The men’s basketball team in Fairfax, Virginia has a new piece of hardware to add to the trophy case. “I think their guys knew that we were fine and that we could come back and buckle down defensively. That’s where we strive, we are a great offensive rebounding team,” said George Mason basketball head coach Dave Paulsen after a 68-64 comeback win over New Mexico State Wednesday in the finals of the Cayman Islands Classic.
The Patriots overcame a 15-point first-half deficit to claim the crown in the third edition of the tournament. “I knew they would come out to punch us in the mouth or at least attempt to and we talked a lot about that, how we would react to it when they do that,” Aggies coach Chris Jans said. “I wasn’t impressed by our lack of punching back. We’re just not there yet with this group.” In its third year, tournament organisers say the event is on the upswing and coaches agreed.
“I thought it was a phenomenal event, obviously the weather is great and the beaches. This is a great venue for a classic like this. This gym is a perfect size and it was loud, and the quality competition. Really excellent officials, you can’t underestimate that, so it was a great experience,” said Coach Paulsen. While the purpose was to prepare for their respective upcoming seasons, Paulsen took his team to experience Cayman’s hospitality. “We had some fun with the team, jet skiing, paddle boarding, snorkeling and some of that stuff,” he added.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers (4-3) took bronze with a 74-67 win against USF (3-4). George Mason’s AJ Wilson earned tournament MVP honours after scoring 12 points grabbing 14 rebounds. With a victory over the Aggies, the Virginia Patriots move to 8-1 with a lost only to the undefeated Maryland Terrapins (6-0) earlier in the season. Riding off momentum, George Mason will be looking to continue their winning ways when they play Jacksonville State Gamecocks Tuesday at home.