Since Virginia lost to George Washington at the beginning of the week, the Cavaliers have been near perfect winning their first two games in Charleston. For George Mason to complete its improbably run to the title game with a tournament championship, the Patriots were going to need to play even better than they had in wins over Ole Miss and Oklahoma State.
And while George Mason played exceedingly well for 20 minutes, Virginia was even better. The Cavaliers went 24 minutes before committing their first turnover, and shot a ridiculous 57.1 percent from the floor as they rolled to a, 83-66 win.
Mason received another strong game from Shevon Thompson, who scored 11 points and had eight rebounds, but the whole of the Patriots were slowed down in their pursuit of Virginia by foul trouble. Trying to counter Anthony Gill and Mike Tobey inside proved to be a challenge and no matter whom Dave Paulsen rotated into the middle to stop them, they would get blown for something.
Gill would finish with 15 points and Tobey added 14 points off the bench for the Cavaliers.
But it was the hot shooting of Malcolm Brogdon and London Perrantes that did in the Patriots more than the inside domination. Brogdon was 9-for-16 from the floor on his way to scoring 21, and Perrantes went 3-for-4 from 3-point range and finished with 16 points.
Overall, this weekend in Charleston has to be inspiring for a team that was picked to finish next to last in the Atlantic-10. Thompson emerged as a solid threat on the inside, after being basically non-existent in the offense during the season-opening losses to Mercer and Colgate.
Junior Marquise Moore looks more comfortable running the offense and using the personnel that Paulsen has transformed into this George Mason squad. It seems like he has come a long way from the player who shot just 4-for-14 against Colgate in the opening game.
And most importantly, it looks as if Paulsen has a future star in Jaire Grayer, a freshman who scored 15, 23 and 16 against three power conference teams. Against Virginia, he shot 7-for-11 from the floor and he was 10-for-15 for the tournament from 3-point range. He should be rocketing to the tops of list for freshman of the year in the A-10, and it isn't even Thanksgiving.
The Patriots will travel to Manhattan on Wednesday before completing their holiday week Saturday at home against Wright State.