George Mason earns 69-65 win over Southern

george masonGeorge Mason constructed a strong halftime lead thanks to a late first half run, which would ultimately help lift the Patriots over the Southern Jaguars, 69-65, on Saturday night in EagleBank Arena.

Mason used a 14-4 spurt in the final minutes of the opening half to build a 37-25 lead at intermission, and never looked back. The Green & Gold shot 43.1 percent for the game and capitalized on turnovers on the other side of the floor. Mason scored 19 points off of 14 Southern turnovers, as opposed to the Jaguars, who only recorded 8 points off of turnovers.

“It feels good to get that first win,” head coach Dave Paulsen said. “We’ve told the guys the theme is one step forward, every possession, playing one possession at a time. We took a step forward today.”

Senior Otis Livingston II led the way for Mason, recording season highs in both points (17) and rebounds (4). The guard also moved into the top five on Mason’s all-time assist list with a dish to redshirt junior Jarred Reuter early in the second half. With that helper, Livingston II passed Bryon Allen and into fifth place at Mason. He ended the night with a team-high in assists (4) and now has 383 in his career.

“Playing point guard, there’s a fine line between being aggressive and setting my teammates up,” the guard said. “I felt really comfortable tonight, whether it was passing or shooting.”

Sophomore AJ Wilson also played well for the Patriots, as the forward recorded his second career double-double with 12 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. Wilson also swatted a season-high five blocks and is now averaging is 3.7 blocks per game.

“I thought AJ Wilson was nothing short of phenomenal tonight,” Paulsen said. “Offensively, defensively, on the glass, blocking shots. He gave us great energy.”

Southern held a +4 advantage in rebounds (37-33) against Mason, however the Patriots’ bench outperformed the Jaguars’ bench by +10 (23-13).

Southern held a one-point advantage early, however a Mason 14-4 run within the first five minutes of the opening half would help to spark an early nine-point Mason lead (19-10). Two key defensive stops by Wilson spurred the run, including a blocked shot with 15:15 remaining. Senior Jaire Grayer hit two 3-pointers during this run and started off the game 3-of-3 from 3-point range.

Shortly after, Southern battled back, going on an 8-4 spurt to help pull the Jaguars back within two at the 5:12 mark (23-21). Despite the run, Mason would go on to have a run of their own, outscoring Southern 14-4 to close out the first half and extend their lead to 12. The Patriots led 37-25 at the break.

The Jaguars got off to hot start in the second half, cutting Mason’s advantage to six with a 14-8 run within the first five minutes of play (45-39). The Patriots went on a late second half run that was capped off with a transition dunk from Wilson, energizing EagleBank Arena with 3:48 remaining in the second half (63-52).

From there, the Jaguars could not overcome the late game deficit as Mason defeated Southern 69-65.

The Patriots return to EagleBank Arena on Tuesday with a 7 p.m. matchup vs. North Carolina Central.

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