At times on Saturday night, George Mason could not be stopped. No matter how good La Salle played, there was no stopping the Patriots at EagleBank Arena.
Behind a 63 percent shooting performance from the field, George Mason rolled the Explorers at home 95-75. Marquise Moore scored a career-high 28 points and was one of four Patriot starters to reach 16 points in the contest.
Nine of Moore’s points came from three point shots (3-5) after only attempting the long ball seven times on the season prior to the team’s last game. With nine rebounds and five assists Moore returned to form after being affected by the stomach flu in the team’s last contest.
All over the court, George Mason (15-8, 5-5) found the ball going through the bottom of the basket. From long range Mason was 55 percent (10-18) and shot 23 of 27 from the charity stripe.
It was a perfect night for Otis Livingston II, literally, who did not miss a single shot despite playing 37 minutes. With 19 points he was 5-5 from the field, 3-3 from long range, and 6-6 at the free throw line. Two of his six free throws came at a pivotal time in the game.
After La Salle (12-9, 6-4) cut into Mason’s 15 point halftime lead, the Explorers were surging and at one point were down by only five.
Mason stunned the run momentarily and went back-and-forth for several minutes, but they shut the door after one of Moore’s iconic drives to the basket. The shot never went down but a foul was picked up on La Salle’s best player, Jordan Price and both squads went into a media timeout with the Patriots leading 74-65.
However, Explorer head coach John Giannini was tired of the fouls called under his team’s basket.
Throughout the game Giannini gave an earful to the referees and this time he took a step too far and a technical foul was assessed to the Explorers. Livingston came out of the timeout and hit both technical foul shots, then Moore responded with two of his own and Mason had completed a four point possession.
For the Explorers it was not a bad night shooting for them by any means. Give a coach 75 points with 45 percent shooting, including 44 from behind the arc, and many would expect a win. Price led the team with 21 points, while Amar Stukes played all 40 minutes and recorded 14 points (6-7 shooting).
Missing two of their regular starters, B.J. Johnson and Pookie Powell to injury, the team could not overcome Mason’s hot night.
Mason was also missing three of their players too.
Just prior to the game, it was revealed that three Patriots (Ian Boyd, Kamari Newman, and Danny Dixon) were suspended and would not suit up for the Green and Gold. In place of Boyd in the starting lineup, Dave Paulsen gave Kameron Murrell his first start of the season over Justin Kier.
Murrell only scored three points, all from the free throw line, and brought in two rebounds and three assists.
The remaining two starters, Jaire Grayer, who scored season-high 22 points, and Jalen Jenkins, who added 16, helped Mason hold the fort. It was not just points and shooting that Mason dominated however.
By a 35-21 edge, Mason won the rebounding battle, assisted on 15 out of 31 baskets, and won the points in the paint 34-26 against a taller team.
All of this happened after many assumed the worst when La Salle started the game with a 21-10 lead, quickly though that was erased with a 15-0 run by Mason. Drawing five fouls, four turnovers, and an emphatic block by Daniel Relvao, Mason was right back, and leading, in the contest.
A lead Mason would not relinquish.
As encouraging as tonight was, the shooting is not sustainable in the long run for Mason. Simply the Patriots took advantage of what was even to them, a sign of a strong team.
Takeaways from tonight: Moore’s new ability to shot from three point range, not only will force defenders to respect him at the arc which will open up the door to drive, but it solidifies his position in the Atlantic 10 First Team conversation. Also this team can finally shoot free throws, which will improve late game situations and Livingston’s shot is now consistently back making this a team whose full potential is yet to be seen.
This win keeps Mason in the heat of the conference standings, a full two games ahead of the play-in round. In addition, if Mason can steal a couple going forward it is worthy to note they are also two games back of the coveted double-bye fourth seed.