Reporting Bobby Bancroft
FAIRFAX – After watching his starters account for just eleven first half points, George Mason coach Paul Hewitt decided to shake things up a bit.
He called in the reserves.
It couldn’t have worked out any better as George Mason picked up an easy 71-47 victory over Old Dominion fueled by 58 bench points on Thursday night at the Patriot Center.
“Our depth obviously saved us, especially Patrick [Holloway] and Paris [Bennett],” said Hewitt when talking about his standout reserves.
Holloway scored a game-high 15 points while Bennett chipped in career-high 13 points to pace twelve George Mason scorers in one of the more balanced attacks of the season.
For Holloway it was just two off the freshman’s season high of 17 that he accomplished in that BB&T Classic loss to Maryland. For Bennett it was far more unusual.
After playing a season high 23 minutes against South Florida, the junior forward saw consecutive DNP’s – coach’s decisions. It was looking like another 40 minutes on the bench after not having his number called as George Mason (9-6, 2-1) took a 30-22 lead into the locker room at the half.
And then, it all changed.
Bennett played 16 out of a possible 20 second half minutes, went 6-for-6 from the field and scored a career-high in the process of turning a close game into a complete blowout.
And if you listen to Bennett, there might not be a better way to change a game, then from the bench.
“That’s probably one of the better things of somebody coming off the bench because you kind of get a feel for the game,” Bennett said about coming into a close game. “You get a chance to correct some of the mistakes that you’ve seen out there.”
Bennett’s contributions couldn’t have come at a better time as leading scorer Sherrod Wright was held to just 1 point on 0-5 shooting from the field.
“Sherrod [Wright] just didn’t have it tonight, looked a little out of sync for whatever reason, those things can happen,” Hewitt said.
As ODU plays out one final season in the Colonial Athletic Association before leaving for Conference USA, George Mason made the Monarchs (2-14, 0-4) last visit to the Patriot Center a complete nightmare.
ODU scored 46 points, committed 23 fouls, and turned the ball over 24 times. Just to rub things even, George Mason’s bench outscored ODU’s entire team 58-46.
It just wasn’t even close.
The start of the second half was a grim affair from an offensive standpoint. After only four minutes, Old Dominion had committed five turnovers and not even taken a shot. Mason had its own problems by giving the ball away four times. The two teams combined for just six points and eleven fouls.
Mason quickly picked things up in the second, thanks to Bennett and Holloway.
Said Hewitt: ”Sometimes players don’t appreciate how much IQ can mean to their play – they want do it on athleticism quickness, taking a guy one-one-one but if you see the whole floor, the way Paris does, it just makes you so much of a better player.”
It seems about the only common thread this season between the Patriots and the Monarchs is that both CAA schools came up with wins over an in-state ACC opponent in Virginia.
ODU had made eight straight post-season appearances but that seems likely about to end as the Monarchs are ineligible for the conference tournament as a result of a poor APR standing.
George Mason has now won six straight games against ODU in Fairfax dating back to 2007 but trails the all time series 34-20 to its rivals from Norfolk.
Leading scorer Sherrod Wright didn’t score until 15 minutes into the game when junior hit one of his two free throws to up increase George Mason’s lead to 24-16.
Carrying the load in the first half was freshman Holloway who scored 10 in the game’s opening twenty minutes.
Old Dominion hit a historic low in Thursday night’s low by hitting on just 25 percent of its shots from the field.
Up Next: The Patriots go on the road this Saturday as they take on UNC-Wilmington (5-10, 0-3). Although struggling, the Seahawks have posted a 5-1 record at home and are led by senior Keith Rendleman who averages a double –double of 15.9 points and 10.3 rebounds per game.