The Paul Hewitt era is off to anything but a dull start. While the season is still just a few days old, George Mason has already played as many overtime games (2) as they did all of last season.
After winning their season opener in dramatic fashion, George Mason fell in overtime to Florida International 79 – 76 in the first round of the NIT Season Tip-off on Monday night in Blacksburg, Va.
With the score tied at 66 late in regulation, George Mason forward Ryan Pearson, the hero from the season opener against Rhode Island, had a chance to win the game for the Patriots but his shot rimmed out.
“We got a pretty good look at the end,” Hewitt said of Pearson’s final shot in regulation.
“Ryan made a good effort at it. It just rolled out for out for him. I was very confident with him taking that shot.”
Pearson, who finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds, had an opportunity to redeem himself late in overtime but his three-point attempt came up well short and the Patriots suffered their first loss of the young season. It looked as though Pearson was trying to draw a foul from a Panther defender. It was Pearson’s second straight double-double to start the season.
The story of the game for George Mason, a team missing their most experience guard – Andre Cornelius – until the second semester, was turnovers.
Hewitt again went with a three guard lineup of Bryon Allen, Vertrail Vaughns, and Sherrod Wright. The trio shot well from the field (16 for 29 for 46 points) but it wasn’t enough to overcome 22 costly turnovers. It’s a fact that wasn’t lost on Hewitt in the moments following the loss.
“Obviously we got to do a better job taking care of the basketball”, Hewitt said about his team’s turnover problems.
“We’ll do that; we’ll get better as the year goes on.”
As a result of Virginia Tech’s 91 – 46 win over Monmouth earlier in the day, the Patriots (1-1) will now take on the Hawks (0-2) in the second game of the night.
“We have a game tomorrow night,” Hewitt said about the need to quickly shake off the defeat.
“We have to move past this. So just now we have to bounce back and play well tomorrow.”
Virginia Tech will take on Florida International for the right to advance to the semi-finals at Madison Square Garden.
Florida International (1-0) was led by guard Jeremy Allen with 20 points.
Patriot Notes: George Mason will now host two games at the Patriot Center on Monday Nov 21 and Tuesday Nov 22 against opponents TBD. Losing before even facing Virginia Tech will likely hurt the Patriots strength-of-schedule and RPI numbers at the end of the season, increasing the importance of finishing high in the CAA standings.