George Mason earns ninth A-10 win in OT thriller vs. UMass

george masonGeorge Mason found itself locked in yet another donnybrook with UMass Wednesday night in EagleBank Arena, and once again it was the Patriots who made the plays down the stretch during an 80-75 victory in overtime.

Eight of the past nine meetings between the teams have been decided by six points or less and three of the past five have gone to overtime. In this extra-effort affair, the Patriots trailed by four with 1:07 to go, but scored the final two buckets of regulation to send the game into overtime. Mason was +5 (10-5) in the extra session.

With the win, Mason (15-10, 9-3) ties its all-time record for Atlantic 10 victories (in its sixth A-10 season). The Patriots, who sit in third place in the conference, still have six regular season contests remaining.

“I thought that was a heck of a win for our guys,” head coach Dave Paulsen said. “To be down four with 57 seconds to go, get two lay-ups, not panic and get a stop took a lot of resolve. In the middle of February, very few teams are in a rhythm. Everyone’s a little tired physically and mentally. It wasn’t a masterpiece by our guys, but we really showed toughness and we really showed grit tonight.”

Mason’s all-time free throw king Otis Livingston II proved his prowess Wednesday with a stellar 11-of-12 performance at the line, hitting clutch free throw after clutch free throw to keep the Patriots ahead. He finished with team highs in points (21), assists (5) and steals (3) in a solid all-around performance.

Sophomore Javon Greene notched 17 points (5-6 FG, 2-3 3pt FG), including five in the OT session. The McDonough, Ga., product is averaging 19.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and shooting 64.7 percent over the past two games.

Junior Justin Kier tallied 14 points, five rebounds and two assists, while freshman Jordan Miller added 10 points (4-6 FG) and seven rebounds in 36 minutes. Miller has hit double figures in three of the past four games for the Green & Gold. Redshirt-junior Jarred Reuter also recorded 10 points and seven rebounds in a career-high 31 minutes.

The Minutemen shot a solid 48.3 percent (28-58) for the game, but the Patriots cut their teeth in passing lanes, where Mason forced 18 Minutemen miscues which led to 16 points off turnovers. Mason shot just 34.6 percent in the first half, but combined to hit 16-of-29 (.552) attempts in the second half and overtime. Similarly, the Green & Gold shot 46.2 percent (6-13) from the charity stripe in the first half, but made 87.5 percent of their attempts (21-24) after that.

UMass jumped out to an 8-3 lead, but the Patriots proceeded to shut the Minutemen out over the next few minutes while using a 7-0 run to take a 10-8 lead. UMass rattled off its own 8-0 spurt to retake the lead (16-10) at the 8:43 mark of the first half. Mason cut it to two (19-17) after an old-fashioned 3-point play from Greene, but the Minutemen rattled off the next six points to go up eight (25-17) with 4:42 to go in the stanza.

Mason rocketed back with a 9-0 run to take the lead (26-25) and went into the break all tied up at 26-26.

The Patriots scored the first six points of the second half to go up 32-26. The Minutemen quickly came back to tie it up at 35-35 and went up 39-38 on a jumper at the 13:23 mark.

After a see-saw next few minutes of basketball, the Patriots finally broke the back and forth to go up 50-45 on a dunk by AJ Wilson with 6:27 to play. UMass cut it back to one (52-51) with 3:45 to go, and after three more lead chances, the Minutemen scored two-straight buckets to take a 60-56 advantage with 1:07 left.

A great look from Livingston II to Miller cut it to two (60-58) with 57 seconds left. Then, after a great outlet play by Mason off a defensive rebound, Kier scored a tough lay-in to tie it up with 21 seconds to go.

UMass’ Keon Clergeot missed a 3-pointer on the final possession of regulation and the teams went to overtime tied at 60-60.

In the extra session and with Mason trailing, Greene hit a big 3-pointer to give Mason a 65-63 edge with 3:38 to go. The lead ballooned to six (69-63) on an offensive board and basket by Miller. With Mason ahead 73-68 with 42 seconds left, UMass fought back to cut it to two (73-71), then trimmed it to one (75-74) on Carl Pierre’s sixth 3-pointer with 18 seconds to go.

Mason hit three out of four free throws (including two by Livingston II) on consecutive possessions to give Mason a 78-75 lead with six seconds left. Reuter missed the only one in that sequence at that 6-second mark, but Greene got a huge rebound and made his ensuing free throws to ice the game for Mason.

Pierre finished with a game-high 26 points (10-20 FG, 6-12 3pt FG) for the Minutemen.

Mason has now won seven-straight contests against UMass and the Patriots have claimed victory in six of their past seven games overall inside EagleBank Arena.

Mason now hits the road for a rematch with St. Bonaventure Sunday (Feb. 17) in Olean, N.Y. Tip-off between the Patriots and Bonnies is scheduled for 2 p.m. The game will be televised regionally on Stadium (MASN in the DMV) and streamed nationally on Mason won the first matchup between the teams, 68-53, on Jan. 6 in Fairfax.

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