FAIRFAX, Va. — Steve Donahue's team had just won in the last seconds on the road, but the emotions of losing a top player to an injury got the best of Penn's coach Tuesday night.
The Quakers came away with a 72-71 win at George Mason on a last-second free throw by A.J. Brodeur, one of just six free throws made in 18 attempts by the visitors.
But the victory was costly, as junior guard Ryan Betley, the team's leading scorer last season at 14.3 points per contest, injured his right leg with 15 minutes 2 seconds left in the first half on a drive to the basket. Betley was fitted with a brace and spent the second half with his leg propped up as he sat on a chair near the team bench.
"It is not good," Donahue said of the injury, after a long pause. "It is the hard part of this game. We lose a great player, a great kid."
Penn had a chance to put the game away in the closing seconds, but Brodeur (19 points, 10 rebounds) missed two free throws with 8.9 seconds left.
After an offensive rebound by the Quakers, Antonio Woods missed two free throws with 5.7 seconds left. But Mason standout Otis Livingston II (12 points) missed a driving shot at the buzzer that would have won the game.
Penn was aided by freshman Michael Wang, who had 14 points off the bench in his first college game, and Woods, who had 10 points but missed all four free throws.
"He has an incredible basketball IQ. He has great confidence," Donahue said of Wang.
Speaking about winning the game without Betley, Woods said: "We are a family. We have to pick each other up. We were able to pick up a great team win."
Brodeur, the team's second-leading scorer last season, had 13 of his 19 points in the second half.
Mason took a 52-43 lead with 13:20 left in the second half on a three-pointer by Ian Boyd.
But the Quakers responded and pulled to within 58-57 on a driving layup by Devon Goodman with 8:10 left.
Mason was led by Virginia transfer Jarred Reuter, who had 15 points in just 17 minutes against a Penn team that made the NCAA Tournament last season.
"The level of play for the first game of the year was terrific," Donahue said. "This group just has some resiliency."
Penn plays next on Friday at 8 p.m. at the Palestra against Rice. … Ted Rawlings, the director of men's basketball operations at George Mason, graduated from Penn in 2011 after he was a basketball student manager and lacrosse player. … Among those on hand was former George Mason baseball star Justin Bour, who finished the season with the Phillies as a backup first baseman.