mason soundly defeated American 67-44, putting the clamps on the Eagles by limiting them to 3-for-16 shooting (18.8 percent) from 3-point range.

“This was a good win for us against an incredibly disciplined team that plays the right way,” first-year George Mason coach Kim English said after the game, his team’s third consecutive win. “They created some challenges on defense, especially switching. I’m really pleased with our ball security, our passing and our grit to end the game. We found a way to create baskets and create stops.”

American traditionally has played at a deliberate pace, much as Wisconsin does, so that at least should help George Mason in its preparation.

Josh Oduro (17.4 points, 6.8 rebounds) leads four scorers who average in double figures for the Patriots. He had 20 points in a win at Georgia on Saturday. The Patriots also own a road victory over then-No. 20 Maryland, but they lost to Washington on a neutral floor.

Xavier Johnson averages 4.5 assists and only 2.1 turnovers per game for George Mason.

Wisconsin (9-2) will have six extra days to prepare, having not played since escaping with a 71-68 victory against visiting Nicholls State on Dec. 15. Granted, the Badgers were without top scorer Johnny Davis (20.9 points per game), who sat out with a non-COVID illness.

Wisconsin rallied from a 12-point, second-half deficit against the Colonels.

“It’s kind of like a hidden blessing,” said guard Brad Davison, who scored 19 points in that victory and has played 139 games as a Badger. “When people are out or people are ill — obviously you want them to be healthy — but at the same time, it gives opportunities for other guys to step up and find their roles and do things that give them confidence and encouragement.”

That’s important for any team these days when a player could unexpectedly be out of the lineup at the last minute.

Davison (15.2 ppg) joins Davis as Wisconsin’s only players who average double-figure scoring. Thus, it is imperative that Davis returns sooner rather than later.

The rest of the Badgers are struggling mightily from beyond the arc, a staple of Wisconsin’s offense. The Badgers are shooting 29.6 percent from 3-point range in 2021-22 after hitting 36.5 percent last year.

–Field Level Media

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