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George Mason holds off Keydets, 89-86

  
Staff Report
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www.vmikeydets.com

Freshman forward Luke Hancock hit a reverse putback layup with :50 remaining to put George Mason up for good, and junior guard Cam Long added a layup at the :09 mark to key a last-minute rally as George Mason defeated VMI, 89-86, Tuesday night at the Patriot Center.

The game featured only the second meeting between the schools in 30 seasons and saw 10 lead changes and 12 ties before Hancock’s basket turned the tide in favor of the Patriots (6-5), who jumped above the .500 mark on the season.

VMI fell to 4-6 on the year, but saw several encouraging performances in the road setback. Sophomore guard Keith Gabriel broke out of a three-game shooting slump and led VMI in scoring with 24 points including six three-point goals. Junior guard Austin Kenon continued his steady scoring and added 22 points and six assists, while freshman forward Stan Okoye matched his career-high with 18 points.

2008 Waynesboro High School grad Nick Gore played three minutes off the bench and did not score.

Mason got a team-high 24 points from freshman guard Sherrod Wright while sophomore forward Ryan Pearson added 16 points.

VMI rallied from a double-digit first half deficit and took its first lead of the second half when Gabriel fired a three-pointer with 14:48 left to push the Keydets to a 59-56 lead. A 7-2 spurt later in the second half capped by Hunter Houston’s jumper gave VMI its largest lead of the night, 72-67. Houston added another jumper to maintain the five point Keydet spread, 76-71 at the 8:26 mark

But the Patriots rallied behind freshman guard Rashad Whack, who was inserted into the game midway in the second half. Whack finished with nine second-half points and canned a pair of three-pointers to key a 7-0 run to put the Patriots back on top, 78-76 with 6:39 left.

VMI stayed close, trailing by no more than four points for the rest of regulation despite Mason’s ability to convert key shots including a banked three-pointer by Ryan Pearson as the shot clocked expired at the 4:24 mark.

A pair of free throws by Gabriel with 2:09 left inched VMI within 85-84, and Okoye followed with a slam dunk on a perfect inbounds feed from Ron Burks to give the Keydets an 86-85 lead with 1:11 left. After a 30-second timeout, Mason worked the ball to Whack, who misfired from long range only to see Hancock secure the rebound and score the decisive basket on the second-chance opportunity.

Following a 30-second timeout in which VMI inserted all of its key shooters, the Keydets maneuvered for a wide open look for Kenon from the right wing, but the Virginia Beach native could not drain the three-point attempt from 24 feet and the long carom was scooped up by Mason’s Isaiah Tate who hastily threw ahead to a racing Long for a driving layup with :09 left.

Sophomore guard Ron Burks tried to send the game into overtime with two three-point tries in the final three seconds of regulation, but Hancock blocked the first try forcing a desperation heave that fell short as time expired.

  


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