Men's hoops opens 2012 with win over William & Mary, 70-56

Senior guard Andre Cornelius led the way for the Patriots with 20 points in their 70-56 victory over William & Mary Monday afternoon in the Patriot Center (John Powell).

Fairfax, Va. – In their first game of the new year, the George Mason Patriots (10-4, 2-0) took down conference foe William & Mary (2-12, 0-2) Monday afternoon by a final count of 70-56. They were led by the sharp-shooting of senior guard Andre Cornelius who finished the contest with 20 points on 5-of-8 shooting from three-point land and 7-of-10 from the field.

“As opportunities come and he’s getting a better feel for the offense, good things are happening for him,” head coach Paul Hewitt said.

The Patriots started off slow, as they trailed the entire first half until the final seconds, including a 20-10 deficit halfway through the period. It was at that point, however, that Cornelius began to take over, mainly from beyond the arc. He finished the first half with 14 points, going 3-of-4 from the outside and 5-of-6 from the field, and single-handily gave the Patriots a 32-31 lead entering the locker room at the break.

“I’m getting back into my comfort zone, my teammates are helping me everyday in practice,” Cornelius said. “They did a good job getting me open today, especially him [Mike Morrison] setting good screens for me, so I couldn’t thank [anybody] else but them.”

This was Cornelius’ fourth game back after serving a 10-game suspension to open the season, and he has provided a major spark off the bench.

“If he keeps playing like this he will get starter’s minutes and he’ll be there when the game is decided,” Hewitt said.

The second half was all Mason, as they opened the period on an impressive 18-0 run to take a 50-31 lead, and a 40-12 run overall going back to the 10-minute mark in the first half.

Senior forward Mike Morrison also had a solid afternoon, contributing 14 points and a team-high six rebounds. His stat line, however, was highlighted by his 6-of-8 performance from the free throw line, a place where he has struggled throughout his career. After missing his first two attempts from the charity stripe, he didn’t miss again.

“I’m finally just comfortable up there, I got a good routine […] doing the same thing every time, been working a lot with my coaches on it,” Morrison said.

Fellow senior forward Ryan Pearson, on the other hand, was held well below his season averages of 19.5 points and 8.4 rebounds per game with just 11 points and 4 rebounds. His playing time was limited after picking up two quick fouls to open the game. He was coming off the best performance of his stellar collegiate career in which he registered 35 points and 14 rebounds at College of Charleston en route to capturing the CAA Player of the Week award.

Starting point guard Bryon Allen rounded out the double-figure scorers for the Patriots with 10 points to go along with a game-high six assists and just one turnover.

The Tribe’s standout freshman Marcus Thornton was the game’s leading scorer with 23 points, going 4-of-6 from three.

“Honestly we were sitting on the bench saying we did nothing to stop that kid,” Hewitt said. “He did whatever he wanted, he drove wherever he wanted, he got shots.”

Despite the Patriots’ size and strength advantage, they were outrebounded by the Tribe 28-24. This is an area the squad will need to improve upon moving forward in CAA competition.

“But the effort level on the glass, they [William & Mary] had four offensive rebounds to our one in the first half, that’s just an effort stat,” Hewitt said.

The Patriots return to action Jan. 5 in a tough road matchup against conference rival Old Dominion. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m.

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