SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP)—The first basket of Isaiah Armwood’s college basketball career was a big one.
The freshman hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 17 seconds left, rallying fifth-ranked Villanova over George Mason 69-68 Thursday in the O’Reilly Auto Parts Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
“He was the last one I wanted to take the shot. I’ll be honest,” Villanova coach Jay Wright admitted.
The Wildcats (3-0) trailed by 13 points in the first half and were behind 68-66 with time ticking down.
Armwood hit his only shot, connecting from the top of the arc. He played just four minutes, coming off the bench after Antonio Pena and Taylor King both fouled out.
“It felt good when it left my hand. It felt even better after the game,” Armwood said.
Wright, by the way, said Armwood now “definitely” has a green light to shoot away.
The Wildcats never led until late in the second half. They were down 67-63 in the final minute, then freshman Maalik Wayns hit a 3.
After Sherrod Wright made one of two free throws for George Mason, Armwood made his 3. The Patriots (2-1) did not get off another shot.
Scottie Reynolds scored 18 points despite relentless pressure from George Mason’s guards, who contributed to his eight turnovers. He said he was eager to improve in the second round of the tournament Friday.
“I’m going to have to watch the film and I’ll come back better tomorrow,” he said.
Wright said he was surprised his team did not handle George Mason’s intensity better.
“They had a great game plan, and they did a great job on our guards,” he said. “We’re going to take this one and learn from it.”
Reynolds’ jumper with seven minutes left gave Villanova its first lead. Ryan Pearson responded with a basket for the Patriots.
Pearson led the Patriots with 14 points and star guard Cam Long added 13 before leaving the game because of cramps. Andre Cornelius had 13.
Patriots coach Jim Larranaga, whose team led 37-28 at halftime, said he was happy with his team’s effort.
“With such a young team, the one thing I can’t do is be impatient with them,” he said.
Corey Fisher went 14 for 18 from the foul line and finished with 17 points for Villanova. Pena had 10 points and 12 rebounds and King had eight points.