|Around the Rim: Allen Leads Deep Backcourt|
Buzz Peterson, the UNC Wilmington coach, was analyzing game film on George Mason last week when he kept seeing No. 0 making impressive plays and moves.
"I asked my assistant: Who is this? Who in the world is this?" Peterson said.
The coach got a live look Monday at Bryon Allen as the sophomore point guard led the Patriots to a 67-61 win with 17 points, 13 in the second half that included some important plays down the stretch.
"I like his size," Peterson said of the 6-foot-3, 214-pounder. "He goes to the goal strong. He made some big plays out there. He's under control. He runs the team. It looks like everybody's listening to him.
"He's been a big boost for them. Last week I was like, 'Where'd he come from?' He's been a big help for them."
Peterson understandably wouldn't remember Allen from last season, when the player was a little-used reserve who averaged 5.8 minutes a game with playing time decreasing as the season continued. This season he's had ups and downs. While he made some key shots and drives against UNCW, he also had no assists.
"Bryon is getting better, slowly but surely," says Mason coach Paul Hewitt. "Obviously no assists tonight, which was a combination of us not shooting the ball the way we're used to shooting it and him needing to make better decisions. Obviously he made some big plays at the end that helped us win."
While Allen is making himself a fixture at the point, he's also part of an unusually deep back court that includes freshman backup point Corey Edwards plus starters Vertrail Vaughns and Andre Cornelius along with reserves Sherrod Wright and Vaughn Gray. That's a six-player rotation and the hot hand on the perimeter seems to change every game.
While the Patriots struggled with 1-for-16 three-point shooting against the Seahawks, Allen was there to finish fast breaks and drives or to hit pull up jumpers. The game before, it was Wright scoring 22 in a win against Towson.
"Before that it was Vaughn Gray," said Hewitt, referring to a 19-point performance against James Madison.
The coach likes having so many options in the backcourt, especially during the current stretch of six games in 13 days: "We've talked about the importance of the bench. When you go through a long season ... you need different people to step up and play. If you're relying on the same guys every night, fatigue or good defense can take them out. That's what good teams do."
Allen also likes the depth: "Our backcourt is very talented. I feel we have the best backcourt in the CAA. If guys are struggling any given night, it could be any of our nights in the backcourt. Tonight happened to be my night. We stay positive and push each other, stay positive with each other."
FEELING BETTER: Freshman post Erik Copes, who missed his fourth consecutive game, did a workout this past Wednesday, his first on-court activity since his frightening fall against Drexel that left him with a bruised back, shoulder and neck.
He said that he was still sore after the workout. "I want to play (Wednesday at Hofstra), but I'm not sure they'll let me play," he said.
PRE-GAME ROUTINE: Coaches can struggle with deciding what to do for workouts prior to a game. Hewitt has held walkthroughs but has sometimes canceled shooting to save players' legs. Peterson surprised his team Monday by skipping a walkthrough at the Patriot Center, giving them 45 minutes at the mall and then doing some film work. The Seahawks shot 9-for-35 (.257) in the first half.
"I told them after the game, we're not doing that anymore," he said of the mall trip. "That's out the door."
Peterson wonders about the value of shooting sessions. He doesn't remember having them at North Carolina, where he was a teammate of Michael Jordan and a member of the 1982 NCAA title team.
"I guess at North Carolina you got some different ball players," he said. "You got McDonald's All-Americans."
WOMEN ON WIN STREAK: The Mason women's team (9-9, 3-4) is coming off a 71-58 win against VCU, heading into Thursday's home game against Towson. VCU senior Courtney Hurt was leading the country in rebounding but was held to five rebounds, nearly seven under her average.
Taleia Moton, a three-time CAA player of the week including earning honors this past Monday, continued her scoring and efficiency with 29 points on 12-for-14 shooting, a school record percentage for 10 or more attempts.
"Unbelievable," said Mason coach Jeri Porter of the 5-6 senior guard. "She's really settled in. She does a great job of picking her spots and staying within herself. And really, really being comfortable with our system. And getting her shots in the right spots. Not pressing, not trying to force anything. And it looks really, really good."
"If we can keep everyone playing on that level, there's a lot out there," Porter said. "But we haven't seen it all at one time. These last two games, we're starting to see it all."
Dick Patrick has been a sports writer for more than 35 years, including 24 at USA Today, and has covered eight Olympics and more than 15 Final Fours.