George Mason gets nice bounceback win, defeats LaSalle

george masonGeorge Mason used its defensive prowess to fuel a strong offensive showing Saturday afternoon during a 76-63 victory at La Salle inside Tom Gola Arena.

The Patriots (12-4, 1-2) trailed 23-18 with 3;20 to go in the first half, before blitzing the Explorers with a 22-0 surge that bled three minutes into the second stanza and gave Mason a commanding 40-23 lead. The Green & Gold would get the lead to as high as 22 midway through the second stanza.

Mason limited La Salle to just 11 of its first 38 field goal attempts (.289) to fuel the road victory in Philadelphia.

The Patriots shot 48.1 percent for the game and a sizzling 53.6 percent (15-28) in the second half (5-11 3pt FG). Mason made an efficient 18-of-22 attempts (.818) from the free throw line.

“This is a great win for our guys. I love the way they bounced back, not only today, but also Thursday and Friday at practice,” head coach Dave Paulsen said. “We were struggling to score in the first half but we continued to defend and that paid dividends when the shots began to fall. I’m really proud of our team.”

Senior Justin Kier played a sturdy game on both sides of the ball while finishing with season highs in points (18) and minutes played (38). He made 6-of-12 field goal attempts and dished out two assists in the winning effort.

Redshirt-junior AJ Wilson added a solid 16-point, 8-rebound, 3-block line while connecting on 7-of-13 field goal attempts. Javon Greene also tallied 16 points, made 3-of-5 3-point attempts and chipped in seven rebounds and three assists.

Sophomore Jordan Miller scored 13 points (5-10 FG) and registered a career-best four steals in 32 minutes of action.

Mason’s 1-2-2 press continued to reap dividends on Saturday, as the Explorers’ committed 16 turnovers which the Patriots turned into a 22-11 edge in points off miscues.

La Salle scored the game’s first five points, but Mason used a 6-0 run to help tie it up at 10-10 at the 12:06 mark of the opening stanza. A 3-pointer from Javon Greene put the Patriots ahead 16-12, but La Salle answered with an 11-2 spurt to take a 23-18 edge with 3:20 to go in the half. But from there, Mason would not allow a La Salle point to end the period as the Patriots closed the stanza on an 8-0 spurt. The Patriots took a 26-23 lead into halftime.

The Patriots carried that momentum into the second half, when Mason opened that stanza on an impressive 14-0 surge. The spurt began with seven straight points from Jordan Miller, who snared a jumper, then stole the inbounds and laid it in on the first two plays of the period. He then nailed a 3-pointer to put the Patriots up 33-23. A Greene 3-pointer, followed by an Xavier Johnson driving lay-in, capped the 14-0 spurt and made it 40-23 Mason at the 17:44 mark.

The Patriots boosted the lead to 20 at 46-26 and then got it to 22 at 64-42 on a 3-point play by Johnson with 6:50 to play. The Explorers could not move closer than 11 for the remainder of the game. Mason was able to jump out to the second half lead by holding La Salle to three of its first 14 from the floor.

With Wilson’s three blocks, he now sits third all-time in Mason single season history with 58 blocks in 2019-20. George Evans’ record of 77 (1998-99) is well within reach with 15 regular season games remaining for the Patriots.

Justin Kier also moved into 27th place on Mason’s all-time scoring list with his 18-point effort. He’s up to 1,120 points for his career.

Mason returns to the DMV to play at Revolutionary Rival George Washington on Wednesday (January 15). Tip-off inside the Smith Center is set for 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+.

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