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George Mason takes #6 Kansas to the brink in 76-67 loss

George MasonGeorge Mason was within five with less than four minutes to go Saturday night in Phog Allen Fieldhouse, but could not make the final push, falling to sixth-ranked Kansas 76-67 on New Year’s Day.

Mason, which had just nine student-athletes dress due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols, trailed 66-61 with 3:44 left. But the Jayhawks scored the next six points to build an 11-point edge and ultimately close out a hard-fought game in Lawrence.

In a strong defensive effort by the Green & Gold, Mason held the Jayhawks’ third-ranked offense 10 points under its season average. In addition, Mason limited KU’s two-headed monster of Ochai Agbaji (21.5 ppg) and Christian Braun (17.3 ppg) to 25 combined points during a well-executed gameplan by the Patriots.

The Patriots also held Kansas, which entered the game ranked third-nationally in field goal percentage (.521), to just 44.4 percent (28-63) on the night.

“When we lose games [due to COVID-19 protocols] and there’s an opportunity for us to secure a quality opponent we’re going to do it,” head coach Kim English said. “We didn’t get it done tonight in an incredible environment to play a college basketball game. I’m very disappointed in the result but I thought we got better as a group today.”

Five Patriots reached double figures during a well-balanced offensive effort inside Phog Allen Fieldhouse.

Junior Davonte Gaines registered his fourth double-double of the season with an outstanding 15-point, 12-rebound performance. The Buffalo, N.Y., native made 5-of-8 field goal attempts and 3-of-6 3-pointers on the night.

Graduate student D’Shawn Schwartz added 15 points, a season-best five assists and four rebounds in a full 40 minutes on the floor. In three games against Power 5 competition this non-conference season, Schwartz averaged an impressive 20 points and 6.3 rebounds.

Junior Josh Oduro notched 12 points (4-8 FG) and two steals despite battling foul trouble (24 minutes), while Xavier Johnson (11 points, 2 assists) and DeVon Cooper (11 points, 3-6 3pt FG) also eclipsed the 10-point plateau.

Mason made 10+ 3-pointers for the third-straight game and shot 40.7 percent from 3pt range (11-27) on the night).

Kansas won the game in the paint where the Jayhawks held a 32-18 scoring advantage. Kansas also turned 14 Patriot turnovers into a 19-3 edge in points off turnovers for the game.

Mason led 11-7 five minutes into the first half, but Kansas used a 7-0 spurt to go up 14-11. The Jayhawks built a 24-18 advantage, but Mason raced back to tie it up (25-25) on a Schwartz lay-in at the 8:22 mark. A 9-2 Kansas run pushed the lead back to seven (34-27) with 5:19 to go in the half. Five straight from the Patriots cut it to two (34-32), but the Jayhawks closed the stanza on a 14-5 run to take a 48-37 lead into the half.

Mason came out with a purpose to open the second half. Ronald Polite III nailed a 3-pointer to move the Patriots within six (51-45), then a tough lay-in from Gaines at 10:17 cut the Jayhawk lead to five (58-53).

Kansas scored the next five to go up 63-53 with 8:42 to go. Both teams struggled to score over the next five minutes, and Mason was able to get back to within five (66-61) with 3:44 to go after free throws from Schwartz.

That’s as close as Mason would get, as two straight 3-point possessions by the Jayhawks moved the lead up to 11 (72-61) with 1:46 remaining.

Next up, the Patriots open Atlantic 10 play with a home contest Wednesday vs. Rhode Island (8-3). Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. inside EagleBank Arena. The contest will be broadcast on ESPN+.

augusta free press
augusta free press