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Northern Iowa dumps George Mason in OT, 82-77

Going to overtime for the first time this season, the George Mason men’s basketball team could not hold off Northern Iowa as the Panthers dealt the Patriots a 82-77 loss on Saturday night at the Patriot Center.

For Mason (6-4), the loss snaps a 14-game home winning streak that dated back to last December and was the ninth-longest active streak in the country. UNI improved to 6-3 with the victory.

Junior Sherrod Wright scored 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting to pace the Mason offense, and was joined in double-figures by classmate Bryon Allen who added 13 points. Leading a rebounding effort which held a 34-27 advantage over the Panthers was redshirt sophomore Anali Okoloji who had seven boards. Three UNI scorers reached double digits, led by 21 points from Marc Sonnen.

Mason got off to an inauspicious start, with the Panthers scoring the first 10 points and keeping the Patriots off the scoreboard for three and a half minutes. Edwards ended the drought with a 16-foot jumper at the 16:28 mark, and eight of the next nine points went to Mason as they cut it to a one-possession contest at 11-8.

It took until the 6:19 mark and a Wright layup to completely erase the UNI lead, as he tied the score at 21-all. The margin stayed within four points for the duration of the half, including Mason taking its only lead at 26-25 on a pair of Copes free throws at the 4:02 mark. Copes cut the deficit to one with another free throw at the 24-second mark to make it 32-31, but Sonnen drained a three from the right side in the final seconds to set the halftime score of 35-31.

Mason out-shot and out-rebounded the Panthers in the first half, but UNI sank four 3-points compared to two for Mason and committed three fewer turnovers. Allen led the way for the Patriots with nine points while Sonnen had 12 to pace the Panthers.

Until late in the second half, it remained a one-possession game, when a 7-0 run by UNI made the score 65-59 with 4:19 to go in regulation. At the 1:42 mark, Allen hit a pair of free throws which tied the score at 67, and after a pair by Anthony James and a Wright layup, it was tied headed into the final minute of the period.

Jake Koch attempted a 3-pointer with the shot clock expiring that missed the rim, and Mason had the ball with the clock ticking down. An Allen field goal attempt did not hit the rim, and on the ensuing possession, UNI drove the length of the court but James’s layup spun off the rim, sending the game into overtime.

The Panthers never trailed in the overtime period, after a Sonnen 3-pointer 72 seconds in. Again inside of 10 seconds remaining, the Patriots had a chance to tie with a 3-pointer,  but they turned it over and Seth Tuttle iced the win with two free throws with two seconds left.

Mason breaks two weeks for final exams, returning to action in the Governor’s Holiday Hoops Classic on Saturday, December 22 against Richmond. Tip-off against the Spiders from Richmond Coliseum is set for 3 p.m.

Augusta Health Augusta Free Press Kris McMackin CPA
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