Home George Mason storms back from 11 down in second half, upsets #16 Dayton, 71-67

George Mason storms back from 11 down in second half, upsets #16 Dayton, 71-67

Chris Graham
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George Mason has been to a Final Four. One thing the program hadn’t done, until Wednesday night, was beat a Top 25 team at home.


A 24-2 second-half run put the Patriots on top, and a late rally by 16th-ranked Dayton came up short in a 71-67 Mason win inside EagleBank Arena.

“This is a big-time win for George Mason Basketball,” head coach Tony Skinn said. “I’m proud of these guys. The word of the day is poise. Games like this you get so excited about. You know the energy and effort will be there. But you have to collectively maintain some sort of poise. That’s what we did tonight. We protected home floor.”

Trailing 40-29 in the second half, the Patriots (18-8, 7-6 A-10) held the Flyers without a field goal over the next 8+ minutes, utilizing runs of 19-0 and 24-2 overall to gain control.

Dayton (21-5, 11-3 A-10) is the highest-ranked opponent to fall at the hands of the Patriots since the 2006 Elite Eight win over No. 2 Connecticut.

Freshman guard Baraka Okojie led the Green & Gold with a career-best 19 points (5-of-6 FG, 9-of-9 FT), all of which came in the second half. He also grabbed four rebounds in 29 minutes of work.

Sophomore guard Keyshawn Hall added 17 points (9-of-10 FT) and six rebounds, while senior guard Ronald Polite III tallied 13 points (5-of-8 FG), three rebounds and two assists.

Graduate forward Amari Kelly chipped in 12 points, five rebounds and two blocks in 22 minutes.

Mason trailed 33-27 at the break, but in the deciding second half, the Green & Gold shot a remarkable 70.6 percent from the floor (12-of-17) and limited the Flyers to just 35.7 percent (10-of-28).

After the Mason rally that put the Patriots on top, Dayton stormed back, using an 11-0 spurt of its own to tie the score at 53-53 with 7:18 to go. The Flyers took the lead at 56-55, but that’s the last time they would be ahead, as Mason got it back up to four (64-60) after a big three-pointer from Polite III at the 3:12 mark.

With the Patriots up 67-62 with 2:06 left, Mason had a chance to extend the lead, but missed a pair of free throws, then committed a pair of costly turnovers. That allowed Dayton to cut it to 67-65 with 1:09 to go.

But the Patriots got a key stop on the ensuing possession, then went 4-of-4 from the line to seal the historic victory.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].