by Bobby Bancroft

It took three games but George Mason coach Paul Hewitt was finally able to relax as the final seconds of regulation expired.

George Mason rebounded after a disappointing performance against Florida International to defeat Monmouth 71-39 in the NIT Season Tip-Off consolation round in Blacksburg, Va on Tuesday night.

The Patriots (2-1) jumped out to an early 11 – 2 lead highlighted by three-pointers from senior Ryan Pearson and sophomore Vertrail Vaughns.

“I thought right from the beginning our energy level was good and guys were trying to make the extra pass,” Hewitt said about his team’s hot start.

The Hawks (0-3) stayed in the game until the five minute mark in the first half when George Mason pushed a 26 – 17 lead into a 40 – 21 halftime advantage.

George Mason never  let Monmouth back in the game during the second half in large part to the Hawks poor shooting woes from the field (14 for 58) and the beyond the arc (3 for 17).  Even though his team maintained a comfortable working advantage, there was a scary moment for Hewitt as one of his three starting guards went down.

Sherrod Wright was injured with 18:10 remaining in the game after making a lay-up.  The sophomore guard would not return to the game.

“We got to check on Sherrod Wright,” Hewitt said after the game.

“He took a pretty nasty fall and he will get x-rays in the morning on his right hand.”

With Wright’s injury opening up another spot for most of the second half, Hewitt was able to give at least 15 minutes of playing time to nine Patriots.  A deep bench is a luxury for the Patriots first year coach.

“Well obviously it gives us some comfort you know you got guys on the bench,” Hewitt said about his ability to play a big roster.

“I think Jonathan Arledge and Erik Copes finally got their legs today and I expect them to continue to make steps forward.  And of course on the perimeter Corey Edwards did a good job today of running the basketball team.”

Pearson led the Patriots with 16 points and 12 rebounds for his third consecutive double-double to start the season.  Vauhghs continued his torrid sharp shooting touch from three-point range by connecting on four of eight attempts.  The sophomore guard’s 12 points all came in the first half.

George Mason now leads the all-time series with Monmouth 4-2, snapping a two-game slide.

The Patriots next travel to Boca Raton on Saturday to take on Florida Atlantic.  According to Pearson, they will be going in a good mood after picking up another win.

“It’s always good going to the next game when you already got a win and you’re feeling good about yourself,” said Pearson.

Patriots Notes:  Vertrail Vaughns is shooting fifty percent from three-point range through three games.  George Mason’s next two home games on Monday Nov 21 and Tuesday Nov 22 are still TBD as teams continue to play in NIT Season Tip-Off.


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