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George Mason defeats Nebraska, 85-66: Will play for Cayman title

George MasonGeorge Mason will play for the Cayman Islands Classic title after dispatching of Big Ten foe Nebraska by 19 (85-66) on Tuesday night inside John Gray Gymnasium.

The Patriots (7-1) used a stifling full court press to open up a 37-28 lead at halftime. Mason remained in control in the second stanza, as the Huskers could not move closer than five for the rest of the game.

Mason has won seven of its first eight games for the first time since the 1983-84 season. The Green & Gold will play WAC power New Mexico State on Wednesday night (7:30 p.m.) for a chance at the program’s first regular season tournament title since 1993-94.

“This was a gratifying team victory,” head coach Dave Paulsen said. “Defensively, we played well for the majority of the game. We played back-to-back days and I think the steals in our press helped energize our guys. The bench was really into the game and our Mason fans who traveled were loud. They really helped our team get the win.”

Mason held the Cornhuskers to 39.3 percent shooting on the night and forced 15 Nebraska turnovers. The Patriots struggled to protect the ball (19 turnovers), but made up for it with the solid defensive effort and an absolute clinic on the glass. The Patriots were +23 (49-26) on the boards and turned 15 offensive rebounds into a 17-9 edge in second chance points.

The Patriots hit a season-best 11 3-pointers on 25 attempts (.440) and shot a solid 49.2 percent overall (32-65) from the floor.

Sophomore Jamal Hartwell II exploded for career highs in points (23) and assists (6) while tying his personal best with five 3-pointers made on 10 attempts.

Fellow sophomore Jordan Miller tallied 15 of his 20 points in the second half and grabbed eight rebounds. He went 7-of-11 from the floor. It marked the first time Mason had two 20-point scorers in a game for more than a year (Nov. 13, 2018).

AJ Wilson added a career-best 14 rebounds (7 offensive) to go along with five blocks and eight points, while Javon Greene tallied 17 points, six rebounds, four steals and three assists.

Goanar Mar notched eight points, six rebounds and two assists, while senior Justin Kier made the most of his limited minutes, tallying seven points (3-4 FG) and three rebounds in 9:22 of action.

Mason’s full court press worked wonders early, as the Patriots converted two steals into 3-point plays for Greene and Miller. That series put Mason up 12-5 at the 16:27 mark of the opening stanza. Nebraska answered with a 9-0 run to build a 16-14 edge, but Mason fought right back with 10 straight – including back-to-back 3-pointers from Hartwell II and Greene – to go up 24-16 with 8:17 to go in the stanza.

Kier nailed a 3-pointer to make it 27-19 and the Patriots extended the edge to 11 (37-26) after a lay-in from Wilson with less than two minutes to play in the stanza. The Green & Gold took a 37-28 advantage into halftime.

Back-to-back 3-pointers from Miller pushed Mason in front by 15 (45-30) two minutes into the second half and the Green & Gold led by 14 (47-33) on a lay-in from Wilson. An 8-0 spurt by the Huskers pushed them within six (47-41), but a triple from Hartwell II sent the lead back to 11 (52-41) at the 13:56 mark.

The Huskers closed to within six at 57-51 with 11:13 left and after the Patriots got it back to 12 (63-51), Nebraska again made it single digits at 67-60 at 7:49.

Mason led 71-63 with 6:06 left, and at that point, the Patriots took control. The Green & Gold rattled off a 14-1 run, including a 3-pointer by Greene and seven points from Miller, to increase the edge to 21 (85-64) with 1:23. In all, the Patriots allowed just three points to the Huskers over the final six minutes.