Rhode Island Vs. George Mason: Patriots Begin 2011-12 Season Vs. Atlantic 10 Foe

CLEVELAND, OH - MARCH 20: Ryan Pearson #24 of the George Mason Patriots reacts after a foul is called on Jared Sullinger #0 of the Ohio State Buckeyes during the third of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Quicken Loans Arena on March 20, 2011 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

George Mason will begin its 2011-12 season at home against Rhode Island on Friday night.

George Mason basketball will begin its 2011-12 season at home on Friday, taking on Atlantic 10 foe Rhode Island at the Patriot Center at 7:30 p.m. The game will mark the regular-season debut of new coach Paul Hewitt and will begin a season where much is expected, despite a tumultuous offseason that saw the transfer of starting forward Luke Hancock and legal problems for starting point guard Andre Cornelius.

The opponent is no pushover. Rhode Island won 20 games last season and finished 9-7 in a competitive Atlantic 10. The Rams suffered some key graduation losses, but two starters do return. Junior forward Nikola Malesevic, who averaged 10.2 points per game last year, and senior guard Jamal Wilson lead the returning players.

Without Hancock and Cornelius, the Patriots will lean on forward Ryan Pearson to carry the load. Center Mike Morrison and guard Vertail Vaughns are the other players to watch.

The game will be broadcasted on 106.7 The Fan in D.C.

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