George Mason eeks out win in exhibition hoops

The George Mason men’s basketball team saw five players score in double figures as the Patriots outlasted a pesky Bowie State squad, 76-72, in exhibition action Thursday night at the Patriot Center. Leading the way was freshman Marko Gujanicic, who had 16 points in his unofficial Mason debut.

Adding to the Patriot offense was sophomore Erik Copes who had 13 points, while junior Vertrail Vaughns contributed 12, sophomore Anali Okoloji had 11 and junior Jonathan Arledge scored 10. In total, 11 different Patriots saw action in the preseason tuneup. Byron Westmorland accounted for 30 points for the NCAA Division II Bulldogs, who were picked to win the CIAA Northern Division title.

Mason had offensive struggles early, connecting on just one of their first nine field goal attempts, a layup by Copes. The Patriots would trail the Bulldogs for more than six minutes of the contest, until a Vaughns fast break layup tied the score at five.  It was part of a 9-2 run that gave the Patriots a 12-7 advantage less than midway through the first half. That lead held up until the 10-minute mark when Westmorland’s 3-pointer put the Bulldogs up 16-14.

The Patriots though, would take the lead back as the first half clock winded down. Mason used a 14-0 run spanning more than three minutes to take a 36-29 lead with less than 30 seconds to go. Westmorland hit a 3-pointer in to stop the run, but Johnny Williams answered with a trey of his own as the horn sounded to set the halftime score of 39-32.

Gujanicic led the Patriots with 12 points in the first half on 6-of-8 shooting, while Westmorland had 17 to lead all scorers. The Patriots shook off a rough start from the field to shoot 48.5 percent in the first half (16-33), compared to a 48 percent mark for the Bulldogs (12-25). Bowie State won the rebounding battle by a 17-16 margin, but committed 16 turnovers to just eight for Mason.

Bowie State pulled within a possession at 48-46 with a 7-0 run, nearly erasing the Patriots halftime advantage six and a half minutes into the period. The Bulldogs inched closer, regaining the lead at 51-49 on a Dameatric Scott 3-pointer at the 12:36 mark. Arledge knocked down a jumper just beyond the stripe to tie the score, and a Okoloji layup would make the score 53-51 Patriots.

The Patriots opened up a lead as large as six from then on, but again the Bulldogs countered, tying the score at 64 with just over five minutes left in the contest. The Patriots would not trail again in the game, using a 12-4 run to open a 76-68 advantage after an Okoloji layup with 1:26 left.

For the game, the Bulldogs shot 53.2 percent compared to a 50 percent mark for the Patriots, but committed 27 turnovers to the Patriots 19. Mason also won the rebounding battle by a 33-32 margin.

Mason opens the season on Friday, November 9 when it hosts in-state foe Virginia. Tip-off against the Cavaliers is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Patriot Center.

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