George Mason was missing shots from all distances and angles Saturday, an unsightly display matched by Old Dominion. So it was perversely appropriate that Corey Edwards’s three-point fling at a vital juncture figured so prominently in the Patriots’ 54-50 victory.
With the Patriots leading by three and about 3½ minutes left, the freshman point guard fired a desperate shot from the left wing that caromed off the backboard and splashed through the net — a moment of good fortune on an otherwise brutal evening for two of the Colonial Athletic Association’s elite teams.
“I saw the [shot] clock, there were like three or four seconds, and I kind of jabbed at [the defender] and he backed up,” Edwards said. “When I shot it, it felt kind of funny. It’s either going to be off the backboard or it’s going to be an air ball.”
The pivotal bank shot — Edwards’s only basket of the game — provided just enough breathing room for the Patriots (19-6, 11-2) to maintain a share of first place in the CAA with Virginia Commonwealth and Drexel.
“He’s going to try to convince me he wanted to put it off the glass,” Patriots Coach Paul Hewitt said. “I told him: ‘I grew up in New York just like you. I know!’ ”
Edwards’s shot was George Mason’s only three-pointer on 10 attempts and among just 13 field goals on 47 tries (27.7 percent). Despite shooting 20 percent in the first half and committing 21 turnovers overall, the Patriots won for the 12th time in 14 games in front of a sellout crowd of 9,840.
Ryan Pearson scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half and added 10 rebounds and three steals. He and Mike Morrison, a 44 percent career free throw shooter, combined to make 17 of 20 from the line.
The Patriots entered the game first in the CAA in scoring and field goal percentage, but for the third time in four games, they shot worse than 34 percent in the opening half.
They again lacked rhythm and took poor shots. A baseline attempt hit the side of the backboard, another the underside. They had three early shots blocked, missed layups, made entry passes into crowds and tossed away the ball without defensive pressure.
“I asked them, ‘Who are you guys?’ ” said Hewitt, whose team faced a 26-20 halftime deficit.
The wretchedness continued in the second half as the Monarchs went 7½ minutes without a point and nine-plus minutes without a field goal. ODU’s futility allowed the Patriots to find their groove at both ends. They established an inside game and turned turnovers into transition baskets to build a 36-30 lead.
“We didn’t play our best basketball in the first half, but we tried to come out and establish ourselves in the first five minutes of the second half,” Pearson said. “We just have to stick with our [defensive] principles. Our offense is going to come.”
The misses and turnovers continued, however, until Edwards’s three-pointer. Later, with ODU trailing by three, Iliadas missed an open three-pointer with 42 seconds left. The Patriots then sealed it by making 8 of 10 free throws.