George Mason defeats American, 68-53, improves to 10-1

george masonGeorge Mason heads into a two-week break with a solid 68-53 victory over American Saturday night inside EagleBank Arena.

The Eagles led 30-27 at the break and 38-32 in the second half, but a monstrous 36-8 run by Mason (10-1) over 13 minutes in the final stanza propelled the Patriots to their fifth-straight win.

Mason held American to just 36 percent (9-25) and 1-of-11 from 3-point range in the second half.

“This is a gratifying win against a team that I think will win a lot of games in the Patriot League,” head coach Dave Paulsen said. “Guys on our team don’t care who starts, who finishes – it’s going to be different players every night. I really enjoy coaching this group.”

The Patriots’ energy came from their defensive effort, including excellent work on Preseason Patriot League Player of the Year Sa’eed Nelson. Nelson came in to the game averaging more than 17 points per game, but the Patriots held him to eight points on 3-of-8 shooting while challenging other Eagles to make shots. Nelson had 0 points in the second half.

Mason forced 17 AU turnovers – the most by a Patriot opponent since the Nov. 5 opener – and converted those into a +10 edge in points off turnovers for the game. Mason committed just eight miscues on the offensive end.

Senior Justin Kier led the Green & Gold with 14 points and four rebounds, with nine of those points coming in the second stanza.

Kier played a season-high 25 minutes Saturday as he continues to work his way back from a stress fracture in his foot sustained in September.

“Something great came out of my injury, because guys stepped up and matured and as you can see, because of this, we’re a lot better,” Kier said after the game. “It wasn’t just one person who had to step up – everyone stepped up as a group and as leaders. I’m grateful for that and I’m glad those guys had the opportunity to get out of their comfort zone and grow. We’re 10-1, but we have to get a lot better for sure.”

Junior Javon Greene added 13 points (4-7 FG, 5-6 FT) while freshman Xavier Johnson put together one of his best games to date, with 12 points and a career-best nine rebounds. He also handled Nelson for the lion’s share of the game and did an admirable job on the talented guard.

Mason was able to pull away in the second half despite having standout junior AJ Wilson in foul trouble, who was limited to 14 minutes in the contest.

With Mason trailing 38-32 at the 17:12 mark of the second half, the Patriots began to mount their comeback as they locked in on defense. A 3-pointer from Jordan Miller and 3-point play by Johnson tied the game at 38, then another Johnson lay-in got it to 46-40 at the 12:46 mark. Mason got it to 12 (56-44) on a tough lay-in from Kier and led by 18 (64-46) on a floater from Jamal Hartwell II with 3:08 to play.

Mason took its largest lead of the game at 68-46 with 2:07 to go in the game.

The Patriots now take a two-week competitive hiatus before returning to EagleBank Arena for a matchup with UMBC on Dec. 21 (Saturday) at 4 p.m

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