Mason snuffs out late JMU rally, wins 89-83
The George Mason men’s basketball team maintained a double-digit lead for more than 30 minutes on Saturday night at James Madison, then withstood a furious Dukes rally in the final moments to come away with an 89-83 Colonial Athletic Association victory at the Convocation Center.
Five Patriots (13-5, 5-1 CAA) scored in double figures as Mason kept pace to stay in first place in the conference standings. JMU dropped to 1-5 in conference and 8-9 overall.
Freshman Vaughn Gray broke out for a career-high 19 points, matched by senior Ryan Pearson who also contributed 19 along with a team-high seven rebounds. Pearson and Gray, who scored the most points by a Mason freshman since Sherrod Wright had 24 on Dec. 12, 2009 against VMI, were matched by JMU’s Humpty Hitchens and Devon Moore as the game’s high scorers. Wright posted 15 points while senior Mike Morrison and sophomore Jonathan Arledge added 12 each, a career high for Arledge.
Mason had its largest lead of the game of 24 at 78-54 with 7:56 remaining, but the Dukes charged back with a 23-4 run spanning the next seven minutes, ended by an Arman Marks 3-pointer which left the score 82-77 with 59 seconds to go. Bryon Allen pushed the lead back to 87-77 with 19 seconds left after a free throw, and the Dukes got no closer than six as the horn sounded, marking Mason’s sixth-straight win over its longtime in-state rival.
The Patriots never trailed in the first half, and after a Moore basket at the 18:17 mark made it a 2-2 tie, the Dukes could not overcome the Patriots’ lead. Holding a slim 8-7 advantage, Mason exploded for a 10-2 run which pushed their lead to nine, and the margin hit double digits after Arledge completed a 3-point play to make the score 23-12.
The Dukes did not get within a single-digit margin again for the remainder of the opening period, with the Patriots opening a lead as large as 22 at 45-23 with just over a minute left. JMU scored the final six points of the half to set the halftime score of 45-30. The Patriots shot 61.9 percent from the field (13-21) in the first 20 minutes, compared to a 29 percent clip for the Dukes. Nearly a third of Mason’s damage was done at the charity stripe as the Patriots completed 17 of 20 free throw attempts (85 percent).
Mason returns to action Wednesday to kick off a three-game homestand, beginning with a tilt against the Delaware Fightin’ Blue Hens. Tip time from Patriot Center is set for 7 p.m.