Seven times George Mason had visited Old Dominion’s Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk, Va. and seven times George Mason had left with a disappointing loss to their Colonial Athletic Association rivals.
That all changed on Thursday night as George Mason defeated Old Dominion 63-54 in the last visit for three Patriots seniors – Andre Cornelius, Mike Morrison, and Ryan Pearson.
George Mason’s seniors had gone 0-3 in their three previous trips to Norfolk. They came closest to winning in their first visit as freshman in January 2009 before eventually losing 73-71 as Pearson led the Patriots with 18 points.
Once again it was Pearson who came up big for George Mason (11-4, 3-0) with a double-double of 16 points and 14 rebounds in leading the Patriots to their fourth straight win and a share of first place in the CAA.
George Mason will welcome Georgia State to the Patriot Center on Saturday night with first place on the line but for now they can celebrate their only win in the eight year history of Old Dominion’s home court.
“It’s been really hard to come down here and win,” Cornelius said. “We know like this year as seniors you wanted to leave and get the [win]. And that’s what we did. We came out here and got the win. And that’s all we wanted to do was come out here and win.”
The Patriots held a 34-31 halftime advantage behind nice starts from Pearson and Morrison. Morrison scored George Mason’s first six points while Pearson was hot early on from deep as he hit two quick three-pointers during a stretch that put the Patriots up 17-10.
Morrison finished with ten points and nine rebounds as the Patriots never relinquished their early lead.
“Mike to me was the guy that set the tone and finished it strong for us with his leadership,” Coach Paul Hewitt said about his big man.
Old Dominion (7-8, 2-1) was lucky to be down just three at the break after shooting 33 percent (11-of-33) from the field. The Monarchs did have ten assists on those eleven field goals as well as five three-pointers.
Old Dominion’s shooting woes would never improve as they connected on just under 30 percent for the game (18-of-61).
The Monarchs failed to capitalize on their second chance opportunities after the outrebounded George Mason by twelve (19 to 7) on the offensive glass, resulting in twelve more field goal attempts (61 to 49).
Doing even more damage to Old Dominion’s comeback bid was their inability to convert from the line as the Monarchs hit less than half (12-of-25) of their free throws in what was a tight game down the stretch.
Kent Bazemore led ODU with 17 points while Clemson-transfer Donte Hill also finished in double figures with ten.
Pearson admitted that while George Mason did a poor job rebounding they made the best of a bad situation by not giving up on the play.
“After they got the rebound, our main objective after that was just not to let them score, not to let them get easy tip in baskets that we saw on film,” Pearson said. “So what we tried to do is if we didn’t get the first rebound we still tried to stick to our defensive principles and get the next stop.”
After the game Coach Hewitt was in a good mood after seeing just how much the win meant to his players and he shared it during his post game comments with the media.
“I said thanks for bringing me a long, I’m 1-0 here – I don’t know about you guys,” Hewitt joked to his players after the game. “You know I was kidding with them about it. But I thanked them for helping us to get this win, and me experiencing a win down here in our first game down here.”