What a huge week for basketball in Fairfax. Over the next five days, four home basketball games will be played at Patriot Center starting with tonight’s women’s basketball home opener. The Patriots, fresh off three road games in barely a week are now home for a pair. Tonight it’s UMBC that Mason will face at 7 p.m.
“We are taking the court for the first time at home to show everybody what we’ve doing,” senior Brittany Eley told GoMason.com yesterday. “We’ve had three away games and it’s prepared us to step up at home and show everybody what we’re about.”
The Patriots won the season-opener at UMass, 60-55 and then dropped a game two days later at Fairfield. This past Saturday, Mason played at Wichita State and after trailing by 15, Mason rallied to make it a one-possession game in the final minute before ultimately losing, 65-59. OK, so it wasn’t as memorable as the last time a Mason team played in Charles Koch Arena (a 70-67 men’s basketball win in 2006 that allowed Mason to be nationally ranked for the first time in basketball while also effectively securing an at-large spot in the NCAA Tournament), but it certainly allowed a team to show its character in the early season.
Coach Jeri Porter, for one, is happy to be playing some home games. “Just for the opportunity to not have to get up at 3 a.m. to catch a flight or some of the crazy things we’ve had to do in the last couple weeks that will keep us in a consistent routine,” Porter told GoMason.com after Monday’s practice. “Sleeping in our own beds, being able to just play in a the gym we’re familiar with. So we’re excited about the opportunity to open up at home and to get these next couple of games at home before traveling again.”
On Wednesday, the Patriot Center will see its first men’s basketball game since the Nov. 13 season-opener against Harvard. The Patriots won that game, 66-53, then followed it up with a 78-56 win over Charlotte in the Charleston Classic. Mason was unable to keep the momentum going, however, losing to North Carolina State and one of the nation’s top mid-majors, Wofford in overtime. Despite that result, Mason is one spot ahead of Wofford in the latest CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major poll. The Patriots are 10th while the Terriers are 11th. Other notables there are VCU in eighth, Old Dominion tied for third (with Wichita State) with Butler in second and Gonzaga in first. The Patriots host Radford tomorrow night at 7 p.m.
Speaking of CollegeInsider.com, the web site is holding a tournament to raise money for the American Heart Association with head coaches and assistant coaches competing in free-throw shooting contests. Twenty-five shots with the first 20 counting as one point, the next four as two points and the final as three points (for a maximum of 31 points if you make all 25 shots). Mason assistant Eric Konkol competed against Colorado State’s DeMarlo Slocum in the opening round and won, 31-28. Yes, the legendary free throw shooter showed his prowess making all 25 of his attempts. Next up for Konkol will be Rick Croy of St. Mary’s who won his opener despite missing three shots (they were all one pointers).
GoMason Blog would say that Thursday will be a day of inaction at Patriot Center, but both teams will practice there at some point on Thanksgiving. On Friday, the doors open to the public again with the women’s team hosting Radford. This will be the first time Porter will face Radford since leaving the Highlanders to take over the Patriots three years ago. That game is scheduled for 7 p.m.
On Saturday, the busy week concludes with the Patriots hosting Florida Atlantic at 4 p.m. That’s the second of five-straight home games for the Patriots. Better catch them during that stretch, though, as after Dec. 8, Mason doesn’t play at home until Jan. 3.
And of course, basketball isn’t alone in competing during Thanksgiving Weekend. The wrestling team will be at the Northeast Duals on Saturday in Albany. Cayle Byers is off to a 7-0 start this season with a tournament title at the Navy Classic and four wins at the Hershey Duals.