strange issue with materials in maya

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Hey guys, I have been noticing something strange where, sometimes, maya will not attach a material to my output geometry (i.e after sync) even though I do get this message:

// Result: Assigned initialShadingGroup to |EAS__Sop_generalHullGenerator_Maya__1_0|generalHullGenerator_Maya_1_0|Ungrouped_0//

has anyone seen this? it seems a bit sporadic (almost as if it was assigining to the group before the mesh existed?)
-G
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even more odd… it seems to:

- not allow me at all to assign the default lambert1 material even via conventional methods such as using the hypershade

- allows me to assign other materials just fine

this is with version 13.0.662
-G
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BTW this seems to go away if I select the actual faces of the mesh, and THEN assign the material. it almost seems to be related to having to assign the shading group to the shape node instead of the transform
-G
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