FAIRFAX, Va. - For the third-straight season, the Catholic University men's basketball team had the opportunity to face a Division I opponent as the Cardinals made the short trip to George Mason on Wednesday, falling to the Patriots at Eagle Bank Arena, 74-33.
"It feels really good to get the first one out of the way and it is really important that I got it with a game that was an exhibition," said first-year head coach Aaron Kelly. "I told the guys today that we have some freshman here who are going to be playing in their first game and their going to be nervous while I am coaching my first game and I am going to be nervous."
After George Mason scored the game's first basket, Catholic responded on their next possession with a three-pointer by senior Collin Hartmann just 15 seconds later to take a 3-2 lead.
The Patriots used a 5-0 run to go in front 8-3 before four-straight points by senior Riley Hayes pulled the Cardinals within one, 8-7.
"I thought we played hard in the first half," said Kelly. "I was really happy with the way that we competed. I thought we did a good job defensively keeping them in front."
Another jumper by Huerter pulled the Cards within seven, 24-17, before George Mason scored seven of the last nine points over the final 57 seconds, including a three-pointer from just over half court by Jamal Hartwell II to take a 31-19 lead at the break.
The Patriots scored 22 of their 31 first-half points in the paint and nine off nine Catholic turnovers.
George Mason opened the second half on a 14-0 run before sophomore Will Mulquin snapped the Cards' 6:12 scoring drought on a three-pointer with 14:33 left in the second half.
The Patriots outscored the Cardinals in the second half, 43-14.
"In the second half, I thought they made a couple of baskets to take our energy away," commented Kelly. "We really struggled through the second half fighting through offensive scoring droughts."
Hayes finished with seven points and four rebounds while Huerter added four points and six rebounds. Sophomore Zach Spooner, a transfer from St. Mary's College of Maryland, totaled six points.
"I think we'll take good things away from this game and I think we're going to be better for having played it," said Kelly.