Bucknell’s Bryson Johnson got Paul Hewitt’s full attention heading into their meeting with George Mason on Wednesday night. After setting a school-record with 15 three-pointers over the Bison’s previous two games, Hewitt was determined to shut down Johnson and make other players take the important shots.
Hewitt’s plan worked as the Patriots held Johnson scoreless but it still wasn’t easy as George Mason had to survive a career-night from Cameron Ayers in their 61 – 57 win in front of 5,057 at the Patriot Center.
After hitting four of his five three-pointers in the second half, Ayers, who had a career and game-high 23 points, was unable to get into position late in the second half for a game-tying attempt from behind the arc and Bucknell had to settle for a last second attempt from their center, Mike Muscala.
Muscala threw up an air ball and Vertrail Vaughns hit a free throw to extend George Mason’s home winning streak to 18 games.
“To keep Johnson, in particular, scoreless was a great effort from a lot of guys – especially in the second half with Bryon [Allen], Sherrod [Wright], and Vertrail playing a majority of the minutes,” Hewitt said about the defense of his three starting guards.
George Mason (5-2) was forced to go with their fifth different starting line-up in just seven games after losing Corey Edwards to a concussion in practice.
Allen responded to his first start since November 19th at Florida Atlantic by scoring the Patriots first five points on his way to a ten point first half.
After jumping out to an early 14-4 lead over the Bison (5-3) on a Wright layup, the Patriots found themselves on the other side of a 17-4 run after an Ayers three-pointer gave Bucknell their first lead at 21 – 18.
Leading scorer Ryan Pearson (16 points) struggled early after being held to just three points in the first half but the Patriots still managed a 32 -25 advantage at the break.
Ayers hit another three-pointer to tie the score at 36 with 14:32 remaining. Neither team would lead by more than four points the rest of the way in game that saw eight ties and six lead changes.
Clinging to a one point lead with just 35 seconds remaining, Allen, who started the game with the first field goal for the Patriots, ended the day with a layup after Mike Morrison found him wide open under the basket to extend George Mason’s lead to three at 59-56.
Allen finished the game with 12 points, five assists, seven rebounds, and most importantly for a point guard, zero turnovers.
Muscala recorded a double-double for the Bison with 11 points and 15 rebounds but the junior center went 1-of-3 from the line down the stretch.
Up Next: George Mason travels to Towson (0-6) on Saturday night (7:30pm) to open up the CAA portion of their schedule.
Patriots Notes: After shooting at least fifty percent from three-point range in each of George Mason’s first five games, Vaughns has now gone 0-for-9 in his last two outings.