VCU tops Mason, 89-77

The George Mason men’s basketball team closed out the 2011-12 regular season on Saturday night, falling 89-77 to Colonial Athletic Association rival VCU at the Siegel Center. Mason (23-8, 14-4) suffered its first double-digit loss in conference this season, earning the third seed in next week’s conference tournament. The Rams (25-6, 15-3) avenged a one-point loss to Mason in Fairfax 11 days ago, and will be the number two seed.

Senior CAA Player of the Year candidate Ryan Pearson led the Patriots with 24 points along with nine rebounds. Classmate Mike Morrison matched Pearson’s total off the glass, leading a 36-27 Patriots advantage in rebounding, and added 10 points. Sophomore Sherrod Wright rounded out the double-digit scorers for Mason with 11 points, while Bradford Burgess led all scorers with 31 points, one of three Rams in double figures.

The Rams scored the first five points of the evening and would not trail again during the game. Mason cut the lead to three at 10-7, but six straight by the Rams made it 16-7 less than five minutes into the game. Mason countered with a 9-0 run of their own as they came back to tie the score at 16 on a Vaughn Gray free throw at the 11:38 mark.

Another big Rams run pushed their lead to double-digits for the first time, as 12 unanswered VCU points made the score 28-16, a run that took just over 90 seconds. A Bryon Allen free throw and Pearson layup closed the gap to 28-19 with nine minutes remaining in the first half, but the Rams answered with six in a row to take a 15-point lead. That advantage grew as large as 41-21 after a 7-0 Rams run, and the Patriots were only able to cut the deficit to 43-27, the halftime margin.

Pearson scored 11 points and added five rebounds in the first half, both team highs, while VCU was led by Burgess’s 13 points coming on 4-for-5 shooting (3-4 3FG). The Rams scored 17 points off of 14 Patriot turnovers, compared to four points on four VCU turnovers, while Mason won the rebounding battle 17-13 in the first half.  The Patriots shot better than 52 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes, but were plagued by 1-for-6 shooting from beyond the arc.

The Patriots got as close as 10 in the second half, as Pearson sank a pair of free throws at the two-minute mark to make the score 77-67. Mason was unable to get any closer, though, as the Rams earned a season split with Mason.

Mason will take one week off before returning to Richmond, taking part in the 2012 Virginia 529 CAA Championship. The Patriots will face the winner of the No. 6 Georgia State/No. 11 Hofstra contest on Saturday night at 8:30 p.m. at Richmond Coliseum.



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