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George Mason boots men’s basketball from A-10 tournament in second round

Courtesy of GW Athletic Department
Sophomore guard James Bishop notched a career-high 28 points, leading the Colonials in scoring.

Sophomore forward Jamison Battle nailed a triple to bring men’s basketball within five with under six minutes to play against No. 6 George Mason. But freshman guard Ronald Polite hit a layup and three-pointer that sparked a 13-1 run that sent No. 11 GW back to Foggy Bottom and cut its Atlantic 10 tournament run short Thursday.

The Colonials (5-12, 3-5 A-10) pieced together a three-point lead at the half, but the second frame belonged to the Patriots (12-8, 8-6 A-10). George Mason outscored GW by 17 points in the final 20 minutes, topping the squad 73–59.

Sophomore guard James Bishop contributed 49.2 percent of the team’s offense, scoring a career-high 29 points in an attempt to extend his squad’s season another day. After going 2-of-11 in the first half, he shifted into a higher gear and sunk 7-of-13 in the second frame. He scored nine points from the charity stripe, missing just one attempt.

“Just wanted to win, trying to do whatever I can to help my team win,” Bishop said. “Shots weren’t falling early, but that really didn’t matter to me. I really just wanted to affect the game the way I could. And in the second half it was scoring.”

Battle rounded out the team’s double-digit performers with 11 points. Junior forward Ricky Lindo Jr., who put up 21 points in a double-double effort in the team’s win over Fordham Wednesday, ripped 14 boards, but connected on just 2-of-7 for four points. The rest of the roster combined for just 15 points for the second straight game.

Junior guard Jordan Miller and Polite tabbed 19 and 17 points, respectively, shooting a combined 55.6 percent. All but three of Polite’s points came in the second half. Miller tacked on 10 rebounds for his second double-double of the season after recording 14 points and 15 rebounds against GW last week when the Patriots nabbed a 63–58 win.

Both teams struggled to score in the first half, shooting below 30 percent from the field. The Colonials sank one three, which came from the hands of sophomore forward Chase Paar – the first three of the big man’s career. George Mason couldn’t find the bottom of the hoop from distance, going 0-of-6.

The second half was a different story as GW fired at a .448 percent clip, and George Mason sunk 62.9 percent as it almost quadrupled its number of field goals. Both teams had more success from long range, as the Colonials hit four triples, and the Patriots connected on five three-point shots.

George Mason won the game in the paint. The Patriots outscored the Colonials 42-16 down low and outrebounded the squad 42-33. GW held George Mason below its average 12.2 offensive boards per game, but the Patriots ripped seven off the glass for 13 second chance points – nine more than the Colonials mustered.

“There’s a lot of things that we took on this year,” Christian said. “But I thought our spirit was amazing. When you watched us play the first 36 minutes out there today, you wouldn’t have known those guys kind of battled through that. And then you see all these guys connect to one another. You wouldn’t have known that. I think that’s a true testament to a competitor.”

In the opening minutes, sophomore forward Hunter Dean set the tone for what would be a physical matchup, and senior guard Javon Greene took a trip to the line. He hit his second free throw to put the Patriots on the board.

Paar nailed a wide-open triple to give GW the early advantage. The Patriots knotted the fame at three before Bishop strung together a four-point tilt. A four-point George Mason spin tied the game at seven.

The difference between the two programs reached two possessions just once afterward at the 7:48 mark when George Mason took a four-point lead while riding a five-point run. Struggling to get his shots to fall, Bishop created his own opportunities from the charity stripe. He drew the foul on the three-point attempt and sunk his trio of shots.

GW scored the final four points of the half. Freshman forward Noel Brown bodied his way to the bucket for two, and a last second hustle play under the GW rim sent Bishop back to the line for two points.

Bishop scored GW’s first six points after halftime, and freshman guard Tyler Brelsford was fouled but got his shot to fall. He completed the three-point play at the free throw line and propelled GW to an eight-point advantage.

Six straight Patriot points cut the lead to two, but Bishop and Dean combined to work the deficit up to six. A 14-point run from George Mason would permanently take the lead from GW. The Colonials stayed at an arm’s distance, never coming within one possession in the final 10 minutes.

A Bishop three that lifted him to a career-high were the last GW points of the season, as the squad was ousted from the A-10 tournament 73–59.

“I know the world’s going to base us off our record,” head coach Jamion Christian said. “When you’re here with these guys, every single day, you see the progress that we’ve made from a year ago, how we’re able to battle through that adversity in a really tough time in the middle of the year. I felt like we handled that better than almost anybody with the guys that we had.”

After the NCAA granted an extra year of eligibility for winter sport athletes, all 13 rostered athletes have the ability to play at GW next season.

“It’s very beneficial,” Battle said. “I think the experience that these guys have, that we gained from these games and from this whole year – I mean, it’s tough to play in a COVID environment, right? So I think, knowing that and knowing that we can actually do it and bring all these guys back, it’s going to help.”

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