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George Mason comeback falls short at Saint Louis

george masonGeorge Mason (16-13, 10-6) put forth a furious second-half comeback but could not quite get over the hump, falling to Saint Louis (18-11, 9-7) 81-71 on Saturday afternoon inside Chafeitz Arena.

Mason trailed 40-24 and 66-48 with 5:45 to play. An 18-3 run by Mason cut it to just four (69-65) with 1:30 to go, but the Patriots could not move closer for the remainder of the game.

“That was a really disappointing effort to start the first half,” head coach Dave Paulsen said. “I’m a little surprised by our guys because we did not compete to begin defensively, offensively or on the glass. We fought back in the second half but you can’t spot a good team like Saint Louis a 16-point lead. We have to play with an edge every second on the court.”

SLU limited the Patriots to just 24.1 percent shooting (7-29) in the first half to build the big early lead. Mason shot 44.1 percent in the second half and was +6 (47-41) in the stanza. After SLU went up 10-0, Mason played the Billikens even for the rest of the game. But that slow start ultimately cost the Green & Gold on the road.

Freshman Jamal Hartwell II led the Patriots for the second-straight game with 15 points (5-9 FG, 4-6 3pt FG) while fellow freshman Jordan Miller tallied 15 points and nine rebounds in 34 minutes. Hartwell II is averaging 4.5 3-pointers made over the past two games, while Miller is averaging 5.5 offensive rebounds/contest over the past three games.

Junior Justin Kier added 12 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals, and senior Otis Livingston II chipped in 11 points and five assists in 36 minutes.

SLU made four of its first five shots and jumped out to an early 10-0 advantage. The Billikens went up 16 at 19-3 and extended it to 18 (33-15) on a 3-pointer from Dion Wiley at the 6:49 mark. With SLU ahead 35-17, Mason began to climb back into the game. Kier made a 3-pointer, then Miller grabbed an offensive board and tipped in a shot. That capped a 7-0 spurt that moved the Patriots within 11 (35-24) with 1:40 to go in the half.

Otis Livingston II had a chance to cut it to eight with an open 3-pointer, but the senior marksman just rimmed it out. SLU then went on to close the half on a 5-0 run and take a 40-24 advantage into the break. In the stanza, the Billikens shot 42.9 percent from 3-point range (6-14), while Mason was just 24.1 percent (7-29) overall.

Mason cut it to 14 at 42-28 and 44-30, but SLU pushed the lead back to 18 (53-35) at the 12:37 mark of the stanza. SLU led 66-48 with 5:45 to play, but Mason raced back into the game from there. The Patriots cut it to 11 on an AJ Wilson lay-in with 3:36 to go, then Kier converted a lay-in to move Mason within nine (69-60).

A 3-point play from Jordan Miller cut it to five (69-64) with 1:50 left, and Mason was within four at 69-65. But the Patriots could not move closer than that for the remainder of the game, as SLU hit its free throws late in the contest.

Mason now returns home for the second of two meetings with VCU this season. Tip-off between the Patriots and Rams on Tuesday (March 5) is set for 7:30 p.m. The game will be televised regionally on Stadium and serve as Senior Night for Mason’s Class of 2019. That group includes Otis Livingston II, Jaire Grayer, Nick DiClementi and Logan Samuels.

augusta free press
augusta free press