FAIRFAX, VA – It was always going to be difficult for Saturday afternoon’s ESPN Bracket Buster game against Lamar to live up to the excitement displayed in George Mason’s last-second victory against rivals Virginia Commonwealth on Valentine’s Day.
After Sherrod Wright’s jumper nearly five minutes into the second half gave George Mason its largest lead of the game at 55-38, the chances of another dramatic ending seemed all but finished.
But if any team could provide their fans with a reason to use just the edge of their seats at the end of the game, it would be the Patriots.
As if on cue George Mason fell victim to a 31-13 Lamar run behind some hot three-point shooting from Brandon Davis (13 points, 3-of-5 three-pointers) that gave the Cardinals their first lead in over 29 minutes of game time at 69-68 with 3:21 remaining.
Andre Cornelius, one of three seniors playing in their last home game, immediately responded with his third three-pointer of the afternoon to restore George Mason’s lead before the Patriots ultimately pulled away for the 75-71 win on Senior Day at the Patriot Center.
Ryan Pearson gave the crowd of 7,014 one last double-double to remember him by in going for 17 points and ten rebounds.
It was the twelfth double-double of the season for Pearson who played a big part in the Patriots (23-6) jumping out to a 47-34 lead in the first half in what was an emotional final home appearance for one of the front runners for Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year.
“Emotions have been running high for me all day,” Pearson admitted.
“This is big time. I’ve been here a long time and I feel like I’ve been through a lot with this team.”
Mike Morrison, the third and final senior on the Patriots roster, went 3-of-3 in the first half as George Mason shot a blistering 68 percent from the field.
For the game George Mason shot 57 percent and made 7-of-14 three-pointers but it wasn’t enough as Lamar (17-10) stayed within striking distance thanks to some poor passing and 19 Patriots turnovers.
“We turned the ball over and I knew it was going to come back to get us,” Coach Paul Hewitt said.
“Sometimes we just get a little lackadaisical and we don’t hit targets.”
Just like on Wednesday against VCU, Wright came up big off the bench with 13 points and hit another crucial three-pointer in the final five minutes.
Hewitt did find a bright spot in the amount of close games his team has faced this year.
“We have become really good at executing down the stretch in close games,” Hewitt half joked.
“In the last four minutes every time we ran something, we got a wide open look.”
Under first year head Coach Pat Knight the Cardinals made three changes from the normal starting lineup due to disciplinary reasons.
Anthony Miles (seven points) and Mike James (ten points) came off the bench while Stan Brown was suspended altogether. Both Miles and James never got on track, hitting for below their season averages.
Knight, the son of Hall of Famer Bobby Knight, heaped some serious praise to Ryan Pearson after having come up against him just once in his coaching career.
“If he was playing in the Big 12, Big 10, he’d be all conference,” Knight, who coached at Texas Tech last season, said about Pearson.
“My dad would have loved to have had him at Indiana.”
Up Next: George Mason travels to Boston to take on Northeastern (12-15, 8-8) on Wednesday at 7pm. It is the only meeting of the regular season between the CAA schools.
Patriots Notes: Ryan Pearson moved into fifth place on the all-time scoring list at George Mason with 1,581 points. George Mason finished the season 15-1 at home.