To George Mason Coach Paul Hewitt’s relief, there was no threat of overtime Monday. Far from it.
Senior forward Ryan Pearson continued his torrid start with 23 points on 9-of-14 shooting, six rebounds and three steals in front of 1,536 spectators at Patriot Center. Freshman Vaughn Gray added a career-best 10 points for the Patriots (3-2), who will play their third game in four days Tuesday against Albany (3-2) in Fairfax.
The Great Danes routed Monmouth, 85-49, in the opener of Monday’s doubleheader. Brown (2-3) and Monmouth (0-4) will meet in Tuesday’s first game.
The Patriots took charge with a 17-2 surge midway through the first half and held the Bears to 33 percent shooting.
“We picked up our defense early, got into them, just made them a little bit uncomfortable,” said Pearson, a player-of-the-year candidate in the Colonial Athletic Association who is averaging 20.8 points and 9.4 rebounds and shooting 62 percent.
“He does a good job of pressuring the basketball and getting us settled, and not just running and forcing action,” Hewitt said of the 5-foot-11 Edwards. “That doesn’t mean we’ve given up on Bryon. Bryon is going to have to be a key contributor, but maybe he is having some adjustment to playing point guard full-time.”
Edwards had six points and four assists while committing just one turnover — an encouraging sign for a team averaging 18 giveaways. “It’s humbling” to start as a freshman, he said. “I was really excited.”
Although the 11 turnovers were the fewest of the season, Hewitt remains concerned about the decision-making and execution in his fast-paced style. “I still want us to keep pushing, I still want us to run the floor,” he said, “but certainly we’ve got to cut down those turnovers in the open floor.”
While turnovers remained an issue, the shooting was not. The Patriots made 54 percent in the first half to build a 37-21 lead and had 42 points in the lane overall. Defensively, their perimeter pressure limited the Bears to 5-of-25 three-pointers; Brown had made 41 percent from that distance in the first four games.
The Bears, picked to finish fifth in the eight-team Ivy League, offered resistance for about eight minutes before succumbing to George Mason’s superior size, athletic ability and tempo.
“Quick! Quick! Quick! Quick! Quick!” Hewitt quacked with each defensive rebound.
Vertrail Vaughns’s steal and layup provided the first double-digit lead, 25-14. Mike Morrison added a dunk and layup, and Pearson contributed a pair of late baskets. Eleven of the Patriots’ 14 first-half field goals came in the lane.
Pearson, who produces most of his points with bullish work, made two three-pointers early in the second half to stretch the lead to 52-26.
Sophomore guard Sherrod Wright, a usual starter who missed Saturday’s game at Florida Atlantic with a wrist injury, returned to play 16 minutes, all in the first half.
“I didn’t think we were going to have him until right before gametime,” Hewitt said. “We got up [with the big lead] and I just decided to cut back his minutes because we needed to bring him along slowly.”
Junior forward Paris Bennett, who was expected to play significant minutes this season, remains sidelined with an ankle injury. He might make his debut Nov. 30 against Bucknell, Hewitt said.