George Mason dumps UMass
UMass forward Raphaiel Putney (34) skies down the lane toward the rim past George Mason defender Jalen Jenkins (20) during first-half action of the host Minutemen's 91-80 A-10 men's hoops defeat Wednesday night at the Mullins Center in Amherst.
Recorder/J. Anthony Roberts
UMass point guard Chaz Williams (3) drives to the hoop past George Mason's Vaugh Gray (1) during a 91-80 Minuteman loss in A-10 men's hoop action Wednesday night at the Mullins Center in Amherst.
Recorder/J. Anthony Roberts
Mullins Center 2/12/14. UMass No.12 Trey Davis, applies half court defensive pressure on George Mason's No.22 Marquis Moore in the 1st half.
photo by J. Anthony Roberts
AMHERST — A surprisingly good season for UMass basketball had featured plenty of narrow escapes, but nothing in the way of bad losses. That all changed Wednesday night at the Mullins Center.
George Mason, stung by the Minutemen’s frantic last-minute comeback in the teams’ first meeting in January, controlled the action in the rematch from the midway point of the first half and slapped UMass with its first home defeat of the season, 91-80, in front of a frustrated 5,322.
The Patriots (9-15, 2-8 A-10) have now won their last two conference games after an 0-8 start, and had stated an impressive case for a near-sweep of the Minutemen in their first season of Atlantic 10 membership. UMass rallied from five points down in the final 45 seconds to win the first meeting 88-87 Jan. 15, but George Mason repelled every attempt at another comeback Wednesday to post a signature win.
Sherrod Wright led Mason with 22 points and fellow senior guard Bryon Allen was right behind with 19. Patrick Holloway scored 13 points and Erik Copes and Marquise Moore had 12 apiece. Copes also pulled down a mammoth 15 rebounds and blocked four shots, while Moore, a freshman, calmly drained 10-of-12 free throws.
Mason led by 10 points at the half, 42-32, and quickly pushed it up to 17, never allowing UMass back within single digits until less than two minutes remained.
“We lost a home game that we should have won. We should have played a little better and a little more energized,” said UMass coach Derek Kellogg. “I don’t think that was one of our better games of the season, to say the least. Their guards did a great job of controlling the game, and scored 60-some points between four of them. We got beat tonight.”
Trey Davis scored 20 points off the bench to top the Minutemen (19-5, 6-4 A-10). Sampson Carter had 16 and Cady Lalanne filed a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds with four blocks. Maxie Esho also had 11 points before fouling out and Chaz Williams managed only eight on 3-of-15 shooting, including 1-of-8 from three.
“It’s tough when you’re down like that, you know you need every bucket,” said Carter. “Every play, every shot counts, and it’s hard.”
The Minutemen’s last lead of the night came at 5-4 after a 3-pointer by Raphiael Putney (seven points, nine rebounds), but George Mason scored the next six points, five by Wright on a trey and a dunk, to take the lead for good. Carter’s 3-pointer with 8:30 left in the half pulled UMass to within one at 24-23, but the Minutemen didn’t score another field goal for over six minutes, managing only two foul shots in that span.
Mason strung the next seven points and eventually went up by a dozen, 37-25, on Jalen Jenkins’ inside basket with 2:43 to play.
From their 42-32 halftime lead, the Patriots began the second half with six straight points by Copes. Wright’s drive and score with 16:54 left made it 50-33, Mason’s largest lead of the night. UMass was left to chase the game but could do no better than trade baskets. The Minutemen finally moved to within single digits at 80-71 on Putney’s free throw with 1:53 to go, and twice got to within seven before Mason closed out the game.
“The way we’ve been playing, and the way we’ve dropped games, if we get our confidence together, we can be a pretty good basketball team in this league,” said Patriots coach Paul Hewitt. “Obviously this is a huge confidence builder. UMass is having a helluva year, and they’re gonna go to the NCAA tournament. For us to come in here and play the way we did, it’s a big step forward.”