Mason secures sole possession of first in CAA with win at Georgia State
The George Mason men’s basketball team withstood a furious charge late to hold off Georgia State, 61-58, in Colonial Athletic Association action Saturday evening at the Patriot Center. The win gives Mason (12-4, 4-0 CAA) sole possession of first place in the conference standings while snapping GSU’s 11-game winning streak, as the Panthers dropped to 11-4 and 3-1 in league play.
Senior Mike Morrison posted a double-double with a career-high 15 rebounds and 14 points, while redshirt sophomore Vertrail Vaughns scored a team-high 17 points while senior Ryan Pearson contributed 10 points, all of which coming from the free throw line. Jihad Ali led a trio of Panthers in double-figure scoring with 19 points.
After Vaughns hit the game’s opening points on a 3-pointer, a 7-0 run by the Panthers gave them a two-possession lead with five minutes elapsed. GSU held that lead until the 12:11 mark when senior Andre Cornelius’s two free throws tied the score at 11. The Panthers would again go up four, but the Patriots took the lead after an Allen 3-point play made it 24-21. Morrison followed that up with an emphatic two-handed dunk off a baseball-pass assist from sophomore Bryon Allen, forcing GSU’s first timeout as the visitors trailed 26-21 and concluding an 8-0 Mason run.
The Mason lead grew to eight at 31-23 which would stand as the halftime margin, as the Patriots closed out the first half on a 13-2 run. GSU was held scoreless for nearly all of the final four minutes, as Mason was led by 11 points from Vaughns.
GSU had a hot start to the second half, scoring the first eight points to erase Mason’s halftime lead. Mason stopped the run with five in a row to take a 36-31 advantage. That was part of a larger 11-3 scoring stretch which pushed the Mason lead to 42-34. The Panthers worked that margin down to two points and a 3-pointer by James Fields with five minutes to go returned the lead to GSU, 47-46.
A pair of free throws by Pearson switched the advantage, but Ali matched it at the 2:45 mark with a pair from the stripe. Two more free throws by Pearson made it 50-49 Mason, and Buckner evened the score when he connected on one of two from the free throw line.
Pearson hit two more to give the Patriots a 52-50 lead, which was cut in half by Fields when he sank the second of two free throws with 1:29 left. Morrison put back a missed shot with 52 seconds left to increase the lead to 54-51. Fields had a layup chance but was whistled for the charge in the lane, giving the ball back to the Patriots with 38 seconds remaining.
Two more free throws by Pearson made it a two-possession difference, but a dunk by Eric Buckner left the score at 56-53. Again, Mason found its answer at the free throw line, as Allen drained a pair while Cornelius added one to leave the score 59-53. A 3-pointer by Devonta White again moved the Panthers within three, but Vaughns connected twice with 4.3 seconds left to seal the win. Buckner added a dunk as the final horn sounded to set the final score.
Mason will look to make it five straight wins as they next travel to preseason CAA favorite Drexel. Tip time from Philadelphia is set for Thursday at 8 p.m., a game that will be televised live on ESPNU.