- - Friday, March 9, 2018

There will be no magical tournament run for George Mason basketball this March in downtown Washington.

The No. 5 seed Patriots, who won three late-season games on last-second shots, had no lucky clovers or horseshoes Friday afternoon at Capital One Arena. And they picked a bad time to have their worst offensive output of the season.

“You don’t want it to be in the conference tournament,” said Dave Paulsen, the Mason coach. “Unfortunately that happened.”

George Mason trailed by just one at halftime against No. 4 seed Saint Joseph’s, but the Hawks got a flurry of 3-pointers midway through the second half and won 68-49 in the Atlantic 10 Conference championship quarterfinals. It was lowest point total for Mason since a 71-47 loss at VCU on Jan. 2, 2016.

“We were really choppy in the first half,” said Phil Martelli, the Hawks coach. “They had nine baskets in the first half and seven of them were drives (to the basket). In the second half we went exclusive zone. We can play better. We will play a lot better tomorrow. It is a national (ranked) team. All we want to do is play Sunday” for the title.

The Patriots (16-17) were denied the chance to face No. 1 seed Rhode Island, the No. 25 team in the country that will face Saint Joseph’s in one of the two semifinals Saturday. George Mason was paced by Jaire Grayer with 12 points and 13 rebounds, Goanar Mar had 10 points and Virginia native Justin Kier added eight points and six assists.

Mason junior guard Otis Livingston II, the team’s leading scorer this season, was held to eight points on 3 of 13 shots from the field.

It was 12 years ago in the same building – then called the Verizon Center – that Mason won a regional title and went to the Final Four for the first time in school history as a member of the Colonial Athletic Conference.

But the tourney showing ended as Hawks starting forward Anthony Longpre, a Canadian who played at Glenelg Country in Howard County, Maryland, hit a 3-pointer early in the second half and then passed to Chris Clover for a basket to give the school from Philadelphia a 31-25 lead.

Longpre said he about 10 friends from his Glenelg days were at the game. The Canadian freshman said the Hawks watched a lot of tape on Livingston.

“He loves to use the ball screen,” Longpre said.

Mason shot 26.5 percent from the field in the second half and 29.5 percent overall. “Coach told us to keep shooting,” Livingston said.

Mason fell behind 41-33 on a 3-pointer by Shavar Newkirk, who had 13 points. Then Nick Robinson (game-high 14 points) and Taylor Funk (12) of the Hawks made back-to-back treys as the Hawks assumed a 47-34 bulge with 11:25 to play.

Livingston made a layup in traffic with 5:10 left to trim the margin to 52-43.

But the Hawks hit their free throws down the stretch to advance and face Rhode Island.

Mason beat the Hawks twice in regular-season play, both times on shots at the buzzer. The Patriots won three of their last four regular-season games on shots at the buzzer by Ian Boyd, a sophomore from North Carolina who had one point Friday.

Mason had one of the youngest teams in the country this season and just eight scholarship players.

“This team has improved more than any team I have coached,” Paulsen said. “I think the only thing we didn’t do well tonight was shoot the ball. For the most part we defended very well. I thought we had good looks” at the basket.


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