Hot-shooting George Mason tops William & Mary, 87-84

george masonBig plays, outstanding team basketball and timely shooting highlighted the George Mason men’s basketball team’s first road win of the season – an 87-84 victory over William & Mary Saturday afternoon in Williamsburg.

With the Patriots leading 81-79 with 3:18 to go, Mason made its final three shots and got three critical stops down the stretch to claim the victory. The Patriots shot a season-best 59 percent for the game (36-61), made 41.7 percent of their attempts from 3-point range (10-24) and had seven players post at least eight points in the contest.

“This is a great win for our team,” head coach Dave Paulsen said. “We played well the whole game against a very talented team. They’re very difficult to defend. Everyone that played gave us a great contribution and we made big plays down the stretch. We’ve grown a lot the past couple weeks and we need to continue to grow.”

Mason’s 59.0 field goal percentage was its best since the Green & Gold shot 63 percent vs. La Salle in February 2017. The Patriots’ 22 assists on 36 made field goals marked Mason’s highest assist total in close to seven years. Mason dished out 24 assists vs. Northeastern in February 2012.

Senior guard Otis Livingston II led the Green & Gold with his second double-double of the season. He dished out a game-high 10 assists and posted a team-high 18 points to help Mason claim victory. In the process, he passed Folarin Campbell (2004-08) and moved into 10th on the all-time Patriot scoring list (1,515 pts). He also passed Ricky Wilson (1982-86) and Myron Contee (1974-79) and is now second all time at Mason in assists (413).

Junior Justin Kier (15 points, 6-9 FG) tied his season high with eight rebounds, while sophomore Javon Greene added 15 points, six rebounds and made 2-of-4 3-point field goal attempts.

Redshirt-junior Jarred Reuter chipped in 11 points (5-9 FG) and sophomore Goanar Mar added 10 points, four assists and four rebounds while making a pair of critical 3-pointers in the second half.

Mason held a 42-26 advantage in points in the paint for the game and turned eight offensive boards into an 11-3 edge in second chance points.

The Patriots made four of their first seven shots to take a 10-5 lead. The Tribe answered with a 9-0 run to go up 14-10, but a 6-0 spurt gave Mason a 16-14 advantage at the 12:06 mark of the first half. The Tribe went back up five (23-18) at the 9:20 mark, but a Livingston II 3-pointer cut the edge to two (25-23) with 7:03 to go in the period. William & Mary used a 7-2 run to open its largest lead of the stanza (40-32, 3:22), but the Patriots hit a pair of buckets to make the deficit six (42-36) at the break.

The Tribe built their lead back out to eight (49-41) early in the second half, but a 3-pointer from Mar helped the Patriots claw back to within one on the strength of a 7-0 run (49-48). Mason went on to take the lead at 53-52 on a 3-pointer from Kier, capping a 14-3 run for the Green & Gold.

William & Mary roared back to command a 59-55 edge at the 13:04 mark of the second half, but Mason put together another 7-0 run – capped by another triple from Mar – to go up 67-64 with 10:06 to play.

Mason led by that margin (72-69) with 6:31 left and extended the advantage to five (77-72) with 5:20 to go. The Tribe cut it to one at 77-76, but the Patriots hit a pair of field goals to take an 81-76 lead with 3:31 remaining.

The Patriots got called for a 3-point foul and William & Mary took advantage, hitting all three free throws to make it 81-79. The teams traded baskets, before Livingston II hit a big baseline 15-footer to extend the lead back to four (83-79) with 54 seconds to go.

The Tribe made a 3-pointer (85-84) with 37 seconds left, but then committed a foul on the ensuing Mason possession to turn the shot clock off with 13 seconds remaining. With the Tribe having to foul three times to send the Patriots into the bonus, Reuter took an inbounds pass from Kier and made a great decision, finding Greene under the hoop for the score before William & Mary could foul (87-84).

With two seconds left, the Tribe’s Nathan Knight missed the front end of the 1-and-1. He got his own rebound but his last second shot was short as the Patriots held on for the victory.

Mason returns home for a contest against mid-major power Vermont on Monday night inside EagleBank Arena. Tip-off between the Patriots and Catamounts is scheduled for 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN+.

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Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, by Jerry Ratcliffe and Chris Graham, is available for $25.

The book, with additional reporting by Zach Pereles, Scott Ratcliffe and Scott German, will take you from the aftermath of the stunning first-round loss to UMBC in 2018, and how coach Tony Bennett and his team used that loss as the source of strength, through to the ACC regular-season championship, the run to the Final Four, and the thrilling overtime win over Texas Tech to win the 2019 national title, the first in school history.
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