All season it was a struggle for George Mason to score the basketball against quality teams. Against Massachusetts on Wednesday night, Otis Livingston II took care of that.
Winning their third straight against the Minutemen, the Patriots won 80-72 in overtime at the Mullins Center. Livingston had career-highs in both points (33) and assists (9) in what was easily his best performance of the season and perhaps his career.
Holding a one point lead in the extra period, Mason was on a bit of a scoring drought. The Patriots (7-8, 1-1) had only generated 18 points in the previous 16 minutes of action. Typically this is a sign of the beginning of the end for Mason, but this was no ordinary game for Livingston. The 5-11 guard, who had been carving through the tight Massachusetts defense all night, got a screen off of the wing and drove into the biggest man on the court, Rashaan Holloway. Drawing contact from the 6-11, 310 pound center, Livingston threw the ball up and got the foul. Hitting the and-one free throw it gave the Patriots a 76-72 lead with 32 seconds to go.
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Keep in mind, Livingston is not the go-to scorer. He much rather dish out the ball and rotate to the perfect spot for a kick out jumper. But this night the team needed him to be more than that after their roughest stretch of the season.
And in doing so he made nearly every player on the court better. Stuck in an up-and-down season, Jaire Grayer had 20 points, including three long balls. Goanar Mar struggled, but Livingston kept dishing the ball to him to finish with 13 points and eight rebounds.
Biggest of all was the other freshman, Greg Calixte who had the best game ever wearing the green and gold. Tasked with matching up against one of the only true centers in the Atlantic 10, it was going miss-match to say the least. And when Holloway is not on the court, there is a more than formidable forward, Malik Hines, that can rotate to the post.
Even though the 6-11 center finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds, and six blocks (mostly off guards), the freshman for Mason matched him blow for blow. Calixte finished with 12 rebounds, three of them offensive and five points. Most importantly he prevented Holloway from controlling the post.
None of his boards were bigger than when he got an offensive board off of a Grayer miss in extra time. He put the ball back and hit the free throw to give Mason a three point lead in overtime. He drew a foul off of Holloway who had dropped off to contest Grayer’s shot.
Coming into the season I thought Greg Calixte was going to have the biggest impact from this class. Its been slow developing but tonight he is working it against one of the best interior defensive teams in the A10.
— Tyler Byrum (@theTylerByrum) January 4, 2018
A potential all-conference honoree, Luwane Pipkins was held to 15 points in 42 minutes for Massachusetts (7-8, 0-2). On the season he was averaging 18+ points coming into the game. On a rough night offensively, Justin Kier (two points) shut Pipkins down and generated three steals.
Based on tonight’s performance, there is a lot to be encouraged about for Mason. They finally got some consistency from three point range (6-23), made their free throws (20-22), won the rebounding battle (49-39), got a season-high in offensive boards (18), and led the game for 37:40.
There are still plenty of concerns for Mason right now, but they got their first conference victory out of the way and are coming home with their second road win.