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George Mason Beats Manhattan, Starts New Streak

by Bobby Bancroft
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FAIRFAX, Va. – On Wednesday George Mason played arguably their worst game of the season and as a result their 18-game home court winning streak came to an end at the hands of a Duquesne team that had previously been winless on the road.

Just 48 hours later on Friday night, the Patriots made the most of their opportunity to start another winning streak, but it wasn’t pretty at first.

Ryan Pearson scored a game-high 25 points to go along with 10 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season as George Mason used a big second half in an 81-61 victory over Manhattan  in front of 4,014 at the Patriot Center.

“He’s a big time player but I think he can play much better,” George Mason Coach Paul Hewitt said of his leading scorer.  “He’s energetic when he’s scoring, he’s energetic when he’s rebounding, but defensively tonight I thought he did a much better job.”

Pearson also had two steals as the Patriots (8-4) forced 22 Manhattan turnovers.

The first half looked eerily similar to Wednesday’s loss as George Mason committed eleven turnovers on their way to scoring just 27 points.  A big reason was the noticeable absence of Pearson who was limited to just seven minutes after picking up two quick fouls, including a technical after getting tangled up with a Jasper player under the basket.

Pearson’s two free throws before the half gave the Patriots (8-4) a 27-25 lead at the break.

“That was a silly foul when I got the technical,” Pearson said.  “I kind of over reacted a little bit.  I knew the game was going to be physical.  I lost my composure a little bit but I have great teammates to help me through it.”

George Mason let Manhattan hang around longer than expected thanks to some abysmal free throw shooting.  The Patriots connected on just 54 percent (20-of-37) of their attempts from the charity stripe.

The lone bright spot from the line was Mike Morrison who went 8-of-10.  Morrison joined Pearson with his own double-double on the night by going for 16 points and 11 rebounds.

Vertrail Vaughns put together his second good shooting performance in a row by connecting on 3-of-7 three-pointers.  Vaughns got off to a great start this season by shooting better than 50 percent from deep through the first five games but has since seen that number drop to just 36 percent.

“It’s kind of backwards with him,” Hewitt said as he tried to explain the slump the sophomore guard had been in until recently.

“He’ll get into the gym and take 700 jump shots.  I found out he was coming late at night and getting a lot of extra shots.  So I’ve basically limited his shooting to when we are in the gym with him.  I think that’s kind of settled his body down.  I think that’s part of the reason that his shot was so short.  Now he’s starting to find his stroke again.”

Vaughns, who finished with 13 points, hit back-to-back long range shots that extended the Patriots lead from nine to 15 at 57-42 with 8 minutes 30 seconds remaining.  It was George Mason’s first double-digit lead of the game and they would never look back.

Manhattan (8-5) saw their five-game winning streak halted after being outscored 54-36 in the second half.

George Beamon led the Jaspers with 18 points while Michael Alvarado joined him in double figures with 10 points on a night where Manhattan struggled mightily from the field by hitting just 30 percent of their shots (18-of-59).

Up Next:  George Mason has a week off during the Holidays before playing at the College of Charleston on December 30th.  The game can be seen on ESPN3 at 7pm.

Patriots Notes:  Freshman Erik Copes had four blocks for the third consecutive game and the fourth time in his 12-game career.  Copes leads the team with 28 blocks on the season.

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