George Mason pushes past Morgan State, 86-79

george masonGeorge Mason outscored Morgan State 54-37 in the second half en route to a 86-79 win over the Bears Friday night inside EagleBank Arena.

Mason (6-7) trailed by 10 at the half (42-32), but shot 56.7 percent (17-30) in the second stanza while limiting the Bears to 39.4 percent (13-33).

Sophomore Justin Kier led the Patriots with a career-best 22 points (9-12 FG), 16 of which came in the deciding second half. He also grabbed six rebounds and dished out two assists in 35 minutes.

“That’s a heck of a second half effort by our guys against a good team,” head coach Dave Paulsen said. “We came up with enough stops in the second half and we had a number of good performances. At halftime we challenged our captains to step up, lead and produce. They did that. We know we have a lot of work to do and we need to continue to develop consistency.”

Junior Jaire Grayer added 19 points and converted 5-of-7 3-point attempts for the Green & Gold, while Otis Livingston II dished out 14 points and a game-high five assists in 35 minutes.

Freshman Goanar Mar posted 14 points and grabbed a team-high seven rebounds, while fellow freshman Greg Calixte added a career-best nine points (4-4 FG) and three rebounds in 20 minutes.

Mason shot 52.8 percent for the game while scoring a season-high 86 points on the night. The Patriots also held a +18 (40-22) edge in points in the paint.

Morgan State raced out to an early 15-8 lead, but the Patriots held the Bears without a field goal over the next four minutes to tie the game up at 15-15. Mason took a 23-22 lead with 6:23 to play in the first half, but Morgan State used an 8-0 run to build an eight-point advantage (35-27).

The Bears lead 46-37 early in the second half, but Mason used a mini 8-3 spurt to cut the lead to three (51-48) at the 14:20 mark of the half. Grayer hit a 3-pointer to cut the edge to two (59-57) with 10:51 to go, but Morgan State pushed the lead back to seven (65-58) with 7:46 left.

With the Bears ahead 67-60, Mason scored five straight to pull within two (67-65) and tied it up at 69 on an acrobatic Kier lay-in at the 4:49 mark. Another beautiful Kier move gave Mason the lead (75-73) and a buzzer beating 3-pointer from Grayer made it 82-76 Patriots with 49 seconds remaining.

The Bears could not get closer than five for the remainder of the game.

Mason opens Atlantic 10 play on Saturday, December 30 vs. preseason league favorite Rhode Island. Tip-off in Kingston, R.I., is set for 4 p.m.The game will be broadcast on the Atlantic 10 Network.

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