George Mason falls at Rhode Island in Atlantic 10 opener

george masonGeorge Mason dropped an 83-64 contest to preseason Atlantic 10 favorite Rhode Island on Saturday in the conference opener for both teams.

The Rams shot over 50 percent in the first half while building a 44-26 edge at the break. URI was just +1 (39-38) in the second half, as the Green & Gold fought throughout the competitive stanza. Mason (6-8, 0-1) shot 51.9 percent in the final half.

With the victory, Rhode Island (9-3, 1-0) – which owns wins over No. 23 Seton Hall and Providence – improved to 8-0 at home on the season.

“I told our team in the locker room there are some key things we have to hold ourselves accountable for,” head coach Dave Paulsen said. “We have to be way better at transition defense and at executing offense against good teams. We need guys to come up with toughness plays. We have to learn and grow from this. With all due respect to the other teams we’ve played this year, Rhode Island is the best team we’ve competed against. We saw the best team in the league in the first league game on the road. Now we have a barometer and we know what it takes to compete at that level.”

Sophomore Justin Kier led the Patriots offensively for the third-straight game, posting team highs in points (15), rebounds (8) and assists (3) in 35 minutes on the floor.

Junior Otis Livingston II chipped in 14 points while freshman Goanar Mar tallied nine points and three assists. Fellow freshman Greg Calixte added six points and a career-high seven rebounds, and freshman Javon Greene notched six points and a career-best six rebounds in 21 minutes.

The Rams shot 46.4 percent in the contest, although Mason held URI to just 41.0 percent (16-39) in the second half. Mason shot 42.4 percent for the contest, but struggled in the opening stanza (11-32).

Rhode Island made four of its first five shots and jumped out to a 16-4 lead at the 16:20 mark of the first half. Two-straight fast break lay-ins from Livingston II on the break pushed Mason back within five (19-14). From there, a field goal drought of more than six minutes by the Patriots allowed URI to extend its lead to 32-14 with 7:43 to play in the half.

Mason used an 8-1 spurt to move back within 11 (33-22), but the Rams scored 11 of the final 15 points of the half to take a 44-26 advantage into the break. The Rams shot 53.3 percent in the opening half and held the Patriots to 34.4 percent.

Rhode Island made eight of its first 12 shots of the second half to increase its lead to 30 (62-32) at the 14:36 mark. Goanar Mar hit a 3-pointer at the 9:18 mark to make it 69-44 and free throws from Kier cut it to 75-53 with 6:47 left.

Mason wraps up its opening Atlantic 10 road trip with a contest at Massachusetts on Wednesday (Jan. 3) in Amherst. Tip-off between the Patriots and Minutemen is set for 7:30 p.m.

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