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George Mason wins 80-72 OT thriller at UMass

george masonGeorge Mason dominated the overtime session during a resilient 80-72 victory at Massachusetts on Wednesday night inside the Mullins Center.

Mason (7-8, 1-1) led 36-34 at the break and was up by as many as 12 (55-43) in the second half, before UMass (7-8, 0-2) fought back to tie the game at 66 and force overtime. In the extra session, Mason held a solid +8 (14-6) edge to take a commanding path to victory.

Junior Otis Livingston II led the Green & Gold with a monster effort, posting career highs in points (33) and assists (9) to go along with six rebounds in 43 minutes on the floor. The Linden, N.J., product made 10-of-20 field goals and all 11 of his free throw attempts to power Mason to the important road win. He scored the final seven points of the game for the Patriots.

“I thought we played with a great deal of toughness and executed the game plan while making big plays,” head coach Dave Paulsen said. “I’m really proud of our guys. We’re the 15th-youngest team in the country and we got it handed to us at Rhode Island on Saturday. To bounce back with this kind of effort was excellent. Otis was phenomenal. He carried us and there aren’t enough superlatives to describe him.”

Fellow junior Jaire Grayer tallied 20 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals, while freshman Goanar Mar added 13 points and eight rebounds.

Freshman Greg Calixte put forth a critical effort while matching up against formidable UMass post player Rashaan Holloway. Calixte grabbed a career-best 12 rebounds to go along with eight points in a career-best 31 minutes on the floor.

The Patriots shot 48.3 percent in the first stanza to grab the halftime lead. Mason managed just 31.3 percent in the second half and 30 percent in OT, but the defense was the story for the Green & Gold.

The Patriots allowed UMass to shoot just 38.2 percent for the contest and 18.5 percent (5-27) from 3-point territory. Both marks are season lows for a Mason opponent this season.

The Patriots also imposed their will on the glass against the height- and girth-superior Minutemen. The Green & Gold held a +10 (49-39) edge in rebounding and turned 18 offensive rebounds into 15 second chance points. Mason also scored 38 points in the paint and held a 15-6 edge in fast break points for the game. On the strength of 10 steals, the Patriots scored 17 points off turnovers for the game.

Mason jumped out to a 6-0 lead, but UMass pulled within two (11-9) in the game’s first four minutes. Mason extended the edge to 18-9 on a triple from Grayer and made it 21-12 after a 3-pointer from Livingston II at the 11:49 mark of the first half. In all, Mason made eight of its first 12 shots.

The Patriots led by nine (27-18) after a lay-in from Livingston II and after the Minutemen cut the lead to four (27-23), Mason went back up seven after Ian Boyd found Calixte for a lay-in (32-25).

The Patriots held a 36-28 edge with 1:48 to play in the half, but the Minutemen posted the last six points of the stanza to move within two (36-34) at the break.

UMass extended the run to 10-0 and led 38-36 just a minute into the second half. It marked the first lead for the Minutemen. But the Patriots would not be phased, rattling off a 12-2 run from there to build a 48-40 lead at the 15-minute mark of the half.

The Patriots extended the lead to 12 (55-43) on a lay-in by Livingston II, but an 11-2 spurt from the Minutemen brought UMass back within three (57-54) with 8:31 remaining. UMass was within one at 60-59 and took a 61-60 lead with 3:49 to go.

Mason went back in front with leads of 62-61 and 64-63, then went up 66-63 on a fastbreak lay-in by Justin Kier with 1:02 left.

UMass made three free throws over the final minute to tie the score at 66, and Livingston’s last-second regulation attempt did not go down. Calixte notched a huge block on the other end as time expired to send the game to overtime.

In the extra session, a big-time 3-point play by Calixte gave the Green & Gold a 71-68 edge. Livingston II stole the ball on the ensuing UMass possession and scored to put the Patriots up 73-68 with 2:20 to go. The Minutemen pulled within one (73-72) with 1:30 left, but another huge 3-point play – this time by Livingston II – increased Mason’s lead to four (76-72) once more with 32 seconds left.

Four free throws by Livingston II iced the game and sent Mason home from its five-day road swing with a victory.

Mason now returns home to Fairfax for the first contest in a three-game homestand. The Patriots host Davidson on Sunday at noon inside EagleBank Arena. The game will be televised nationally on NBC Sports Network.

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