Late VMI rally comes up short in 68-66 loss at George Mason

VMI AthleticsVMI led by as many as 15 in the first half, then George Mason rallied and held on for a 68-66 win in Fairfax Monday afternoon.

The Keydets (5-4) led 30-15 with 5:15 to go in the first half after a Kamdyn Curfman three-pointer, but Mason (3-1) quickly changed the game with an 8-0 run in the final minute of the first half and trailed 34-31 at the break.

The Patriots were playing their first game in 23 days – the layoff the result of COVID-19 issues in the program.

A Greg Parham layup gave VMI a 40-35 lead with 16:48 to go, but the Patriots – playing their first game in 23 days, the layoff the result of COVID-19 issues in the program – went on a 12-0 run over the next 3:23 to take control.

George Mason led 66-57 with 3:07 left but missed four consecutive free throws and the Keydets scored six unanswered points and pulled within 66-63 on a pair of Jake Stephens free throws with 47.1 seconds remaining.

The Keydets got a stop and the ball back with 16 seconds left, but Stephens’ three-point try to tie it fell short, and Xavier Johnson converted two free throws with four seconds left to put GMU ahead 68-63.

Parham nailed a three-pointer with 0.4 left for the final margin.

Stephens led the way for VMI with his second double-double (14 points, 10 rebounds) of the season and third of his career.

“It was different than Gardner-Webb our last time out, when had a huge hole and didn’t have enough fight to come back,” VMI coach Dan Earl said. “This game we came out and were strong at the beginning, things were going well, and then we got punched in the face the last minute of the first half when they scored eight straight. But we regrouped at halftime and came fighting back after they took the lead.

“Overall, I don’t think we played our best game. Credit George Mason for playing very good defense. They made it tough for us, and we didn’t get a lot of threes off. We didn’t shot a high percentage from two, either. We have to try to be more consistent for longer stretches. We didn’t make enough plays. We had a great opportunity to win this game and let it slip away.”

VMI will take the rest of the week off from competition to observe Christmas Furlough before returning to face Samford on the road Dec. 30 in Birmingham.

Mason senior AJ Wilson poured in game highs in points (22) and rebounds (10) to record the eighth double-double of his career.

Wilson also notched four blocks on the day.

The Patriots return to action Wednesday with a 4 p.m. contest vs. Towson inside EagleBank Arena.


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