It’s a new era for men’s hoops at George Mason University, with 2006 Final Four team member Tony Skinn taking over head coaching duties following Kim English’s departure to Providence, and a batch of transfers highlighted by Darius Maddox (formerly of Virginia Tech) joining the lineup. Mason played host to Monmouth University on Monday night to open its season in front of an enthusiastic crowd at Fairfax’s EagleBank Arena, looking to start off the 2023-24 campaign 1-0.
Things got off to a slow start as neither team scored until more than two minutes into the game, when Jack Collins hit a three-pointer for Monmouth. Mason immediately answered with a triple of its own from Keyshawn Hall, and then another basket from senior standout Ronald Polite III to give the Patriots their first lead. They ended up going on a 13-0 run before Monmouth scored again, with Maddox hitting two threes during the run. The lead stayed around ten for most of the half, with Mason taking its biggest lead at 23-12, but Monmouth went on a 10-2 run late in the period to cut it to three. The Patriots took a 29-23 lead into the half, with Maddox leading the way with eight points.
The teams began the second half trading baskets, before an 11-3 Mason run – capped off by back-to-back Maddox triples – extended the lead back to double digits at 46-35. But Monmouth came right back with a 9-2 run of their own to cut it down to four, with the last four of those nine points coming from Collins as he converted an and-1 on a three-pointer. Thankfully for the home team, that would be the final scare they’d get, as minutes later another series of buckets put the Patriots ahead 59-47, and Monmouth wouldn’t get any closer than within seven from that point on. There was a moment of concern in the closing minutes, though, as big man Malik Henry took a hard fall on an unsuccessful alley-oop attempt, but he was able to walk off under his own power as his teammates closed out the 72-61 victory.
Maddox and Amari Kelly led the way with 17 points apiece, while Polite and Newton also got into double figures with 10. The team shot 45 percent (9 of 20) from deep and outrebounded Monmouth 44-32, with Hall earning ten of those boards to lead the team.
Skinn, who made his head coaching debut in the game, was all smiles in his postgame presser. “The goal was to be 1-0 after tonight… a lot of teams played today, and not all of them go 1-0,” he said, acknowledging that the victory would be the “first of many.” Skinn also gave an update on Henry, who he says is fine.
Mason’s next contest is this Friday, November 10th at 7 p.m. inside EagleBank Arena where they will take on 1-0 Austin Peay.