Looking for a third consecutive win to open the season, the George Mason University mens’ basketball team hosted Cornell for some Wednesday night hardwood action.
The teams traded baskets early on, with Cornell coming out hot from deep but Amari Kelly dominating the offensive glassfor Mason as he gave the Patriots several second-chance opportunities that they capitalized on. Neither team gained an advantage of more than one possession until more than midwaythrough the first half, when Keyshawn Hall gave GMU a 27-22 advantage to cap off a 7-0 run for the home squad. A Ronny Polite three gave Mason its biggest lead at 30-24 moments later, but Cornell came storming back with eight straight points and the teams remained close through the remainder of the period,with the Patriots taking a 43-42 lead into the break after Hallscored a layup in the closing seconds.
Hall led the way in both points (15) and rebounds (6) at halftime, and he added to his scoring total with a three-pointer immediately after play resumed. Mason began the half on a 12-4run to take its largest lead of the game, but Cornell upped its full-court pressure and forced a few turnovers in quick succession to cut their deficit back down to three. Some chippy play ensued with plenty of whistles interrupting the action on both ends, as both teams were in the foul bonus by the tenminute mark, and it remained a nailbiter into the closing stages.Cornell had drawn within one at 68-67 before a huge three from Polite and then a technical foul leading to another three-point Mason possession gave the home team some breathing room, but it was quickly erased by back-to-back triples.
Thankfully the Patriots got the big buckets they needed down the stretch, the biggest of all being a Darius Maddox three to extend their lead to 81-75 with less than two minutes to go. A turnover on the other end and then two free throws from Baraka Okojie all but iced it, as all Mason had to do from there on out was take care of the ball and make their free throws, and they held on for the 90-83 victory. Hall finished with 29 and 13 rebounds while Amari Kelly scored 17 before fouling out late, and Guy Ragland, Jr. led Cornell with 16.
Head coach Tony Skinn was pleased with the win, but not surprised. “This is what we expected,” he said to open his postgame presser. “Games like we had against Austin Peay (Mason won 67-45 last Friday) aren’t going to happen the rest of the year.”
Skinn had high praise for Hall, who he described as one of the hardest workers on the team, and was impressed with the way his squad was able to prove itself capable of winning an offensive shootout after a pair of defensive slugfests last week. “When our offense is on, we’re just going to ride their backs.”
Mason will be on the road when it returns to action this Sunday, playing at Charlotte.