Men's hoops opens season with blowout exhibition win, 90-62

Sophomore forward Jon Arledge looks a shot in as the Patriots pull away from the Lycoming Warriors in the second half. Arledge finished with 11 points, eight rebounds, an assist and a steal in the 90-62 blowout (John Powell).

In the first showing of the George Mason men’s basketball team under the leadership of head coach Paul Hewitt, the Patriots took down the Lycoming Warriors by a 90-62 final margin Monday evening in the Patriot Center.

Mason scheduled the lone exhibition against the Division-III team to get the season going on a high note, but the Warriors came out strong to begin the game. It took Mason, who is receiving votes in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches’ poll, more than 10 minutes to pull away with a 2-score lead.

There were definitely a few distractions that slowed offense. When sophomore forward Jon Arledge checked in to the game, he was listed on the roster as number 21, but the number 5 plastered the back of the jersey, earning the team a technical. Despite the problems, he finished with an 11-point total.

But they finally found their stride. They led an 18-2 run to close out the half, with veterans and rookies alike getting in on the scoring. Senior forward Mike Morrison tied for the first half scoring lead with 11 points, leading the team’s 18 in the paint.

Putting the two forwards side-by-side shows an interesting perspective. While both had 11 points, Arledge found a steal, pulled in eight rebounds to Morrison’s five and shot free throws with a better percentage. The most telling stat is the 6-1 defensive rebounding margin that fell in Arledge’s favor.

Starting point guard Bryon Allen, in to replace senior Andre Cornelius who is mired in legal trouble, matched Morrison’s 11-point total on 4-of-7 shooting from the field.

“I thought after the first few minutes, he settled in, started playing better,” Hewitt said. “There were times when I thought he and Sherrod would hang on to the ball a little too long instead of moving it.”

Redshirt sophomore forward Paris Bennett took the start at the 3, but couldn’t get his game up and running in the first half, going scores with one assist and three rebounds. He was on the right side of the game as tides turned; the Patriots extended the late first-half run into a commanding lead. Bennett went 4-of-6 from the field in the second period for nine points.

The pleasant surprise came not in Allen’s strong play running the point, but in rookie forward Erik Copes. He was fairly limited in the first half, but proved his worth in the second half with 13 points in 13 minutes.

“When [Copes] gets in the low post, you cannot stop him,” Allen said. “His jump hook is unstoppable.”

The whole team shot better in the second half. The 57-percent mark for that period was the stat of the night for the Patriots. After a first-half mark under 50 percent, they showed their dominance when they stepped up late in the game. Senior forward Ryan Pearson was the only player to play consistently throughout the game. His 11-point total over 19 minutes was split almost evenly between the two halves. He was one of five players to make it in to double-digit scoring.

“To me, that’s what a stat sheet should look like,” Hewitt said. “The ball should be distributed, the assist numbers should be high. Turnovers should be low.”

Even walk-on guard Jordan Baird got in on the scoring. After missing a 3-pointer, he went for the rebound, pulling a foul on the second shot. He made the second free throw for the point.

But the Patriots’ look may be a little different in their next matchup. With no shortage of opinions on who should be in the starting five, the exhibition did nothing to quell the rumors.

“Had Vertrail [Vaughns] not been injured, he would’ve started today,” Hewitt said. “One of the things I like about this group is that we are pretty balanced. Other than Mike and Ryan, we don’t have anybody that’s clearly distinguished themselves.”

The staff has a lot of to look at before next Friday, Nov. 11, when the Patriots take on Rhode Island to open their regular season. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 at the Patriot Center.

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