Transfers lead the way as Mason starts the season with a victory.
BY GABRIEL KING, SPORTS EDITOR
Mason men’s basketball defeated Monmouth 72-61 in Monday’s season opener. The Patriots were led by transfers Amari Kelly, from UNC Wilmington, and Darius Maddox, from Virginia Tech, who each scored 17 points.
“It’s the first of many and I’m happy with the effort,” said head coach Tony Skinn. The victory is Skinn’s first as a collegiate head coach after eight seasons as an assistant coach at various schools. And while the Patriots only trailed for 27 seconds, Monmouth kept the game competitive until the final minutes.
Monmouth had a strong defensive showing, particularly when they played zone, which helped them get within four points with eight minutes to play. Kelly and Maddox then hit back-to-back three-pointers to extend the Patriots’ lead.
Due to the offseason coaching change, Mason’s roster experienced an overhaul, with multiple new players entering the program, and those additions paid dividends immediately. Kelly and Maddox led the way, and fellow transfers Woody Newton and Keyshawn Hall contributed 10 and 7 points, respectively. Hall also recorded 10 rebounds.
“With the work we’ve put in, it doesn’t surprise me that these guys have stepped up. And I think we’re deep and talented enough where it’s going to require different guys on different nights to be able to step up,” Skinn said. And while the transfers stepped up offensively, the entire team delivered a stout defensive performance.
Mason held Monmouth to 33.8% shooting and outrebounded the Hawks 48-36. The Patriots also blocked 7 shots, 3 of which came from Kelly. “On a night where, offensively, we were out of sync… defensively we stayed in it,” Skinn said.
While offensive success is important, the team prides itself on its defensive performance. “Defense wins championships, so that was huge for us. That’s our goal every game,” Kelly said of the team’s defensive effort. Maddox agreed with Kelly, adding that it is important to “keep that energy [on defense] and build on leads.”
Despite the loss, Monmouth received strong performances from Xander Rice and Jack Collins, who scored 21 and 17 points, respectively. They were the only two Hawks to score in double figures. Outside of those two, Monmouth struggled to produce offensively, mainly because of the Patriots’ strong defense.
Next up for the Patriots is a home game against Austin Peay on Friday night at 7 p.m. at EagleBank Arena. The Patriots will be looking to start 2-0 for the first time since 2021, when they started 4-0.