- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 24, 2012

UNC Wilmington coach Buzz Peterson was scouring game film last week when he came upon George Mason’s strong, dogged point guard who barely made a difference as a freshman.

“I turned to an assistant and said ‘Who is this? Who in the world is this?’ ” Peterson recalled.

He found out Monday.

Sophomore Bryon Allen continued his recovery from erratic play early in the season, scoring a career-high 17 points as the Patriots secured a 67-61 victory.

Allen’s emergence — or, arguably, re-emergence — provides some stability at point guard for Mason, which reached the midpoint of CAA play alone in first place. A few months ago, it was uncertain if Allen could be the answer for the Patriots.

He had 16 turnovers in his first four games, an alarming rate that briefly cost him his starting position.

Freshman Corey Edwards took over in late November, with Allen reclaiming a starting role after Edwards suffered a concussion and missed two games.

“At the beginning, I felt like I was rushing a lot,” said Allen, whose Patriots (16-5, 8-1 CAA) visit Hofstra (7-14, 1-8) on Wednesday. “I was too anxious. I went from last season not playing a lot or really at all to now playing a starting role. So basically, I was too hyped and too anxious to play.”

He isn’t kidding about his lack of usage a season ago.

The nucleus of Mason’s backcourt rotation was evident: Andre Cornelius, Luke Hancock and Cam Long started, with Isaiah Tate a crucial defensive presence as the team’s sixth man.

Long and Tate graduated. Hancock transferred to Louisville. Cornelius was suspended the first 10 games. Suddenly, the man running the backcourt was a guy who scored 10 points in 57 total minutes against CAA competition last season.

Allen’s improvement has come in bursts. After an underwhelming start against UNC Wilmington, he played 17 turnover-free minutes after the break and converted a crucial three-point play on a drive to the basket and an ensuing foul shot to create a cushion just after the Seahawks closed to 44-43.

Bryon is getting better, slowly but surely,” coach Paul Hewitt said. “He had no assists [Monday night], a combination of us not shooting the ball the way we’re used to shooting it and him maybe making some better decisions. But obviously, he made some big plays at the end to help us win.”

The scoring is a plus, and his 8.4 points per game rank fifth on the team. But it is Allen’s advances in running the Patriots that have made the greatest impact for Mason, which is a game clear of Drexel, Old Dominion and Virginia Commonwealth in the bunched-up CAA standings.

Since his brief demotion, Allen has 38 turnovers in 17 games, and he’s averaging exactly two miscues per contest on conference play.

“It’s becoming very comfortable,” Allen said. “I’ve been talking to the coaching staff, watching film a lot and learning to be a point guard because I’m not a combo guard, I’m a point guard and that’s what I’ll have to play if I’m going to play at the next level.”

The adjustment is still taking place. Allen drove into packs a couple of times early in the first half against the Seahawks as part of the Patriots’ forgettable start.

But after Allen played the final 31 minutes without a turnover, Peterson knows more than enough about Mason’s point guard.

“He’s done a great job,” Peterson said. “I like his size. He goes to the goal strong and makes big plays out there. He’s under control. He runs the team and looks like everybody’s listening to him. He’s been a big boost to them.”

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