Strong work on boards leads to win over Dukes
After getting hammered on the boards in a loss Saturday at UNC Wilmington, there was little doubt about the top priority for George Mason on Tuesday night against James Madison. But playing its rival, it took more than inspired rebounding.
Getting 23 points from junior Sherrod Wright and clutch play off the bench from junior Bryon Allen and freshman Marko Gujanicic, the Patriots rallied from a seven-point second-half deficit to subdue the Dukes for the eighth straight time 68-57 before 4,241 at Patriot Center.
Gujanicic hit a pair of 3-pointers in the final nine minutes, the second touching off a 10-0 run that put George Mason (10-7, 3-2) in command. Earlier in the half, Allen (seven points, four rebounds, three assists, two steals) fueled the comeback with five straight points.
While those were the particulars of the rally, the constant for George Mason was its whopping 48-29 edge on the boards, which helped erase the memory of Saturday's embarrassing loss at UNC Wilmington, where the Patriots were outrebounded 51-27, leading to a 26-2 deficit on second-chance points.
Before Monday's practice, coach Paul Hewitt emphasized the need for all of the Patriots to take responsibility for rebounding. His words were heeded especially by Gujanicic (10 points, 10 rebounds), junior reserve Paris Bennett (two points, seven rebounds) and sophomore forward Anali Okoloji (seven points, six rebounds).
"Our goal was to try and hold them under 11 offensive rebounds, and we held them to nine," Hewitt said. "I told them before the game, just play the way you played against Wilmington but just don't give up the second-chance points and we'll be fine."
James Madison (9-9, 3-2) bolted to a 31-22 lead in the first half as freshman Ron Curry (11 points) hit back-to-back 3-pointers. But in the second half, George Mason's superior depth and relentless work on the boards was too much to withstand.
The 10-0 run was George Mason at its best as Allen made a midcourt steal and streaked for a layup and junior guard Vertrail Vaughns followed with the next four points for a 59-50 lead.
"They dominated us on the glass," James Madison coach Matt Brady said.