- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 4, 2012

There’s no shortage of roles forward Mike Morrison fills for George Mason.

Rebounder. Class clown. Shot-swatter. Trash-talker.

Go ahead and include valued scorer, even if points aren’t always the first thing that come to mind when the 6-foot-9 senior’s name is mentioned.

Morrison is more than a year removed from his last back-to-back double-digit scoring nights, and he is coming off a 14-point, six-rebound showing in Monday’s 70-56 defeat of William & Mary. The chance for an encore comes Thursday, when the Patriots (10-4, 2-0 CAA) visit Old Dominion (7-7, 2-0).

“He’s got to develop a free throw and a 15-foot jump shot,” Mason coach Paul Hewitt said. “He made one [Monday], he made one the other day against Charleston. I think he’s getting confident now.”

That’s an interesting place for Morrison to find himself almost midway through his final season. It certainly would help the Patriots, who are 24-4 (including 13-1 in conference games) when Morrison scores at least 10 points.

The record includes six victories this season, a striking trend for a player whose rebounding was perhaps his chief skill since the start of his career - and probably remains so.

“I’m trying to be as dominating as possible on the boards and on defense and wherever I can help my team offensively,” Morrison said. “I think the difference in how well I play is how aggressive I am going for defensive rebounds and offensive rebounds. It sort of gets me going and helps our team win different battles.”

It complements his place as something of a team instigator quite well. If Morrison hopes to push a few buttons in games, it’s even more clear in practice when he talks.

And talks.

And talks.

“He talks a lot of junk in practice … ,” guard Andre Cornelius said. “He gets everything started and everybody wants to compete better just to shut him up.”

Meanwhile, Morrison has quieted concern over the most glaring deficiency in his offensive game: Free throw shooting.

Morrison never shot better than 48.5 percent at the foul line in his first three seasons, providing ample reason to keep him off the court in end-game situations.

He’s improved to 57.9 percent this season and, more importantly, he said he has a good routine and can tell why he misses an attempt.

It hasn’t been a conundrum of late. Morrison continued to cement his significance to Mason’s offense, connecting on 17 of his past 23 free throws.

“We’ll take that,” Hewitt said.

NOTES: Mason has lost its past seven games at Old Dominion. It does not have an active losing streak of more than one game on any other conference opponent’s home court.

Hewitt was frustrated Monday by a lack of bench production, which reflected a continuing slide in scoring by the Patriots’ three freshmen. Forward Erik Copes and guards Corey Edwards and Vaughn Gray totaled four points and have combined to average 4.8 points and 32 minutes over the past four games.

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