Second half propels Georgia Southern past Mason, 98-89

george masonGeorge Mason built a solid first half lead but could not withstand a furious push from Georgia Southern in the second half, falling to the Eagles 98-89 on Tuesday night inside Hanner Fieldhouse.

The Patriots shot 73.3 percent from distance and made 11 3-pointers en route to a 98-89 halftime lead. But GSU used an early 10-0 run in the second half to get back in the game and ultimately controlled the period to claim the home victory.

“We shared the ball well and hit some shots in the first half, but Georgia Southern increased their pressure and did a good job getting to the rim in the second half,” head coach Dave Paulsen said. “It was a difficult environment and our guys played hard. The turnover problem is hard to explain, but we will continue to analyze that element in practice and work to improve heading into Saturday.”

Senior Jaire Grayer led the Patriots by matching his career high in points (25) and 3-point field goals made (5). Grayer also grabbed seven rebounds in a season-high 31 minutes of work.

Justin Kier posted a season-high with 20 points and made 7-of-8 field goals, while Ian Boyd (12 points) and Javon Greene (10) also reached double figures.

GSU seized their advantage in the paint, where they held a +28 edge (58-30) in scoring. They also were +17 (22-5) in points off turnovers and held a 27-10 edge in fast break points. The Eagles made 21-of-27 field goals in the second half, while Mason made 18-of-28 in the first.The Patriots were +10 (36-26) on the glass and have out-rebounded every opponent this season. The Patriot bench also accounted for 36 points.

Georgia Southern held an early 8-7 edge, before a 7-0 run from the Green & Gold pushed the Patriots ahead 14-8. Mason built the lead up to 10 (26-16) on a 3-pointer from Boyd and made it 15 (34-19) after Grayer’s third triple at the 9:06 mark of the half. A Kier 3-pointer – Mason’s 10th of the half – extended the edge to 21 (50-29) and the first career points from Jamal Hartwell II (another 3-pointer) made it 54-32. The Patriots led 54-34 at the break.

GSU used a quick 10-0 spurt to cut the Patriot lead in half (56-46) just three minutes into the second half. A Grayer bucket put Mason back up 12 (58-46), but the Eagles again stormed forward and cut it to two (60-58) at the 11:58 mark. A nice 3-point play from Grayer off a good feed from Otis Livingston II put Mason back up five (63-58) and the Patriots led by that margin (65-60) with 10:10 left.

But from there, GSU used a 16-2 spurt to go up nine (76-67), and Mason could not move closer than seven (82-75) for the remainder of the game.

Mason now returns home for the first of two opening round Emerald Coast Classic games. The first takes place Saturday at 4 p.m. when the Green & Gold take on Southern. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN+.

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