With four of George Mason’s starters reaching 16 points, the Patriots tied their win total from last season with an 86-81 win against Massachusetts on Wednesday night.
Against a bigger team, Mason (11-4, 1-1) played to their strengths rather than deal with what their opponents gave them in EagleBank Arena. Drawing fouls, changing up their defensive style, not turning the ball over, and seeing Jaire Grayer get going from long range, Mason won a hard-fought battle against a talented Minutemen squad.
Tying his season-high in made three pointers (3-6), Grayer led a huge charge for the Patriots in the second half. The 6’4” sophomore scored 11 of his 18 points in the final nine minutes of the game. He would also add eight rebounds, four being offensive.
Marquise Moore ended the game one rebound shy of a double-double with 24 points, nine rebounds, and five assists all of which led the Patriots. There appeared to be no lingering effects of Moore’s groin injury that hampered him in the second half against VCU.
“He was really tight, even at halftime,” head coach Dave Paulsen said. “He was not as explosive in the second half but he made veteran plays, toughness plays even when he was not as dynamic.”
UMass (10-5, 0-2) played an up-and-down game but eventually had no answer for the Patriots matchup-zone they played in the second half. Often times it led to traps and helped force the Minutemen to 14 turnovers.
Their big-man Rashaan Holloway (17 points) scored 16 of UMass’s 44 points in the paint. At 6’11” the Patriots were forced to swarm Holloway just to prevent easy looks in the paint.
Early on, it allowed Massachusetts to hit some key three pointers that allowed them to build a 13 point lead in the first 10 minutes. Mason though, allowed Jalen Jenkins to control the post matchup to spread the defense and let the team comeback.
“We went to a zone defense at that point and it really slowed them down and confused them,” Otis Livingston II said. “It was a great adjustment on the defensive end and I think that changed the course of the game in the first half.”
Jenkins avoided foul trouble with 18 points, seven rebounds, and four assists, while Livingston also added 18 and drew three of Mason’s six steals.
Livingston’s streak of 34 straight made free throws came to an end following a missed technical-free throw.
The go-to scorer for UMass, Donte Clark, was held to 6-18 shooting with Moore matching up on defense. He scored 15 points but could not stop Moore on the other side and eventually was fouled out of the contest.
Moore attempted 15 free throws in the game (hitting 10 of them) and as a whole Mason drew 22 fouls while only having 11 of their own.
Eleven Minutemen saw action, no one playing more than 17 minutes. Mason kept a tight rotation and played only seven.
With Justin Kier missing the game due to flu-like symptoms, Ian Boyd got his first career start. Finishing with seven points and four boards, Boyd’s strength was shown on the defensive end. Often, he was called to help guard the post with taller forwards matched up against him.
Seeing action off the bench was Kamari Newman (three points) and Daniel Relvao (two rebounds).
Through 15 games, the Patriots have already matched their win total from last season (11-21). The team jumps to 117 in the national RPI and will have the chance to improve on that mark as their next two opponents are both in the top-100.