Balanced attack leads George Mason past La Salle, 84-76

george masonGeorge Mason (14-10, 8-3) countered a strong shooting night from La Salle with an equally efficient offensive effort, topping the visiting Explorers 84-76 on Sunday afternoon inside EagleBank Arena.

La Salle made 11 3-pointers and shot 49.1 percent (28-57) for the game, but Mason countered with a 50.9 percent clip and made 5-of-10 triples (.500) on the day. The Patriots led by two (78-76) with 1:50 to go, but closed the game with four consecutive defensive stops to lock in for the victory.

The Mason victory snaps a four-game winning streak for the Explorers. The Green & Gold have now won five of their past six games inside EagleBank Arena.

“That was a really good win for our group,” head coach Dave Paulsen said. “La Salle played really well. Our defense was actually pretty good. They had to hit some tough shots and they hit them. We needed to make them hit difficult, guarded shots. We really played at a high rate defensively in the last 5-6 minutes. We also had the offensive balance we’re capable of. That will really help make us a good team moving forward.”

The Patriots had six players post at least six points, led by sophomore Javon Greene, who tallied a career-best 21 points (3-6 3pt FG) and grabbed seven rebounds in 37 minutes. He also tied a season-high with six steals in the game.

Redshirt-junior Jarred Reuter chipped in 16 points (5-9 FG) and five rebounds, while senior Otis Livingston II added 14 points, five assists and four rebounds in 32 minutes. With his fourth assist, he became the first player in Mason history to tally 100+ assists in all four seasons.

Junior Justin Kier also broke out of a mini-slump with 13 points (all in the second half) and pulled down a team-best six rebounds.

Mason controlled the glass and the interior in the contest. The Patriots held a +13 (36-23) rebounding margin and cleaned up inside with a 46-32 edge in points in the paint. The Green & Gold also held an 8-2 edge in second chance points.

Mason hit six of its first nine shots and built a 13-4 lead at the 14:54 mark of the first half. La Salle answered back with a 14-4 spurt to take an 18-17 advantage, but Mason moved the lead back to four (31-27) on a lay-in from Greene with 4:36 to go in the stanza. The Patriots increased it to six at 35-29, but La Salle scored 10 of the final 12 points of the half to take a 39-37 lead at intermission.

The Explorers shot 53.8 percent in the half, while Mason hit 50 percent of their attempts.

The Patriots again opened the half hot, hitting 5-of-6 attempts from the floor. Mason lead 47-43 and extended the lead to eight (58-50) after a Justin Kier lay-in at the 13:41 mark but La Salle responded with a 6-0 spurt to move back within six (58-56). The run increased to 12-3 as the Explorers jumped back in front 62-61 with 10:34 to play.

Mason went back up three (65-62) at the 9:29 mark and extended it to five (74-69) on free throws from Greene with 6:44 left. A driving lay-in from Livingston II made it 78-71 at the 3:12 mark. La Salle raced back to cut it to two (78-76) but that’s as close as the Explorers would get. Mason earned stops on the Explorers last four possessions and closed the game on a 6-0 spurt.

Mason remains in Fairfax for a Wednesday (Feb. 13) matchup with Massachusetts. Tip-off on ESPN+ is set for 7 p.m. The game also will be broadcast on the GoMason Digital Network, with pregame coverage beginning at 6:45 p.m.

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