George Mason dominates boards, pulls upset at VCU
Mason trailed 33-30 at the break, but a 16-0 run midway through the second frame put the Patriots in front, and they then held off a relentless VCU effort late with some timely free throw shooting.
After being outrebounded by VCU 40-25 in the first meeting in Fairfax, Mason completely flipped the script with a +21 (48-27) edge on the glass Wednesday.
The Patriots grabbed 15 offensive rebounds and scored 13 second chance points in the game.
“That was a great, great win for our guys,” head coach Dave Paulsen said. “I thought we showed tremendous heart and grit. For the most part we kept good composure. That’s a good team and a tough place to play. Our guys executed and defended very well and we had contributions from a lot of guys. I give a ton of credit to our guys for staying resilient.”
Redshirt-junior AJ Wilson put together one of the best all-around games of his career en route to his sixth career double-double. He notched a team-high 14 points, grabbed 11 rebounds (five offensive) and swatted five shots during his tremendous effort.
With his third block of the game, Wilson passed Mason great George Evans (1997-01) to become the Patriots’ all-time single-season blocks leader. He now has 80 blocks on the season with seven regular season games remaining.
Freshman point guard Xavier Johnson put together his second solid performance vs. VCU this season with a poised 11 points, seven rebounds and four assists in 32 minutes.
Sophomore Jordan Miller added 11 points, while fellow sophomore Jamal Hartwell II notched 10 points (4-7 FG) and four assists in 31 minutes. Freshman Josh Oduro grabbed an important nine rebounds (four offensive) to go along with seven points.
Oduro and junior Greg Calixte (8 pts, 3 reb) did a great job on VCU star big man Marcos Santos-Silva all night.
Mason shot 44.2 percent for the game and made 6-of-15 3-pointers (.400), while limiting VCU to 39.7 percent (23-58) and 7-of-23 from beyond the arc (.304)
VCU led 9-5 early, before Mason utilized a 14-2 spurt – capped by a Xavier Johnson 3-pointer and free throws from AJ Wilson – to build a 19-11 lead at the 8:13 mark of the half. At that point, Mason got exceedingly sloppy with the ball, and the Rams were able to climb back in to tie it at 27-27. At that point, Mason played 59 seconds of great defense on a two-pronged VCU possession, but a loose ball rolled to Isaac Vann of the Rams, who promptly drilled a 3-pointer as time expired and was fouled.
That sequence helped VCU take a 33-30 edge into halftime.
Two quick buckets by AJ Wilson rocketed Mason out of the gate in the second half, and a lay-in on the next possession by Miller put Mason up 36-33 at the 16:48 mark. The Patriots got it to five (38-33), before VCU cut it back to one (42-41) at the 11:27 mark.
At that point, the Patriots begin their spectacular surge. Wilson nailed a 3-pointer, then Calixte and Hartwell II converted back-to-back lay-ins. The lead swelled to 11 (52-41) after a Hartwell II triple, and Mason got it to 17 (58-41) on a strong finish from Oduro with 6:31 left.
The Patriots led 63-48 on a runner from Hartwell IL with 3:27 to go, but at that point, VCU used its pressure defense and timely shooting to get back in the game. A 13-3 spurt helped the Rams cut the lead to five (66-61) with 59 seconds left.
A 3-pointer from De’Riante Jenkins made it a one possession game (67-64) with 42 seconds left, but at that point, Mason would close the game out. Johnson hit two clutch free throws, then after an empty VCU possession, Javon Greene hit two more to make it a seven-point lead (71-64) that the Patriots would not relinquish.
Mason returns to Fairfax for a Revolutionary Rivalry matchup with George Washington. Tip-off between the Patriots and Colonials inside EagleBank Arena is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. The game will be televised nationally on NBC Sports Network.