George Mason acquitted itself well against a highly regarded freshman in knocking off a Top 25 team in the first round of the Old Spice Classic.
The Colonials will get their chance versus a similarly proficient sophomore scorer Friday when they play No. 20 Villanova in the semifinals of the eight-team tournament in Orlando, Fla.
After a rebuilding season following its stunning run to the 2006 Final Four, George Mason improved to 4-0 for the first time in school history with a precision-like 87-77 victory over No. 18 Kansas State on Thursday. While Wildcats star freshman forward Michael Beasley scored 30 points, the sum of the Patriots—all five starters finishing in double figures, outrebounding the Wildcats 39-37 and turning back every second-half charge—proved to be greater than Kansas State’s star parts.
“Physical talent. Everybody recognizes that, and we put so much emphasis on the more talented team should win,” said George Mason coach Jim Larranaga, who starts three seniors and a redshirt junior. “But there’s all different kinds of talent. Experience gives you a talent of understanding. If you’re smart, and you use that experience and recognize things then you counterbalance physical talent. I think that’s what our seniors did tonight.”
John Vaughan hit three 3-pointers and scored 21 points as George Mason made 8 of 17 shots from 3-point range. Senior guard John Carter added 10 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, while Folarin Campbell and Will Thomas each had 18 points.
Thomas is averaging a team-high 17.5 points and shooting 63.4 percent from the field, but the Patriots are shooting just 38.0 percent through their first four games.
After struggling to contain Beasley, George Mason will face a different challenge in slowing Villanova’s sophomore guard Scottie Reynolds, who had 19 points in a 76-68 victory over Central Florida. The 6-foot-2 guard, who averaged 18.4 points en route to winning the 2007 Big East Freshman of the Year award, made five free throws in the final 1:42 to offset a 4-for-14 shooting effort from the field.
In addition to Reynolds, the Patriots will have to find a way to defend freshman guard Corey Fisher, who picked up Reynolds from the field and scored 10 of his 18 points in the second half in his first extensive action of the season. Fisher missed Villanova’s first game with tendinitis in his left knee, and played just four minutes Sunday against Bucknell.
“We’re not even seeing him at 100 percent,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said of his freshman guard, who went 4-for-8 from 3-point range and 6-for-13 overall. “He missed a lot of practice. … But he’s been very, very coachable. I’m very pleased with his effort.”
Reggie Redding added 14 points as Villanova made 11 3-pointers and is shooting 36.8 percent from beyond the arc in its first three games.
Reynolds is averaging 15.7 points but shooting just 13 of 37 (35.1 percent).
Villanova has won both games between the teams, most recently an 86-76 triumph Nov. 16, 1998.
The winner of this game will play either South Carolina or North Carolina State in the championship game Sunday. The losers of those games will play for third place.