FAIRFAX, Va. - Junior Bryon Allen drained a 3-pointer with a minute left to
break a 57-all deadlock then sank a pair of free throws in the waning seconds,
and the George Mason men's basketball team held on to defeat the University of
Virginia, 63-59, in both teams' season opener before a sold-out Patriot Center
crowd Friday night.
Mason (1-0) knocked off its in-state rival for the first
time in series history, snapping a streak of seven Virginia (0-1) victories. With
13 points, Allen was one of three Patriots in double-figure scoring, as
classmate Sherrod Wright led the team with 15 points while redshirt junior
Johnny Williams added 11 in his return to action following a medical redshirt
Other notable performances for the Patriots included eight
points and four rebounds for redshirt sophomore Anali Okoloji, who began his
Mason career after transferring from Seton Hall, and a seven-rebound,
six-point, three-assist night from freshman Marko Gujanicic. Williams, meanwhile,
had game highs of three steals and two blocks, playing all but three minutes.
UVA was led by 19 points, including four 3-pointers, and
eight rebounds from Joe Harris. The Cavaliers won the rebounding battle,
32-to-26, but were out-shot from the field by a 54.5-to-40.4 percent margin by
the Patriots, who committed just 10 turnovers compared to 12 for Virginia.
Wright and Allen dazzled the capacity crowd from the opening
tap, as the Patriots jumped out to a 5-0 lead behind Wright's 3-pointer and an
Allen Layup inside the first 60 seconds of play. The Patriots built a lead as
large as eight at 15-7, thanks to a 10-2 run that spanned nearly three minutes.
The Cavaliers would fight their way back, using a 9-0 run of
their own to take a 16-15 lead at the 10:08 mark behind a jumper from Darion
Atkins. It remained a one-possession game for the remainder of the first half,
with six total lead changes. The final one came as the horn sounded, as
Gujanicic drained a 3-pointer from NBA range to give the Patriots a 28-25 lead
For the first 10-plus minutes of the second half, the margin
remained again within one score, until a 6-2 run by Virginia made it 50-46
Cavaliers with eight minutes left in the game. Okoloji and Williams answered
with baskets to tie it at 50 with six minutes left. 90 seconds later, UVA took
what would be its final lead as a pair of free throws by Harris made it 55-51
at the 4:29 mark. Buckets by Williams and Wright tied the score at 55 with 3:11
to go, and Allen put Mason on top with his layup at the 2:48 mark.
Akil Mitchell, though, hit a pair of free throws with 1:34
remaining to knot the score at 57-all. 32 seconds later, Allen's trey from the right
side found the bottom of the net as the crowd erupted, and after a Williams
free throw made it a four-point game with 10 seconds left. Taylor Barnette
drove the length of the court and laid it in with four seconds showing on the
clock, but Allen was fouled on the inbound and hit both of his free throws to
ice the victory.
The Patriots improved to 28-19 in season openers and won its
tenth straight lid-lifter, improving upon an already school-record streak. It
was also just the fourth win for Mason over an Atlantic Coast Conference
school, while the 9,840 fans tied a program record hit seven times prior. It
was the largest crowd at a Mason home opener in program history.
Mason will next hit the road for its next four games, beginning
Tuesday night with a trip to Bucknell. Tip off from Sojka Pavilion is set for 7