George Mason comeback falls short: URI wins, 77-74

george masonGeorge Mason erased an 18-point second deficit but couldn’t make a final push, dropping a 77-74 contest to Rhode Island on Saturday afternoon inside EagleBank Arena.

The Rams led 51-33 with 16:52 to play, but the Patriots surged back to take a 72-71 lead with 1:01 remaining. From there, URI made its free throws and outscored Mason 6-2 over the final minute.

The Patriots are now 8-6 in the Atlantic 10 and 18-9 overall.

“I told our guys in the locker room that there were two stories to this game,” head coach Dave Paulsen said. “One was how hard we fought in the second half and how resilient we were. But those things were lacking in the first half and that’s a reflection of one of our worst practices of the season Friday. Our guys have to get over the notion of big games. Every game is a big game, and if we want to be a championship team we need to have a championship approach to every single thing we do.”

The Rams built a 39-26 lead on the strength of a first half in which URI made 7-of-13 3-point attempts. Mason limited the Rams to 28.6 percent (2-7) in the second half and 42.3 percent overall (11-26) while countering with a 46.4 percent (13-28) effort.

Redshirt-senior Jalen Jenkins led the Patriots with a monster effort down low, pouring in a game-high 22 points while making a career-best 14 free throws on 17 attempts (.824).

Fellow senior Marquise Moore tallied his fourth-straight double-double (19 pts, 10 reb) and 17th overall of the season, while sophomore Jaire Grayer chipped in 11 points and made 3-of-4 3-point attempts.

With his first rebound of the game, Moore reached 600 career rebounds while becoming the only player in Mason history to post 1,100 points, 600 rebounds and 300 assists in a game.

Mason held a +6 (37-31) edge on the glass, but Rhode Island grabbed 14 offensive boards, including a couple key ones over the final two minutes.

Fellow senior Marquise Moore tallied his fourth-straight double-double (19 pts, 10 reb) and 17th overall of the season, while sophomore Jaire Grayer chipped in 11 points and made 3-of-4 3-point attempts.

URI made four of its first five 3-pointers and led 20-12 at the 13:05 mark of the first half. The Rams extended that shooting streak to 6-of-9 and built its lead to 13 (29-16) with 3:38 to go in the half. URI led by that margin (39-26) at the half.

The Rams pushed their lead to 18 (51-33) with 16 minutes to play, but from there, the Patriots began to mount a comeback.

Mason rallied off six straight to pull back within 12 (51-39), then extended the run all the way to 21-3 to tie it up at 54 with 9:33 to go.

Rhode Island went back up six (61-55) with 7:11 remaining and led 69-64 at the 4:11 mark. Mason tied it up at 69 and took its only lead of the second half (72-71) with 1:01 to play.

But the Rams drew fouls and hit their free throws down the stretch to pull out the victory.

The Patriots now hit the road for a matchup with Dayton on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. The game will be streamed nationally on Facebook Live.


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