George Mason wins at VCU after Boyd hits third straight game winner

george masonIt’s becoming quite evident that “Big Shot” Ian Boyd has a flair for the dramatic. With less than a second to go and the George Mason University men’s basketball team trailing VCU 80-79, Boyd gobbled up an offensive rebound and converted a second-chance tip-in to give the Patriots their first win in the Siegel Center since 2011.

Sound familiar?

Well, it’s becoming increasingly so.

It marked the third-straight game in which Boyd worked his magic to send the Patriots home with a victory.

On February 21, the Apex, N.C., product hit a 3-pointer as time expired to give Mason (15-15, 9-8) a 79-76 victory at Saint Joseph’s.

Then, this past Saturday in Fairfax, Boyd took a fast-break feed from Livingston II and laid it in as time expired to push Mason past UMass, 78-76, in overtime.

Back to Wednesday night.

The Patriots trailed by 11 (75-64) with just 5:15 to play, but closed the game on a 17-6 spurt to stun the Rams in Richmond.

The victory improves the Patriots to 9-8 in A-10 play and allows Mason to control its own fate in terms of A-10 Tournament seeding. With a win Saturday vs. Richmond, the Patriots would claim the No. 4 seed and earn a double bye into Friday’s quarterfinals in Washington, D.C.

Mason’s comeback was fueled in large part to the stellar play of a Mason captain and a Mason freshman. Livingston II – the captain – poured in 26 points, including seven in the late-game run, to go along with five assists and four steals.

Mar – the freshman – played arguably his best game in a Mason uniform. The Mankato, Minn., product notched a career-high 26 points (8-12 FG) and hit 4-of-6 3-point attempts to go along with seven rebounds. He scored 13 points in each half during a balanced effort that helped keep the Green & Gold in the game when the offense stalled.

The Patriots executed their game plan to perfection to claim the difficult road victory. Mason made it difficult for VCU star Justin Tillman to get his usual 20-10 effort while limiting him to just 10 points on 3-of-10 shooting.

Mike’l Simms hit six 3-pointers and finished with a career-high 20 points, while VCU hit 13 total 3-pointers.

But the Green & Gold were able to withstand the VCU barrage with a balanced scoring effort and key defensive stops down the stretch.

Mason limited VCU to 43.1 percent shooting for the game and won the rebounding battle 39-38. The Rams held a 50-27 edge on the glass in the first meeting with the Patriots on Jan. 27 in Fairfax. The Rams also held a 25-4 edge in second chance points in the first meeting, but Mason was +1 (13-12) on Wednesday.

Boyd finished with 11 points and two assists, while Grayer chipped in 12 points, four rebounds and hit a pair of 3-pointers.

Mason scored the game’s first six points, then used a 10-0 spurt to build a 13-point edge (18-5) after a lay-in from Boyd at the 13:07 mark. The Patriots went up 15 (23-8) on another strong drive and finish to the rim. He scored seven-straight points for the Green & Gold to put them up 25-11 at the 10:04 mark.

VCU responded with an 8-0 run to move within six at 25-19, but back-to-back triples from Livingston II and Grayer pushed the Patriots back up 13 (37-24) with 5:54 to play in the opening stanza. Mason remained in front by 13 (45-32) on a Livingston II lay-in with 2:18 to go in the period, but VCU closed the half on a 9-0 spurt. Mason led at the break, 45-41.

VCU scored eight of the first 11 points of the second half to take a 49-48 lead and extended it to four (58-54) at the 14:06 mark of the first half.

The Patriots went back up three at 52-49, but with the game tied up at 59-59, VCU used a 10-1 run to build a 69-60 advantage with 8:49 to play.

That lead extended to 75-64 with 5:15 left, before the Green & Gold began their comeback. Livingston II hit a 3-pointer and converted a pair of free throws, then hit another 3-pointer to cut the led to six (78-72) with 3:23 to go.

Then, after VCU went back up five (80-75) at the 1:24 mark, the Patriots would take control and the Rams would not score again.

Jaire Grayer converted a lay-in after a Livingston II assist to make it 80-77 with 1:07 left. Then, after a defensive stop, Livingston II was fouled and hit both free throws to cut the lead to one at 80-79 with 21 seconds remaining.

At that point, Mason forced a VCU turnover and got the ball back with 17 seconds to go. It was on that final possession that Boyd converted the tip-in. VCU had a last-second chance but could not convert, as Mason escaped with the improbable win.

Mason closes out the 2017-18 regular season on Saturday with a home contest vs. Richmond. Tip-off between the Patriots and Spiders is set for 7 p.m. inside EagleBank Arena. The game will be televised regionally on MASN. Mason won the first meeting this season in Richmond, 79-75, on Feb. 3.

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