George Mason comeback falls short in loss at UMass

george masonGeorge Mason nearly erased a 14-point deficit with five minutes to go, but could not score on its final possession, falling to host Massachusetts 69-67 on Sunday at the Mullins Center.

The Patriots (13-10, 2-8 A-10) trailed 66-52 at the 5:21 mark of the second half, but bombarded UMass with a 14-0 run to tie the game at 66-66 with 1:23 remaining. UMass (10-14, 4-7 A-10) went up 69-67 with 28 seconds to go, but Mason could not score on its final two possessions as the Minutemen escaped with the victory.

“This is a really heartbreaking loss,” head coach Dave Paulsen said. “I give our guys credit for really battling and fighting back. I thought we had great opportunities at the end to tie or take the lead. But at the end of the day the game was lost in stretches of the first and second halves where we struggled to get stops and had way too many turnovers, most of them unforced. That’s disappointing.”

Mason shot 52.4 percent in the first half and 47.7 percent for the game, but the Green & Gold could not overcome a season-high 21 turnovers which led to a +7 (26-19) edge in points off turnovers for the Minutemen.

Junior Javon Greene led the Patriots with a game-high 19 points (5-8 FG, 7-7 FT), while sophomore Jordan Miller added 12 points (4-7 FG) in 31 minutes.

Sophomore guard Jamal Hartwell II added 10 points and a team-high three assists, while freshman guard Xavier Johnson tallied a career-best five steals to go along with eight points.

The Patriots led by two (8-6) a little over four minutes into the game, then utilized a 12-4 spurt to build a 20-10 advantage at the 11:39 mark of the stanza. From there, Mason simply could not score, as the Patriots were held without a field goal for nearly six minutes. The resulting 15-0 run gave UMass a 25-20 edge at the 7:24 mark. The Patriots used a 5-0 sequence to tie it up at 27-27 and went back up two (33-31) on a jumper from AJ Wilson. The two teams entered the half tied at 35.

Both teams picked it up offensively to open the second half and Mason trailed by two (43-41) after a nice finish from Oduro at the 16:49 mark. The Patriots made nine of 10 shots at one point early in the second half but continued to fall victim to turnovers, as UMass was able to capitalize with a 7-0 spurt to build a 50-41 edge at the 13:18 mark.

The Minutemen led by 14 (66-52) with 5:21 left, but from there, the Patriots began to mount their furious comeback. Back-to-back lay-ins from Greene and Miller cut it to 10 (66-56). Then, another lay-in from Miller and a big 3-pointer from Greene cut the lead to just one (66-64) with 2:15 left. Miller scored again to tie it up at 66-66, but UMass went up 68-66 on two free throws with less than a minute to go.

With Mason down 69-67 with less than 30 seconds left, the Patriots drew up a great play, but UMass made a nice defensive play on a Johnson drive to preserve the lead. The Minutemen missed a 1-and-1 opportunity with 11 seconds left, giving the Patriots one last chance. But the Patriots could not connect on two final 3-point attempts as UMass sealed the win.

Mason returns to action Wednesday at VCU. The 7 p.m. contest will be televised on ESPNU.

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