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Davidson takes control in second half, tops George Mason

george masonGeorge Mason battled a top-100 Davidson team until the end, but could not put together one final run against the Wildcats, falling 68-53 on Saturday night inside Belk Arena.

Mason led 44-43 with 11:14 to go and trailed by just four (53-49) with 4:42 left. But from the 3:51 mark with Mason trailing 56-51, Davidson would close the game on a 12-2 run to grab the home victory.

The Patriots limited Davidson to just 3-of-9 from 2-point range (.333) in the first half and trailed by just two (27-25) at the break. In the second half, the Wildcats found their shooting touch midway through the frame while hitting at a 50 percent clip (14-38). Mason could not get it going offensively, shooting 31.7 percent (19-60) for the game.

The Patriots’ young group was within one or two possessions for almost the entire game and can learn and grow from the experience while facing a top-100 team on the road.

“I thought we fought exceptionally hard and played very well defensively until the last four minutes,” head coach Dave Paulsen said. “That’s where we gave into frustration that we weren’t able to score. Some of our good players had off nights. That’s going to happen. But that’s where we need to have more maturity to be able to get stops and win the game ugly. That’s hard to do on the road and against a good team like Davidson.”

Redshirt-junior AJ Wilson scored Mason’s first nine points of the game and finished with a team-high 18 (7-16 FG). He also tallied a game-high five blocks and six rebounds in 32 minutes.

Junior Javon Greene scored all 12 of his points in the second half to go along with four assists and three steals, while freshman Xavier Johnson chipped in eight points and made 2-of-3 3-point attempts. Junior Greg Calixte grabbed a team-high nine rebounds in 19 minutes, while Jamal Hartwell II, although not at 100 percent, returned from illness to tally nine points for the Green & Gold.

Mason was +3 (39-36) on the glass and grabbed 16 offensive boards, but could not quite overcome a Davidson perimeter attack which hit 11 3-pointers on a 39.3 percent clip (11-28).

Wilson scored Mason’s first nine points while the Patriots and Wildcats battled to a 9-9 stalemate. Mason took a 17-14 after back-to-back 3-pointers from Wilson and Johnson at the 8:02 mark. But at that point, the Patriots would be held without a field goal for more than three minutes. However, Mason locked in on defense and still remained in front by one (20-19) after a Hartwell II 3-pointer with 3:39 left. Davidson rallied with an 8-0 run to take a 27-20 lead, but Mason scored the final five points of the half to trail by just two (27-25) at the break.

The Patriots tied it up at 33-33 four minutes into the second half, but Davidson went back up six (43-37) with 12:54 left. Mason answered with a 7-0 spurt – capped by the Greene 3-pointer – to take the lead briefly (44-43) with just over 11 minutes to play.

“I told our guys I was both encouraged and extremely disappointed tonight,” Paulsen said. “I’m encouraged because I don’t think we’re that far away. I love coaching this team and they’re working their rear ends off reconfiguring themselves in Justin’s absence. I think we’re getting better.”

Mason returns to Fairfax for a Tuesday (Jan. 28) battle with Rhode Island. Tip-off between the Patriots and the Rams is scheduled for 7 p.m. The game will be televised on Stadium and locally within the DMV on MASN.

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