Defense proves the key to a victory at home
George Mason coach Paul Hewitt used 12 players Saturday. To visiting Hofstra, it must have seemed like all of them were on the floor at the same time. Such was the suffocating defense applied by the Patriots.
Forcing 15 turnovers and limiting Hofstra to 22.9 percent shooting and 7.7 percent from beyond the arc, George Mason blanketed Hofstra in a 57-46 victory before 5,810 at Patriot Center. Junior guard Sherrod Wright led the Patriots with 21 points.
With its deep rotation, George Mason (11-7, 4-2) came well-equipped for a grind-it-out game against depth-challenged Hofstra (5-13, 2-3). While the Patriots' reserves logged 89 minutes, collecting 22 points and 18 rebounds, their counterparts from the Pride played only 41 minutes, combining for nine points and as many boards.
"They create a very tough style to play against. Their depth and their bodies and their style of play really wore us down," Hofstra coach Mo Cassara said. "Their depth really allows them to play aggressively."
The most productive of the Patriots' bench players was Jonathan Arledge. After playing only two minutes in a victory Tuesday night over James Madison, the 6-9 junior had eight points, a team-high seven rebounds and two blocks in 15 minutes.
After sophomore Taran Buie (14 points) made a 3-pointer 5:15 into the game to put Hofstra up 8-5, the Pride made only one field goal the rest of the half. A 3-pointer by Wright ignited an 11-0 run that put George Mason up 16-8. Later, a 3-pointer by sophomore Corey Edwards (eight points) and a layup by Arledge gave the Patriots their biggest lead of the half at 21-10.
Hofstra's best stretch came after intermission. Fueled by three layups from junior Stephen Nwaukoni (eight points, 12 rebounds), the Pride went on a 10-2 run to forge a 33-33 tie.
But George Mason immediately regained the lead and relied on its defense and the clutch offensive work of Wright the rest of the way. Hofstra was hard-pressed to get back into the game against a Patriots defense that didn't allow any fast-break points.
"It's just communication, calling the ball out, making sure we sprint back to the passing line of the ball," Wright said. "We've been keying on that in practice a lot."