George Mason withstands LIU in 80-74 win

George MasonGeorge Mason improved to 3-0 on the young season with a gutty 80-74 triumph over Long Island University Wednesday night inside EagleBank Arena.

The Patriots battled an LIU team which ranks top-50 in the nation in tempo. The Sharks pushed the pace after nearly every made Mason basket and tallied 14 fast break points, which kept the Northeast Conference favorites within striking distance for much of the contest.

In the end, Mason withstood the onslaught and used a 53.3 percent shooting effort (16-30) in the second half to secure the victory.

“We feel really good about the victory and I think our guys buckled down and defended much better in the second half,” head coach Dave Paulsen said. “That’s a very talented team. They put you in tough situations and they play in as fast a pace as any team I’ve seen. It’s good be able to get a win when you don’t play your ‘A’ game. I think that’s the mark of a resilient team.”

Sophomore Jordan Miller – who opened with nine- and eight-point efforts to begin the season – broke out with a career-high 25 points (10-18 FG, 3-5 3pt FG) to go along with five rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals in 34 minutes on the floor. That mark shattered his previous career best of 17 set last season against George Washington.

The Patriots had just 10 turnovers against LIU’s funky triangle-and-two defense and forced 15 LIU miscues which led to 16 Mason points.

Freshman Xavier Johnson came up huge late in the second half, with 11 of his 13 points coming in the game’s final six minutes to help clinch the game.

Junior Javon Greene added 12 points and eight rebounds, while redshirt-junior forward AJ Wilson tallied 10 points, seven rebounds and three blocks while battling foul trouble (22 minutes total).

Mason shot 46.3 percent overall for the game and had a solid night (13-17, .765) at the free throw line.

The Patriots jumped out to an early 11-6 lead and were up 21-15 at the 9:33 mark of the opening half. A Jamal Hartwell II runner kept Mason up six (25-19), but LIU raced back with an 11-3 spurt to go up 30-28. The teams entered the half tied at 36.

In the second stanza, Mason quickly pushed the lead back to six (54-48), but LIU came back to tie it at 56-56 with 8:29 to play.

At that point, the Green & Gold used a 7-0 spurt to take a 63-56 edge – capped by a Greene 3-pointer at the 7:26 mark. The Patriots extended the lead to eight (68-60) and lead 72-65 with 3:31 to play. LIU put together a 7-0 run to get back within two (74-72, 1:53), but that’s as close as the Sharks would get, as Goanar Mar hit a big jumper on the next possession. Mason pushed the led to eight with under 30 seconds to play.

The Green & Gold are back in EagleBank Arena Saturday night for a rivalry showdown with James Madison. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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