George Mason outlasts UMass, 68-63, improves to 4-1 in A-10

george masonGeorge Mason capped a five-day road trip with a gritty victory, making critical plays down the stretch during a 68-63 win over Massachusetts Wednesday night.

Mason trailed by four (54-50) with 6:40 remaining, but used a crucial 13-2 run over the next four minutes to build a 63-56 lead with 2:38 to go. UMass could not move closer than three for the remainder of the game.

The Patriots (10-8, 4-1) are off to their best league start in their six seasons in the A-10 and are now 3-0 in conference road games.

Despite shooting just 22.2 percent (4-18) from deep, Mason was 18-of-33 (.545) from two-point range and made 20-of-22 free throws (.909) The Patriots are now 37 of 40 from the line (.925) over the past two games.

“I told our team in the locker room that this was our best A-10 victory this season,” head coach Dave Paulsen said. “UMass is a good basketball team and really made us work. It wasn’t always pretty but we showed poise and only had 10 turnovers against some extreme defense. To not shoot well like we did at Rhode Island and still come out with the win is key for our program.”

Mason was led offensively by the dynamic guard duo of junior Justin Kier and sophomore Javon Greene. Kier poured in 22 points on 8-of-13 shooting and grabbed nine rebounds in 37 minutes of work. Kier is now averaging 20 points and 11.8 rebounds through five games in conference play.

Greene added a career-best 19 points (6-11 FG), seven rebounds and two steals in 35 minutes.

The pair also teamed up to guard Luwane Pipkins and limited the UMass star to just nine points on just 3-of-12 shooting. He entered the game averaging 19.4 points.

Senior Otis Livingston II chipped in 12 points and made a number of crucial free throws (7-8 FT) while dishing out four assists. Redshirt-junior forward Jarred Reuter didn’t score, but dished out a career-best five assists and proved critical on the offensive end of the floor throughout the game.

Mason held UMass to 1-of-8 shooting to start and jumped out to a 5-0 lead, but the Minutemen responded with an 11-0 spurt to take an 11-7 lead at the 12-minute mark of the opening half. UMass led by three at 18-15, but Mason responded with a 6-0 run to build a 21-18 lead with five minutes to play in the stanza. From there, the Patriots could convert just one made field goal over the final minutes of the half, but the defense held strong as Mason took a 23-21 lead into the break.

The Patriots shot just 34.5 percent, but limited the Minutemen to 27.6 percent and a 1-of-11 mark from 3-point range.

Both teams rocketed out of the gate in the second half, with UMass making four of its first five attempts, while Mason was 3-of-3 (3-4 FT). The Patriots extended their lead to six at 36-30 through the second half’s first four minutes and led 40-33 after free throws from Kier at the 13:34 mark. UMass raced back with an 8-0 run to take a 41-40 lead and extended the edge to four (54-50) with 6:40 left in the ballgame.

From there, the Patriots mounted their comeback. Although they would not score for the next 1:40, Mason also denied the Minutemen throughout the stretch. Then, Greene nailed a tough 3-pointer at the 5-minute mark and Livingston II hit a pair of free throws to surge the Green & Gold back in front, 55-54, with 4:33 to play.

Mason would never trail again. Kier scored four straight points, then Livingston II nailed a tough jumper to put the Patriots up 63-56 with 2:32 left. UMass cut it to three (63-60) with 57 seconds to play, but Kier came up huge again, converting a jumper in the paint to make it 65-60. Greene added a free throw with 18 seconds left to make it 66-60, and the Patriots hung on from there.

The Green & Gold now return home for a Saturday (Jan, 19) contest vs. Fordham. Tip-off in EagleBank Arena between the Patriots and Rams is scheduled for 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN+.


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