Patriots Knock Off Virginia in Home Opener

November 10, 2012   ·   1 Comments

Cody Norman, Editor-in-Chief

With seconds remaining on the shot clock and the game knotted at 57, junior Bryon Allen pulled up on the right wing and drained a contested 3-pointer.

Stephen Kline/Courtside Seats

In a game that played witness to 16 lead changes, the big  shot from Allen with under a minute remaining gave the Patriots the final lead of the ballgame, propelling them to a 63-59 victory over big brother institution, the University of Virginia.

“That’s a great way to start the season,” said coach Paul Hewitt, who is in his second season as coach of the Patriots.

Though a back injury kept him sidelined for two weeks leading up to the season, forcing him to miss both exhibition games, Allen earned the start over sophomore Corey Edwards and emerged as the leader for a team without any true seniors. In his first time back out on the floor in  a game situation since the injury, Allen racked up 32 minutes of playing time, tallying 13 points and handing out five assists.

“For him to play all those minutes after sitting out two full weeks, that says a lot about his toughness,” Hewitt said.

Without last season’s leaders, Mike Morrison and Ryan Pearson, the Patriots were in search of a go-to player down the stretch and Allen, who scored seven points in the  final  two minutes of the game, knew all along he had to be that guy.

“I planned on [taking over] from the start,” Allen said. “For our team to win, I knew I was going to have to play big. I wanted to make them adjust to my pace, so it wasn’t me adjusting to their pace.”

Both Allen and Edwards struggled mightily last season, their first full season of significant playing time, and contributed to a 15.2 turnovers per game clip. Both point guards – even Edwards, in his limited minutes – did a much better job controlling the pace of  the game for the Patriots, who committed just 10 turnovers on the evening.

“We’re a lot better team than we were last year, even though we had the Player of the Year [Ryan Pearson],” Allen said. “We know we can compete with anybody, as long as we don’t turn the ball over.”

Playing a lot of minutes in his first appearance for the Patriots, freshman Marko Gujanicic contributed six points and seven rebounds off the bench for Hewitt. Gujancic emerged as a player to watch after leading the team in scoring in the Patriots’ first exhibition victory against Bowie State.

“[Marko]’s the most skilled player, I think, on our team in terms of passing, shooting and ball handling,” Hewitt said. “And he also has a lot of experience. He’s not your average freshman.”

Redshirt juniors Johnny Williams and Sherrod Wright, along with redshirt sophomore Anali Okoloji, contributed very strong performances to the winning effort.

 

Gallery: Patriots 63, Cavaliers 59

Postgame Show: Courtside Seats Postgame Show

 

Williams, who led the team in minutes, scored 11 points and came away with three steals in his first action following a medical redshirt last season while Wright led the Patriots with 15 points on six of nine shooting. Okoloji turned in a modest eight points and four rebounds but set the tone on the defensive end and served as the emotional leader for Hewitt’s team.

Although they escaped with the victory, the Patriots were unable to capitalize on their frequent trip to the free throw line, as poor free throw shooting kept the Cavaliers within striking  distance throughout the night. Wright, who was an 85 percent shooter last season, was just one-for-five from the stripe and the team only connected on eight of 19 attempts.

“We’ve been really practicing free throws,” said Gujanicic, who was 0-for-4 from theline. “We shoot a lot of free throws everyday and we have to make a certain percentage. Tonight, I’m not sure what happened. We’ll make sure that doesn’t happen in the future.”

Despite their struggles from the charity stripe, Mason showed great resiliency and did not allow missed free throws to serve as an excuse. Along with Allen, Williams and Gujanicic knocked down some big shots in key moments to propel the Patriots to victory.

Though a win against ACC competitor UVA may play a role in possible postseason  destinations, Hewitt and the Patriots are not thinking ahead and turn their focus to Tuesday night’s matchup with the Bucknell Bison.

“We’ve got to go on the road and play a tough Bucknell team that just beat Purdue,” Hewitt said. “That’s what resonates right now.”

 

*Bill Rohland will have the call live on WGMURadio.com and GoMason.com for the 7 p.m. tip-off

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Readers Comments (1)

  1. Ricky

    Cheat the election? Declare vitocry early? Wow, dejavu! Remember what happened 4 years ago? The vitocry was declared for W by Fox News, after which all the other major networks followed suit. After recount after recount, it didn’t even matter any more because the people believed Bush had won. So never mind the fact that he didn’t win the popular vote. This is an obvious illustration that our system doesn’t work. If there’s going to be any cheating of the election going on, you should be more worried about it coming from W’s camp. They’ve done it before and they can do it again.

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