Men’s basketball defeated rival George Mason 78-75 at the EagleBank Arena in Fairfax, Virginia, in a crucial game on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
In addition to the established rivalry, Head Coach Chris Caputo served as an assistant coach at George Mason from 2005 to 2011, which included an appearance in the final four in 2006.
“It was great to be here and to see a lot of familiar faces, some of which were former players,” Caputo said. Further, “It has a special place for me.”
The Colonials shot 47.5 percent from the field and 41.7 percent from beyond the arc against the Patriots. The Colonials were hot from the start and took a 14-point lead after 10 minutes of play led by guard Brendan Adams, who recorded 22 points, eight rebounds and was 5-8 from beyond the arc in Monday’s win. Guard James Bishop IV had another strong performance, recording 19 points and eight assists.
In the final five minutes of the first half, the Patriots closed the gap against the Colonials, who struggled offensively and could not match George Mason’s offense, which went on a 14-2 run. The Colonials finished the first half with a thin lead of 30-25.
A-10 Rookie of the Week Maximus Edwards kicked off the second half with two shots from beyond the arc, expanding the Colonials’ lead to 37-25, which remained steady until the final three minutes of the second half.
In those final three minutes, the Patriots responded and went on an 8-0 run, led by forward Josh Oduro, who recorded 17 points in the second half alone. The Patriots cut the Colonials’ lead to just 2 points with less than 32 seconds remaining in the game.
The Patriots had the opportunity to tie or even take the lead. However, the Colonials’ defense kicked in gear, and the Patriots missed two consecutive shots which kept the Colonials in the lead.
James Bishop was fouled with five seconds remaining and hit one out of two free throws, expanding the Colonials’ lead to 3, which proved decisive. The Patriots couldn’t muster anything further, and the Colonials escaped with a decisive 78-75 win.
The Colonials had struggled on the defensive end of the floor in previous games, which makes their performance in Monday’s matchup especially noteworthy. Defense was crucial in Monday’s victory over the Patriots, which was particularly strong in the first half. The Colonials’ defense was able to hold Patriots’ star Josh Oduro to zero points.
“[Oduro] is a great player, so you might not be able to stop him. We just came in and tried to contain him as best we can,” Edwards said in a post-press conference.
“We had a very good half defensively here. It allowed us to have a lead. Then you have to hope that you can hold on in the second half,” Caputo said.
According to ESPN, George Mason had an 84.9 percent chance of victory in Monday’s afternoon matchup. In the end, the Colonials came out with a win on the Patriots’ home turf.
“Just trusting each other. We got good players on the team. A big part of what we want to do is share the ball,” Adams said.
The Colonials’ next game will be against the Dayton Flyers Saturday at the Smith Center.