Mason led by two (50-48) with seven minutes to play, but VCU went on a 18-4 run from there to build a 66-54 edge with less than two minutes to go. The Patriots could not move closer than nine (66-57) for the remainder of the contest.
“We’re disappointed and heartbroken. Our guys in the locker room were devastated,” head coach Dave Paulsen said at the postgame podium. “It’s hard for me as a coach with these guys [Marquise Moore & Jalen Jenkins] up here next to me, because our guys gave everything they had. They’ve really bought in, fought exceptionally hard and improved tremendously all season. I thought we really competed and played well tonight. I don’t think I’ve ever been as a proud of a team in defeat.”
Mason’s seniors played their hearts out in the contest while putting together a pair of superb performances.
Jalen Jenkins tallied 15 points (5-7 FG) and grabbed five rebounds in 33 minutes, while Marquise Moore tallied 11 points and a game-high 17 rebounds.
Moore averaged 18.0 points and 18.0 rebounds in two A-10 Tournament games and in the process, set a new tournament record for rebounding average in the 40+ year history of the event. With his 11th rebound vs. VCU, he became Mason’s all-time leader for rebounds in a single season (he now has 360 boards in 2016-17).
In addition to the senior performances, Jaire Grayer added 13 points and six rebounds, while Otis Livingston II chipped in seven points and two assists.
Mason shot 38.5 percent from the floor, but worked the ball inside to score and posted 49 of their 60 points in the paint and at the free throw line.
On the other end, VCU made eight steals in the game and turned 14 Mason turnovers into a 20-11 edge in points off turnovers for the game.
The Rams jumped out to a 12-2 lead over the game’s first four minutes, but over the next eight, Mason would hold VCU to just one field goal. During the excellent defensive spurt, the Patriots put together a 16-2 run and built an 18-14 advantage at the 7:59 mark of the stanza.
VCU rallied back to go up five at 31-26, but Mason scored six of the final seven points of the half to tie it up (32-32) at the break.
Mason went up 39-36 on a 3-pointer by Livingston at the 17:58 mark of the second half and led 41-38 on a Livingston lay-in with 16:25 to play.
A nice finish from redshirt-freshman Daniel Relvao kept the Mason lead at three (48-45) with 8:14 left. He posted a career best four points in the contest.
The Green & Gold led 50-48 with 7:16 to go, but from there, VCU put together an 18-4 run and extended it to 22-7 to lead 70-57 with 1:11 to play.
The Patriots will now await their postseason fate in the coming days. Mason’s 20-13 record in 2016-17 is the Patriots best mark since 2012-13.