Shorthanded Patriots survive Bowie State in 76-72 exhibition win

Guard Vertrail Vaughns drives on a Bowie State defender in Thursday night's exhibition game. (Photo by John Irwin)
Guard Vertrail Vaughns drives on a Bowie State defender in Thursday night's exhibition game. (Photo by John Irwin)

In their first game against outside competition, the George Mason Patriots were able to squeak past the Bowie State Bulldogs, 76-72 in an exhibition game on Thursday night at the Patriot Center.

Without preseason All-CAA selection Sherrod Wright (athletic department violation) and junior starting point guard Bryon Allen (shoulder/neck injury), Mason had to make up for their absence with sophomore guard Corey Edwards and Seton Hall transfer Anali Okoloji filling in.

The biggest surprise for the Patriots came from freshman forward Marko Gujanicic. The 6'8 Serbian showed the Mason faithful that he can be versatile contributor off the bench, providing a spark on both sides of the ball. During a stretch in the first half, Gujanicic scored on four straight Mason possessions, including a quick steal and layup. He seemed polished beyond his years and had a presence on the floor of an upperclassman.

"[Marko's] a veteran guy," said Hewitt. "He's never really played in a game that didn't mean anything. He's either played for his country or he played in a pro league."

In his first action as a Patriot, Okoloji brought strong defensive intensity while adding 11 points of his own. Edwards showed his improvement at the point guard position from last season with eight assists, five steals and only two turnovers. Sophomore center Erik Copes finished with 13 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals---a possible sign of things to come.

Depth will be a strength for this year's Mason team with a talented group of underclassman who are on a verge of breakout seasons. Junior forward Jonathan Arledge capped off last season with an impressive double-double performance in the CAA tournament semifinals against VCU. Arledge finished the exhibition with 10 points and three rebounds. Sophomore Vaughn Gray has the tools to become a great all-around player for Mason with he's ability to shoot the three and defend on the perimeter.

As far as Wright's status for the season, he will be eligible to play.

"Sherrod will be back for our next competition," said Hewitt. "As college kids do, he did something not very intelligent over the summer and we took the necessary action."

The Patriots will open up the regular season at home against UVA on Nov. 9 at 7 p.m.

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