It's been a rough start to the season for new George Mason Patriots head coach Dave Paulsen. The season started with a six game suspension of senior guard Patrick Holloway and then the Patriots dropped their first two games at home to Colgate and Mercer. Obviously those are tough losses for any Atlantic 10 fan base to take.
Mason went into the Charleston Classic on Thursday as one of the fields biggest underdogs. The Patriots first match up came against 2-0 Ole Miss and the Rebels were an 80% favorite to win according to Ken Pomeroy. Paulsen may not have come to Charleston to win but rather to get his team in tune for the key stretches of the season.
Paulsen did score his first win at Mason on Thursday though 68-62 over Andy Kennedy's squad. The Patriots held a narrow one point margin at the half and the balanced play of their starting five helped them build a lead in the second half.
Shevon Thompson looked like the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year candidate we knew before the season with 19 points, 16 rebounds, and a huge block in the last minute that sealed the game for the Patriots. Mason's big man is going to have to have these kinds of nights routinely for GMU to win. Forwards off the Patriot bench only provided 2 points and 3 rebounds on the day.
The other thing that stood out for GMU was the performance of their two freshman guards, Otis Livingston and Jaire Grayer. The two combined for 25 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists against the Rebels.
Perhaps confidence is all the Patriots need with a match up against Oklahoma State or Towson tomorrow in the Charleston Classic semifinals. Mason will play at 1 pm in game that will be televised on ESPN2 or ESPNU from TD Arena.