George Mason showed no signs of fatigue after concluding a tricky stretch of three games in four days as the Patriots easily disposed of Albany 66 – 46 on Tuesday night in the NIT Season Tip-Off consolation round.
The Patriots (4-2) put in a dominating defensive performance in front of a sparse crowd of only 1,384 at the Patriot Center by racing out to an early 12 – 0 lead. A Mike Black layup brought the Great Danes (2-3) back to within six at 12 – 6 with 12 minutes and 37 seconds remaining in the first half but that’s the closest they would get the rest of the night.
Ryan Pearson led George Mason with 24 points and seven rebounds.
Coach Paul Hewitt again tinkered with his lineup by reinserting guard Sherrod Wright after a two game absence from the starting five. The sophomore responded well by chipping in 12 points and seven rebounds but his most important contributions might have very well be on the defensive end.
Albany’s Gerardo Suero entered the game as the eighth leading scorer in the nation at 23 points per game but he never got into a rhythm thanks to two early offensive fouls as he tried to drive down the lane towards the basket.
His early struggles, as explained after the game, were no coincidence at all.
“That was the key to the game, basically making sure that he doesn’t get to the rim” Wright said about the Patriots strategy to cut down on Suero’s twelve free throw attempts per game.
“If we could shut him down from attacking the rim, then most likely we could win the game.”
The strategy worked as Suero finished with a season-low 10 points on 3 for 10 shooting. The junior college transfer also had a team-high eight turnovers.
As a team Albany struggled mightily against the Patriots pressure defense by hitting just five of their first 28 shots on their way to shooting 26 percent for the entire game. They further they got from the basket, the worse it goes as Albany connected on nine percent (2-23) three-point attempts.
Mike Morrison just missed a double-double with 13 points and nine rebounds while Bryon Allen – five points, four rebounds, and three assists – continues to flourish in his new role off the bench for the Patriots.
Logan Aronhalt led Albany with 15 points.
Patriots Notes: Paul Hewitt used his fourth different starting lineup in six games. George Mason has now won 17 straight home games at the Patriot Center. The next game is at home against Bucknell on Nov. 30. Guard Vertrail Vaughns (12.5 ppg, 46% 3PT) failed to make a three-pointer and was held scoreless for the first time of the season.