George Mason now 2-0 in A-10 play after 68-53 win over St. Bonaventure
The Patriots (8-7) found themselves in a rock fight with the Bonnies midway through the second half while trailing 45-44. But with 9:42 to go, Mason erupted for a run of 14-0, then closed the game out with a 10-0 spurt. In all, the Patriots outscored the Bonnies 24-8 over the final 10 minutes.
With the victory, Mason improves to 2-0 in A-10 play for the first time in its six seasons in the league. Going back to the Nov. 28 win over Morgan State, the Patriots have now won six of their past eight contests.
“In a lot of ways, this is a more gratifying win than our one Thursday night versus Saint Joe’s,” head coach Dave Paulsen said. “We were out of sync to begin the game but our guys showed a lot of grit, toughness and defended. That’s what we’ve been preaching and we’ve made great strides in that area.”
Mason shot just 37.9 percent in the first half and missed its first 11 3-pointers. But the Patriots also dug in and held the Bonnies to just 38.7 percent and a 1-of-11 mark from deep. That defensive energy gave Mason a 28-25 halftime edge, and it’s those stops and key plays on the other end of the floor that set up Mason’s solid offensive second half.
The Patriots shot 52.2 percent (12-23) in the final stanza and made a blistering 6-of-9 3-pointers to pull away. SBU finished the game 23-of-59 (.390) and 5-of-20 (.250) from 3-point land.
6-foot-4-inch guard Justin Kier grabbed an impressive 14 rebounds for the second-straight game and finished with his fourth double-double (15 pts, 14 reb) in the past five games. During Mason’s current 6-2 stretch, Kier has scored at least 14 points in every game.
Senior Otis Livingston II scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half and made a trio of 3-pointers in the final stanza. Junior Ian Boyd added nine points (2-4 3pt FG) and five rebounds in 25 minutes off the bench, while sophomore forward Greg Calixte also provided a key bench boost with eight points and nine rebounds, including four on the offensive glass.
Mason nearly doubled up the Bonnies on the boards (44-24) and held a 23-11 edge in bench scoring for the game.
The Bonnies made their first four shots and took an early 9-2 lead. Buoyed by a 4-of-14 start from the floor by the Patriots, the Bonnies extended their edge to eight (17-9) at the 10:50 mark of the first half. Mason stepped up its defensive effort to force a scoreless Bonnies stretch and took advantage, piecing together a 7-0 spurt to tie the game at 19 with 5:33 to go in the stanza. With the score tied at 25-25, Ian Boyd summoned his usual flair for the dramatic, nailing a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give Mason a 28-25 edge at the half.
Mason scored seven of the first nine points of the second half to extend the edge to eight (35-27). The Patriots lifted that lead to 10 (40-30) at the 15:09 mark, but the Bonnies quickly responded with an 8-0 spurt over the next two minutes to move back within two (40-38). SBU surged in front by one (45-44), but Mason answered with that critical 14-0 sequence.
The run began with back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers from Jamal Hartwell II, Livingston II and Boyd. That came on the heels of three straight defensive stops, or what the Mason coaching staff calls a “lock.” From there, Calixte converted a lay-in and Boyd completed the old-fashioned 3-point play to put the Patriots up 56-44 with 5:34 to go.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by SBU’s Nelson Kaputo and Kyle Lofton moved the Bonnies back within six (56-50) at the 4:20 mark, but that’s as close as the visitors would get, as the Patriots put the game out of reach with a 10-0 run. That included a 3-pointer from Boyd, five points from Kier, and a 3-pointer from Livingston II to give Mason a 66-50 edge with 51 seconds to play.
In all, Mason outscored SBU 24-8 over the final 9:42 of action.
The Patriots now remain in EagleBank Arena for an important matchup with A-10 contender Davidson Wednesday. Tip-off on ESPN+ is scheduled for 7 p.m.