George Mason falls to American in OT, 78-75

george masonGeorge Mason found itself in another dogfight on Friday night and could not quite close it out against visiting American, falling to the Eagles 78-75 in overtime inside EagleBank Arena.

Mason led 74-70 with 1:43 to go in the extra session and 75-73 with 54 seconds left, but American’s Sa’eed Nelson generated a 3-point play at the 35-second mark to give the Eagles a lead (76-75) they would not relinquish.

“Another disappointing loss – again you have to give credit to American,” head coach Dave Paulsen said. “We need to figure out how to close out games and make keys plays down the stretch, but we also need to play well early in the game and not turn the ball over or shoot ourselves in the foot. We have a lot of work to do. This is quite stunning because this is not the same team I have seen every day in practice so there’s some disconnect between practice performance and game performance.”

The Patriots had a chance down the stretch because of the outstanding play of sophomore Javon Greene. The McDonough, Ga., product tallied career highs in points (18) and rebounds (12) en route to the first double-double of his young career. He went 10-for-11 at the line and added two steals in 34 minutes of work. He posted seven of Mason’s nine points in overtime.

Senior Otis Livingston II dished out a career-best 10 assists to go along with 10 points. That also marked the first double-double of his career with the Green & Gold. With his first assist of the game, he passed former teammate Marquise Moore and moved into sixth-place on the all-time Patriot assist list (373 in his career).

Greene and Livingston II were two of five Patriots in double figures. Redshirt-sophomore AJ Wilson posted 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting and added three blocks, while junior Ian Boyd chipped in 11 points and knocked down three 3-pointers. Two of those came at key times late in the second half. Senior Jaire Grayer also notched 10 points and added five rebounds.

“AJ and Javon played with unbelievable energy and toughness,” Paulsen said. “They left everything out on the court.”

Nelson – the Patriot League Preseason Player of the Year – scored a game-high 24 points to lead the Eagles.

Mason shot 54.2 percent in the second half, but just 27.3 percent in the extra session. The Patriots made 5-of-18 attempts from 3-point range in the game and turned the ball over 15 times. The Green & Gold were +7 (45-38) on the glass and turned 16 offensive rebounds into a 14-6 edge in second chance points.

The two teams played to a 10-10 tie, before the Patriots took a 4-point lead (17-13) on a tip in from Jaire Grayer at the 12:27 mark of the first half.

American came back to go up 22-19 at the 7:01 mark, but Mason used a 7-1 spurt to take a 26-23 edge with 4:55 to go in the period. The Eagles banked home a three at the buzzer to take a 32-31 advantage into the break.

American extended its edge to 37-31 a minute into the second half, but Mason used a quick 6-0 run to tie it up.

The Eagles again built their lead out to four (48-44) at the 11:12 mark and led 53-50 with 8:17 remaining.

American held a 60-54 lead with 4:51 left, but at that point, Boyd hit two critical 3-pointers to move Mason back within two (62-60). The Patriots then tied it up on a lay-in from Livingston II with 1:16 remaining.

American’s Sam Iorio converted a lay-in with 52 seconds left to give the Eagles a 66-64 edge, but Greene was fouled and hit both free throws to tie it up with 22 seconds left.

On American’s final possession, Wilson made a game-saving block on Mark Gasperini to send the game into overtime.

In the extra session, Mason took that 74-70 lead after four-straight points from Greene, but the 3-point play by Nelson ultimately propelled the Eagles to the road win, as Livingston II’s jumper in the closing seconds just rimmed out.

Mason now hits the road for the first time in 2018-19. The Green & Gold will play at Georgia Southern on Tuesday (Nov. 13) at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+. The Patriots will look to avenge a home loss against the Eagles last season (Dec. 12, 2017).

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