Cam Long (20) shoots a free throw at the Patriot Center. Photo by: Jacob McLernon

When the George Mason University men’s basketball team is on the road, the crowds seen on game day are absent and the Patriot Center is silent. However, the intensity changes settings and heads to Hard Times Café and Brion’s Grille.

I attended the Hard Times Café watch party, hosted by the Patriot Club, for the Mason game against the University of North Carolina Wilmington. The atmosphere in the restaurant was electric as plenty of Mason students, alumni and fans from the community were in attendance.

The Patriot Club had trivia challenges set out, with questions about the team as well as a guessing game about who the Patriots’ leading scorer would be and with how many points he would score. The winners each received Mason T-shirts. I have to say that I made a few trips to the buffet of various chilies and hotdogs provided by Hard Times.

Before game time, TVs were changed to the Mason game and everyone prepared for the opening tip.

Throughout the game, there were outbursts of yelling and cheering as the Patriots scored and ultimately won the game. For every Andre Cornelius 3-pointer, the restaurant erupted with cheers as he went on to finish the night with 25 points.

It was interesting to see the effect Mason has on the surrounding community with the number of community members attending the watch party.

Both restaurants will be supporting Mason into the postseason, starting with the CAA tournament and, at the rate the Patriots are going, the NCAA tournament.