George Mason’s latest game brought a familiar scene: Another scare from a second-tier CAA team.
Sherrod Wright made sure to put away Hofstra with a little time to spare Wednesday, at one point scoring five straight points to help the Patriots surge to a 72-62 victory in Fairfax.
Mason finished the game on an 18-6 run instigated by Wright, who scored 12 points and added a team-high seven rebounds for the Patriots (20-6, 12-2 CAA).
“I was just going to be aggressive like I was the whole game,” Wright said. “It wasn’t like a switch flipped on. It was just ‘I’m going to take the shots they give me.’”
He started the run with a 3-pointer out of a timeout, erasing the Pride’s final lead. On Mason’s next possession, he added a layup to stretch the Patriots’ edge to 59-56.
The finishing touch was off an inbounds feed from freshman Corey Edwards with 1:39 remaining. Wright added a free throw to put Mason ahead 67-60 and on its way to a season sweep of the Pride (8-18, 2-12).
Still, it was a rerun of so many of the Patriots’ games over the last five weeks. Mason is 10-2 in its last dozen games, but with only one mostly stress-free game in the mix (a Jan. 18 rout of Delaware).
Things won’t grow much easier, with three road games and a visit from Virginia Commonwealth still to come in the conference schedule.
Invariably, someone from Mason’s deep rotation produces a timely performance. Wednesday it was Wright, a former starter who has reached double figures in five of his last nine games. Who will do so Saturday at UNC Wilmington is anyone’s guess.
Five more observations from Mason’s latest victory. …
1. Bennett’s big lift.
One of the more curious substitutions of the game was Mason coach Paul Hewitt’s decision to slide Paris Bennett in after Ryan Pearson picked up his third foul early in the second half.
Bennett hadn’t played in the Patriots’ last three games and had only 26 minutes since Andre Cornelius returned to the rotation Dec. 21. But the sophomore played four minutes with a steal and a block and drew praise from Hewitt.
“The most important player was Paris Bennett,” Hewitt said. “He came in and changed the game. He didn’t score a point. He didn’t have a rebound. But he executed a perfect dribble handoff and got Sherrod an easy basket from the top of the lane. He got a kick-out 3 to somebody who made a 3. You could just see our offense change.”
2. Electric Edwards
Edwards’ feed to Wright in the final two minutes was another example of the freshman’s creativity —- as well as a willingness to stretch the boundaries of what a coach might permit.
Hewitt smiled when the topic arose Tuesday and reminded reporters that Edwards’ father David wasn’t a dissimilar player during his time at Georgetown and Texas A&M.
“How many of you all saw Corey’s dad play? Then you know he’s going to take chances all the time,” Hewitt said. “[Assistant] Roland [Houston] said to me one time during the game ‘Why does he do that stuff.’ I said ‘He has no choice. It’s genetic. I’m sorry.’”
3. Bigs bail on the boards
One curious development on the night was the quiet work of senior forwards Mike Morrison and Pearson on the boards. The pair combined for four rebounds.
Coming into the game, one of them accounted for at least four rebounds by themselves in all but one of the Patriots’ contest this season. Morrison had three rebounds and Pearson added two in a loss at Virginia in December.
Nonetheless, it didn’t prove especially painful. The Pride managed only a 21.2 offensive rebounding percentage. The biggest hit for Mason came in failing to extend its possessions, though it made up for it by shooting 52.9 percent overall and 60.5 percent on its 2-point attempts.
4. Postseason implications
Mason is inching ever-closer to locking up a bye in the CAA tournament.
The Patriots’ magic number for doing so is two —- either their own wins or Georgia State losses over the final four games of league play. It might not even need to be that much, since Mason holds the head-to-head edge on the Panthers.
Mason remained in a share of the CAA lead with Drexel and Virginia Commonwealth, which both won Wednesday. The Patriots lost their only meeting with Drexel and still have two games remaining against VCU.
5. Up next
The Patriots visit UNC Wilmington (9-15, 5-9) on Saturday night. Mason has won eight straight against the Seahawks, including a 67-61 victory on Jan. 23 in Fairfax.
—- Patrick Stevens