Take T.J. Cline out of the equation and George Mason can score at will against Richmond. On Tuesday night that is exactly what the Patriots did at EagleBank Arena to sweep the season series for a 93-70 win.
For the second straight game against the Spiders, Mason shot over 55 percent in the opening half and commanded the pace of the game at the break. Leading the charge, as always, was Marquise Moore with 22 points and 12 rebounds, his 16 double-double of the season.
Cline was a non-factor in the first half due to his foul trouble, but exploded out of the half. Piecing together six points and two rebounds in the first half, he helped the Spiders command a 12-1 run in the early stages of the second, which included all three of Cline’s three pointers. Once again though, foul trouble ended his dominant stretch.
When Cline picked up his fourth foul, the wheels began to fall off for Richmond. Six fouls were then called against Spiders in a three and a half minute span, including two technicals.
As Cline headed to the bench, on the next Patriot possession Mason took over. Setting up to guard an in-bounds play under their own basket, the Spiders left the biggest player on the court wide open. Jalen Jenkins went up for a dunk, got fouled, and still made the basket.
It led to a 26-7 Mason run to end the contest.
“We run everything through T.J., we initiate our offense with him.” Richmond coach Chris Mooney said, who received a technical in this game. “It’s a difficult adjustment with him on the bench.”
When Jenkins was asked if he purposely tried to draw fouls on Cline, he had one word: “Absolutely.”
Scoring was spread across the team for George Mason (18-8, 8-5) with four other players finishing in double figures, including Otis Livingston II (17), Jenkins (17), Jaire Grayer (13), and Kamari Newman (12).
Providing one of their biggest nights of the year, the bench stepped up with 18 points compared to seven from Richmond. Primarily the production was from Newman, who had his career-high in points.
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Billed as a matchup between two of the Atlantic 10’s finest, Cline and Moore, they rarely matched up with each other, unlike the first contest. Jenkins and Troy Temara shared the defensive responsibility of Cline, and did well in the post, but not from long range.
Cline would finish with 21 points and six rebounds, falling to Moore and the Patriots yet again.
Richmond (15-10, 9-4) allowed the Patriots to get the line 32 times on 21 fouls. Without Cline, the offense was flustered and produced less than 20 points when he was on the bench.
“Knocking down free throws at the rate we did, and rebounding the way we did, if you out-rebound teams by 21, you’re going to have a pretty good chance at winning,” George Mason head coach Dave Paulsen said.
Now the Patriots have emerged as a legitimate threat to compete for a double-bye in the Atlantic 10 tournament. With a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Spiders, Mason is only a game away from earning the No. 4 bid.
In this game Jenkins scored his 1,000th career point and has moved up to 33rd on Mason’s all-time scoring list. This is also the fifth straight game Mason has won against Richmond, the sixth in a row for Paulsen dating back to his days at Bucknell.