George Mason drops A-10 opener to VCU

george masonThe George Mason University men’s basketball team put forth an outstanding effort in its Atlantic 10 opener Friday night but the Patriots could not push past visiting VCU in the second half, dropping a 73-64 contest inside EagleBank Arena.

Mason (10-4, 0-1) trailed by just one (36-35) at the half, but the Rams shot 48.1 percent in the second half and limited the Patriots to 37.5 percent (12-32).

The Rams (11-3, 1-0) also took control of the glass and held a +11 (42-31) edge in rebounding on the night. The Patriots entered the game allowing just 8.5 offensive rebounds per contest, but VCU grabbed 16 offensive boards in Friday’s contest and held a 46-32 edge in paint scoring for the game.

“We’re disappointed in this outcome, but we have a lot of basketball to play,” head coach Dave Paulsen said. “We have to continue to be obsessed with improving. This is the first game we’ve played against a good team where we weren’t able to execute and made some costly mistakes. You have to give VCU credit for that. We really competed tonight and I’m confident we’ll be able to bounce back and come out with a purpose Wednesday.”

Mason entered the game averaging 17 free throws made and 23 attempts per game, but the Rams held a +12 edge (20-8) in free throws attempted for the game as Mason made 6-of-8 on the night.

Five Patriots scored in double figures to lead Mason offensively. Redshirt-senior Jalen Jenkins led the Patriots with 12 points (6-8 FG) while fellow senior Marquise Moore chipped in 10 points and a team-high six rebounds.

Sophomore Otis Livingston II added 10 points and four assists, fellow sophomore Jaire Grayer tallied 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting and freshman Ian Boyd posted 10 points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals in 24 minutes.

Mason ended the game +4 in turnover margin over the Rams and made 10 steals on the night. The Patriots were also +4 in second chance points (15-11) and held a 14-13 edge in bench scoring.

Before a boisterous crowd of 7,780, the Patriots held an early 7-4 lead, but VCU took advantage of a Mason scoring drought over the next five minutes, using a 13-0 run to build a 17-7 edge.

The Patriots cut the lead to four (19-15) on free throws from Boyd and were within three (23-20) after a 3-pointer from Grayer at the 7:30 mark of the opening half. VCU went back up seven (36-29) with 54 seconds left in the stanza, but Mason closed the half on a 6-0 run to move within a point (36-35) at the break.

VCU built the lead back out to six (49-43) six minutes into the second half and went up by eight (58-50) with 9:54 to play. Mason cut it to four (59-55) with 7:23 to go and after VCU went back up nine at 64-55, again the Patriots cut it to five (64-59) on a jumper from Jenkins at the 3:42 mark.

But Mason could not move any closer for the remainder of the contest and VCU held on for the nine-point victory.

The Patriots wrap up their four-game homestand with a contest vs. Massachusetts on Wednesday (Jan. 4) at 7 p.m. The game will be streamed live on the Atlantic 10 Digital Network.

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