Two improbable comebacks on back-to-back nights was too much to ask No. 7 George Mason against No. 2 VCU. The Rams were more talented, better coached, and simply got shots to go late compared to the Rams team Mason faced the night before.
With three players reaching double-figures, VCU was able to hold off George Mason 71-60 in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 tournament at PPG Painters Arena.
Throughout the game Mason just let VCU shoot over them from three, a theme throughout the 2016-17 season for the Patriots defensively. Biting the Patriots in the butt in this matchup, the Rams shot 50 percent from behind the arc, 57 percent in the second half.
Off of the bench De’Riante Jenkins had 15 points which led the team. In the first half when the Patriots were rolling offensively on a 16-2 run, the freshman hit all three of his three point attempts on the night.
Ja’Quan Lewis would also add 13 points in the game and two second half threes in the midst of a 18-4 run by VCU.
With seven minutes left in the contest, Ian Boyd (four points) took a pass from the wing and drove in the paint, switched hands and gave Mason a 50-48 lead with a lay-in from his left hand.
On the ensuing possession, the Rams hit their first three pointer in the half by Doug Brooks, who was left wide open on the side of the court. Instantly followed up by a transition basket by Lewis, and then Lewis’ first three of the game, the Rams were rolling.
For the second straight contest George Mason (20-13, 9-9) got to the foul line early and converted. In the first half alone they drew nine fouls and went 9-9 at the line, accounting for nearly a third of their first half points (32). However, in the second half there were some rushed shots and poor execution by Marquise Moore and the offense.
Moore would still finish with his 20th double-double on the season with 11 points and 17 rebounds. In two Atlantic 10 tournament games, the 6’2″ senior ended his career with 36 points and 36 rebounds.
Jalen Jenkins was a perfect 5-5 in the first half with 13 points, kept the Patriots alive. Exploiting his matchup with Justin Tillman, the senior commanded the paint.
A different story in the second half, Jenkins only finished with 15 points.
This win gives the Rams a 3-0 sweep over the Patriots this season.
VCU (25-7, 14-4) now advances to the semi-finals of the tournament to face the winner of #3 Richmond and #6 George Washington. While not a sure lock for the NCAA tournament as an at-large, the win solidifies their case. With No. 1 Dayton losing to No. 9 Davidson 73-67 earlier in the day, the Rams are now the highest seed remaining.
Mason’s season may not be done this year as they eclipsed 20 wins for the first time since the 2012-13 season. There is the potential for a bid to either the CIT or the CBI, and even a waayyyy outside chance to the NIT, later next week. In the 2012-13 season the Patriots finished as the CBI runner-up.
It is important to note that some teams (Towson, UMBC) who had strong seasons, have already turned down bids to those tournaments. Both the CIT and CBI are two ‘pay-for-play’ tournaments.