Richmond, Va. — There are many, many good big men in the Colonial Athletic Association.
Tonight, two of the conference’s best will go at it when Georgia State’s Eric Buckner squares off against George Mason’s Ryan Pearson at 8:30 p.m. in the quarterfinals of the CAA tournament. The winner will advance to the semifinals and keeps alive hopes of winning the tournament and earning the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
Buckner, who finished second in the league’s defensive player of the year voting, against Pearson, the league’s player of the year.
The last time the two faced each other the Patriots won 61-58.
In the battle within the war, Buckner had 11 points, six rebounds and one block. His season averages: 11.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.48 blocks.
Pearson had 10 points, all on free throws, and six rebounds. His season averages: 17.8 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.7 assists.
If Buckner’s performance in Friday’s 85-50 victory over Hofstra is any indication, expect a fun, fun game.
Buckner scored 21 points on 7-of-7 shooting, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked two shots in less than 25 minutes.
Though it’s hard to tell when Buckner is angry because he’s so low key, his coach’s dissatisfaction with the voting for defensive player of the year was evident after Friday’s victory.
“If he’s not the best defensive player in this league then’s something wrong,” Georgia State coach Ron Hunter said. “He changes the game. He CHANGES the game. I’ve never seen anything like him. He doesn’t have to say it but his coach will do it for him.”
Hunter coach Mo Cassara agreed.
“If he’s not one of best-five players in the league …,” he said. “And he plays within himself, just a great player.”
Neither Hunter nor Pearson are very fancy, but both are smart.
Buckner, who is 6-10, relies on a jump hook in the half-court sets, but is sneaky good on the offensive boards.
Pearson, who is 6-6, is more of a bull on the block, but he’s quick with good moves in the post.
Buckner likely won’t be matched up man-to-man on Pearson because the Panthers prefer to play a variety of aggressive zones that give Buckner the freedom to roam around the free-throw lane. But he can’t go too far.
Pearson’s teammate Mike Morrison, who is 6-9, had 14 points and 15 rebounds the last time the two teams met on Jan. 7 in Fairfax, Va.
If Buckner has a weakness on defense, sometimes he will roams away from the basket or teams try to get him away from the basket, and then they will attack the space left behind.
I expect that the Patriots, with 10 fouls between Pearson and Morrison, will try to get Buckner in foul trouble early. That hasn’t happened too often this season. Buckner has fouled out of just three games.
And on offense, expect Morrison to guard Buckner to try to offset Buckner’s height advantage.
It should be fun.
– Doug Roberson, AJC. Please follow me on twitter at @ajcgsu. I’ll be tweeting throughout tonight’s game.