LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP)—George Mason’s poise and experience were too much for talented, but young Kansas State.
“Physical talent. Everybody recognizes that, and we put so much emphasis on the more talented team should win,” said George Mason coach Jim Larranaga after the Patriots upset the 18th-ranked Wildcats 87-77 in the opening round of the Old Spice Classic on Thursday night.
“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 scored 21 points and Folarin Campbell and Will Thomas each added 18 for the George Mason (4-0), which has won four straight to start a season for the first time in school history.
The Patriots, who made a surprising run to the Final Four two seasons ago, started three seniors, a fourth-year junior in Vaughan, and a freshman. Kansas State (3-1) countered with four freshmen, including leading scorer Michael Beasley, and one senior.
“They played like a senior team. They executed, they scored, they made tough shots. They made the shots we should have,” Blake Young, the Wildcats’ senior said. “You live and you learn. We didn’t play our best, but we’ve still got a lot of chances to prove that we’re good.”
George Mason advanced to Friday’s second round against No. 20 Villanova, a 76-68 winner over Central Florida. Kansas State will face UCF in the loser’s bracket.
Beasley had at least 30 points for the third time in four games for Kansas State (3-1). But the 6-foot-10 freshman rode the bench for long stretches because of foul trouble and the Wildcats were unable to make up for his absence.
Beasley scored 22 after halftime to finish with 30 points and 10 rebounds. But he got little help from his teammates until it was too late.
“That again is a learning process for us,” Kansas State coach Frank Martin said. “We were so dependent on Mike the first three games of the season that we have to learn that life goes on when he’s not in the game.”
George Mason built a 39-30 halftime lead, taking advantage of Beasley sitting out the last 7:52 of the opening half. The Patriots led by as many 15 after intermission and withstood every challenge Kansas State posed in the final 15 minutes.
The score was tied at 20 when Beasley picked up his second foul and left the game with just under 8 minutes remaining in the first half. George Mason scored eight quick points to begin a 19-10 run that carried the Patriots to their halftime lead.
Beasley made 13 of 20 shots, but Kansas State was just 2-of-16 on 3-point attempts and never got closer than six points, 69-63, in the second half. Vlad Moldoveanu answered with a 3-pointer, then Campbell followed with a layup and free throw to put George Mason back in control.
Moldoveanu finished with 11 points and Jordan Carter added 10 for George Mason.
Jacob Pullen scored 14 points and Bill Walker had 11 before fouling out with 4:27 left. Beasley picked up his third foul 18 minutes left and drew his fourth with 8:29 remaining. He left the game both times, but was able to finish and match his season scoring average.
“He’s an incredible offensive player,” Larranaga said of Beasley. “Everybody is comparing him very favorably to Kevin Durant, and I’d be right there with the experts saying this kid is something special, especially on the offensive end and the boards.”