George Mason comeback falls short at Kansas State, 59-58

george masonGeorge Mason outscored Kansas State by 19 in the second half and had a chance to win it with under 10 seconds to go, but the Patriots could not quite complete the comeback, falling 59-58 Saturday night in Bramlage Coliseum.

Mason trailed 36-16 at the half, but held a +19 (42-23) edge in the second half to nearly pull off the upset over the Wildcats, who were the second team out of the AP top-25 this week. Mason outscored K-State 15-4 over the final 5:32 of action.

The Patriots shot a much improved 55.2 percent (16-29) in the second half and limited K-State to just 39.1 percent (9-23). Ultimately, Mason was victimized by a six-minute stretch to end the first half, where the Wildcats were +18 (20-2) to end the half.

“We are all really disappointed, because we had a chance to win that game,” head coach Dave Paulsen said. “We are really proud of this group of guys. We were down 20 and really struggled in the first half, but showed a collective will, a level of toughness defensively.”

Mason turned the ball over just five times in the game and held a 30-22 edge in points in the paint. The Green & Gold also were +8 (15-7) in points off turnovers.

Junior Justin Kier led Mason with 15 points, while sophomore Javon Greene added 12 points and seven rebounds in 25 minutes. Redshirt-junior Jarred Reuter posted 11 points, eight rebounds and three assists while making 5-of-8 field goals in a solid all-around effort.

K-State jumped out to an early 10-5 lead and increased the edge to 16-7 at the 12:28 mark of the first half. Mason stormed back with a 7-0 run – including two baskets from Jarred Reuter – to move back within two (16-14) with 9:01 to go in the stanza. The Wildcats then held Mason without a field goal over the next three minutes while hitting back-to-back triples to extend the edge to double figures (25-14).

In all, the Wildcats used a 20-2 run over the final 6:48 of the half to take a 36-16 advantage into the break. Mason had trouble hitting its shots and went 1-of-10 from 3-point range (.100) and 7-of-27 (.259) overall in the half.

Mason moved within 17 on two occasions early in the second half, but the Wildcats pushed it to 21 (44-23) at the 15:07 mark. Back-to-back 3-pointers from Jamal Hartwell II and Justin Kier fueled an 8-0 spurt that pushed the Patriots back within 11 (46-35) with under 10 minutes remaining.

Another 8-0 run, including five points from Otis Livingston II, got Mason all the way back to six (49-43) with 6:51 to play. Livingston II nearly grabbed a steal on the next K-State possession, but Kamau Stokes recovered and hit a difficult 3-pointer. Stokes again converted from deep on the ensuing trip and K-State was back up 12 (55-43) with under five minutes left.

But the Wildcats could only manage four points the rest of the way. Mason surged back with a 10-1 run to cut the lead to just three (56-53) with 1:50 to go. The spurt included five points from Greene.

Stokes hit his fifth 3-pointer with 1:21 left to put K-State back up six (59-53), but Mason answered right back with a Reuter 3-point play to get it to 59-56 at the 1:07 mark.

Kier stole the ball on the other end and Greene converted a lay-in to cut it to one (59-58). Mason earned a stop with 17 seconds left, but a runner from Kier rimmed out and K-State gained possession with under five seconds.

But a Barry Brown Jr. double dribble with 1.2 seconds to play gave Mason a final chance. The Patriots could not convert and K-State escaped with the win.

Stokes finished with 20 points for the Wildcats.

“I think this a tremendously different team than the one I looked at in the locker room after the game in Florida,” Paulsen said. “We made tremendous strides over the past month and I am looking forward to start conference play.”

Next up, the Patriots open Atlantic 10 play on Thursday (January 3) with a contest at Saint Joseph’s. Tip-off between the Patriots and Hawks is set for 7:30 p.m. The game will be televised nationally on CBS Sports Network.

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