George Mason needed big shots by Jamal Hartwell II and serious board work by AJ Wilson to defeat Navy, 68-55 in overtime.
The Mids went up by three with 1:11 left before Hartwell II (12 points) hit the game tying three with 50 seconds remaining. Wilson would grab 9 offensive rebounds (11 overall) and finish with a team high 15 points.
Without Justin Kier (foot injury), the big question becomes ‘where will the scoring come from’?
Hartwell II and Javon Greene would hit big shots in overtime but it can’t be ignored that they shot a combined 8-25. Last season, Jordan Miller busted on the scene with double digit scoring games but he only had nine last night, in part, because he only had six shot attempts. Without Kier, it is imperative that Miller get more scoring touches than he received last night.
And what has happened to Goanar Mar? After having 19 double-digit games as a freshman, he’s regressed offensively. Mar only had two double digit games last season but it can be argued that was because he was injured part of the season. But, last night he looked non-existent in an 0-4, 22 minute performance.
The Patriots free throws were also a source of contention. They shot 8-15 from the charity stripe.
Navy plays a deliberate brand of basketball and found themselves down 13 in the second half. That should’ve been close to a death sentence for the Mids. Instead, George Mason couldn’t find their shooting touch against the 2-3 zone and found themselves behind with 44-41 with 6:29 left.
In overtime, the Patriots got off to a quick start and then they spread the floor and beat Navy off the dribble. “They just spread us out and drove us,” said Navy head coach Ed DeChellis. But can this team do this on a consistent basis against better competition? Navy is one thing, VCU is another.
There’s no need to sound sirens after the first game of the season. This team will grow into their roles especially freshman Xavier Johnson. In his first career game, Johnson shot 5-7 and scored 15 points. More importantly, he gave the Patriots a shot of energy that was sorely needed. It was enough to overlook the four turnovers he committed. “The kids has got a chance to be special, said George Mason head coach Dave Paulsen. He’s going to make some freshman mistakes but getting in the paint and scoring, got his hands on a lot of balls.”
It’s just one game but the Atlantic 10 is expected to be a multi-bid conference this season. The night in-night out competition warrants a better performance than last night’s.