Complete effort pushes George Mason past NCCU, 77-65
The George Mason University men’s basketball team put together one of its most complete efforts of the season en route to a 77-65 victory over North Carolina Central on Saturday afternoon inside EagleBank Arena.
The Patriots raced out to their largest halftime lead of the season (39-26) and NCCU could not move closer than nine at any point during the second stanza.
“This was a good bounce back win for us,” head coach Dave Paulsen said. “I really liked our defensive performance in the first half, especially. We got a little sloppy with the lead, but it was a good opportunity to play in a different type of scenario for our team. We received great contributions off the bench and we’re continuing to evolve. There’s a lot of good to take away from this game.”
Mason held the Eagles to 38.6 percent (22-57) shooting for the game, marking the lowest total for a Patriot opponent this season. The NCCU 3-point percentage (4-17, .235) also marked a season low for a Mason foe.
After scoring his 1,000th career point Wednesday, junior Otis Livingston II added to his all-time mark with a team-high 17 points (7-10 FG, 3-3 3pt FG) while adding three assists vs. the Eagles.
Sophomore Justin Kier (14 points, five assists) posted his highest scoring total since Nov. 12, while freshman Goanar Mar added 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting. Kier also held NCCU’s Reggie Gardner Jr. to just seven points and 3-of-15 shooting defensively.
Junior Jaire Grayer tallied 10 points, a team-high eight rebounds and three steals and redshirt-freshman AJ Wilson registered seven points four rebounds and a game-high three blocks in 14 minutes.
Mason shot a season-best 52.7 percent (29-55) from the floor and held a +6 (37-31) edge on the glass in the game. The Green & Gold also were +10 (42-32) in points in the paint.
NCCU jumped out to a 6-2 lead, but Mason responded with a 13-2 run to build a 15-8 advantage. Riding a stretch where the team hit 9-of-10 field goals, Mason extended the lead to nine (24-15) at the 8:21 mark of the first half and built it up to 10 (30-20) on a pretty lay-in from Livingston II with 3:40 to go in the stanza. A Justin Kier mid-range jumper pushed the lead to 12 (37-25) and Mason took a 39-26 lead into the break.
The Patriots shot 53.3 percent in the opening half and held NCCU to a 28.6 clip (8-28).
Mason hit three straight 3-pointers – including two from Livingston II and a trey from Grayer – to increase the edge to 15 (55-40) six minutes into the second half. The Green & Gold used a 7-0 spurt to increase its lead to 20 (66-46) with 6:48 to play and the Eagles would not get closer than 12 for the remainder of the contest.
Mason now hosts a talented Georgia Southern team on Tuesday night (7 p.m.) inside EagleBank Arena. The Eagles boast a top-50 RPI this season and already own a win at Wake Forest.