Mason beats St. Joe’s at the buzzer, 79-76

george masonIt was déjà vu all over again for the George Mason University men’s basketball team Wednesday night in Philadelphia, as Ian Boyd hit a 25-foot buzzer beater as time expired to give the Patriots their second walk-off win of the season over Saint Joseph’s.

After Otis Livingston II drained a 28-footer in Fairfax on Jan. 10 to give the Green & Gold an 81-79 victory, it was Boyd this time who sent the Patriots home happy with a clutch, nothing-but-net dagger.

With the win Wednesday, Mason is now in a tie for sixth place in the A-10 standings.

“This was a heck of a game and a heck of a win,” head coach Dave Paulsen said. “I’m so happy for our guys. They fought so hard and grinded the entire game. Certainly the execution down the stretch isn’t what we wanted. But sometimes you have to win a game when you struggle and battle adversity down the stretch. I thought for most of the game we played really well, especially defensively.”

Mason (13-15, 7-8) led by as many as 20 (53-33) five minutes into the second half, but the Hawks battled back to within seven (66-59) with less than two minutes to go. SJU (12-15, 7-8) extended the game and forced Mason to make free throws. The Hawks’ strategy worked and SJU tied it up at 76-76 with five seconds remaining.

But Boyd picked up a loose ball after it was knocked away from Livingston II on the final possession and made his 25-footer to improve the Patriots to 7-8 in conference play. It marked the third A-10 road win of the year for the Green & Gold.

Sophomore Justin Kier scored 15 of his team-high 19 points in the second half, willing the Patriots to remain in front when the team was struggling to put the ball in the basket. He also made 7-of-9 free throw attempts and grabbed five rebounds in the game.

Freshman Goanar Mar added 16 points and made four 3-pointers to go along with six rebounds, three assists and three steals.

Otis Livingston II chipped in 13 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals, while Boyd tallied 12 points and made 2-of-3 3-point attempts on the night.

Mason limited SJU to 42.4 percent shooting for the game and a meager 4-of-22 effort (.182) from 3-point range. The Patriots also held a +3 (41-38) edge on the glass and a 20-10 advantage in bench scoring.

The Patriots scored eight of the game’s first 10 points and led 16-10 after a strong finish from Ian Boyd at the 11:10 mark of the first half. SJU cut the lead to two at 19-17, but Mason responded with a 10-2 spurt – highlighted by triples from Mar and Livingston II – to extend the lead to 10 (29-19) with 2:31 to play in the stanza.

Mason took a 37-26 edge into the half after Greg Calixte beat the buzzer with a lay-in. The Patriots made 6-of-14 3-pointers in the first half.

Mason went up 20 (53-33) five minutes into the second half and led 57-43 at the 10:16 mark of the period. A Kier jumper put the Patriots up 59-44 with 7:50 left, but the Hawks came all the way back to cut it to seven (66-59) with 1:49 left.

After the teams exchanged free throws, the Hawks moved within four (68-64) with 58 seconds left and were within one (75-74) with 15 seconds remaining. Kier made 1-of-2 free throws to put Mason back up 76-74, but SJU’s Newkirk was fouled and hit a pair of free throws to make it 76-76 with five seconds left.

On the ensuing possession, Boyd hit the clutch 3-pointer to send the Patriots back to Fairfax with the win.

Mason returns home for a Saturday contest against Massachusetts. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. inside EagleBank Arena. The game will be televised regionally on MASN. Mason won the first meeting between the teams, 80-72 (OT), on Jan. 3 in Amherst.

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