GMU has extraordinary depth. Even with two of their top players suspended – center Erik Copes and guard Vaughn Gray – the Patriots rotated 10, none who looked out of their element. Mason coach Paul Hewitt will have a nice problem when Copes and Gray return, deciding now many capable players he wants to use.
Williams’ transformation. With a weight loss of roughly 40 pounds, junior Johnny Williams is better equipped for the fast-paced style Hewitt runs. Former coach Jim Larranaga liked to run his offense through big, wide low-post players such as Jai Lewis and Darryl Monroe. Williams fit the prototype, peaking out at 275 pounds before going lean. With his new face-up game, the 6-8 junior was productive Friday night, hitting 5 of 7 shots, scoring 11 points, with three steals and two blocks. The only negative – just three rebounds in 37 minutes.
Missing the point. With Mason applying full-court pressure most of the way, Virginia did well to mask its deficiency at point guard, making just six turnovers in the first 28 minutes. But with starter Jontel Evans (foot) out along with Malcolm Brogden (foot) and Teven Jones (suspension), the Cavaliers’ lack of a quality ball-handler was costly down the stretch.
Making the point. Mason exploited its edge at point guard as Bryon Allen (13 points, five assists, four rebounds) scored seven of his points in the decisive final 2:48, including the tie-breaking 3-pointer with 62 seconds left. Allen, who hit both of his 3-point tries, appears to be an improved shooter after making 17 percent from the arc a year ago. Sophomore Corey Edwards (four points, two assists, no turnovers) didn’t miss a shot or commit a turnover in eight productive minutes.
Marko Gujanicic. The 6-8 freshman from Serbia demonstrated his multi-skilled repertoire with six points, seven rebounds, and three assists in 25 minutes. He hit a long 3-point buzzer-beater at the close of the first half. Lone negative was his missing four straight free throws in a span of 29 seconds midway through the second half. GMU guard Sherrod Wright (15 points) also struggled at the free-throw line, missing 4 of 5.
Justin Anderson. The 6-foot-6 freshman from Montrose Christian has the body, athleticism, and skills to be compared to a smaller Michael Beasley. But in contrast to Gujanicic, Anderson (four points, three assists, three rebounds) was tentative on Friday night, making 1 of 5 shots from the floor and 2 of 5 from the line. In the final 2:15 he committed a turnover and missed a critical 1-and-1 free throw. There’s little doubt however that he belongs. Expect him to improve quickly from his nervous debut.