Men’s basketball keeps George Mason at bay, snaps losing streak

Media Credit: Dan Rich | Senior Staff Photographer

Graduate student forward Patrick Steeves high fives a teammate during a men's basketball game against George Mason Wednesday.

Seventeen days into the new year, men’s basketball picked up its first win of 2018.

As four Colonials picked up double-digit points, GW (9-10, 2-4 A-10) snapped its four-game losing streak against George Mason (9-10, 3-3 A-10) with a 80–68 victory at the Smith Center Wednesday night.

The win puts GW at 14-0 all-time against George Mason at the Smith Center and 19-2 overall.

“The last two games – even against Richmond – I thought we executed well, we just didn’t get stops,” head coach Maurice Joseph said. “The difference today was we executed really well and we also got stops when we needed to.”

The Colonials shot 54.5 percent from the field and made 30 field goals in their best offensive performance of Atlantic 10 play.

On the defensive end, senior guard Yuta Watanabe limited George Mason junior guard Otis Livingston II to just three points in the match. Heading into the game, Livingston was averaging 16 points per game.

“He was the key, he was the best player on George Mason so stopping him was a big key about winning,” Watanabe said. “He was a great player so sometimes he passed by me, but my guy always being helped so that’s why I was able to pressure him for 40 minutes.”

Watanabe also stood out on the other side of the floor, leading the Colonials with 19 points and three rebounds. Graduate student forward Bo Zeigler and freshman guard Terry Nolan Jr. each picked up 18 points and four rebounds on the night, and sophomore guard Jair Bolden tallied 16 points.

In the night’s match, the Colonials scored the most first-half points all season and tied for their highest lead after 20 minutes.

GW was on pace for its best shooting night of the season from the start of the first half. The Colonials held George Mason to just two made field goals in the first five minutes of the game, while picking up 11 points.

Nolan tallied the first three points of the night after receiving a cross-court pass from Watanabe, driving through traffic and making a layup while getting fouled.

The Colonials led by as much as 15 points before George Mason found its rhythm on the court. A series of miscues from GW opened up the floor for the Patriots, who picked up 12 points off of Colonial turnovers in the first half alone.

A three-point shot from freshman guard Javon Greene put the Patriots within one point of the lead with four minutes left in the half. But GW never gave up the lead after a timely basket from Zeigler kept the team ahead.

“We weathered the storm. They went to the zone and we became stagnant a little bit,” Joseph said. “They do a good job with it and at times we just weren’t sharp enough. They forced us into some bad shots that led to that run.”

GW continued on a 15-1 run to close out the first half. A three-pointer from Watanabe and a pair of free throws from Nolan in the last minute gave the Colonials a 44-29 advantage at the break.

In the second half the Patriots outscored the Colonials 39-36, but GW’s consistent shooting kept George Mason at bay.

In the opening seconds of the second half, Nolan fed the ball to Zeigler, who dunked to continue GW’s offensive momentum.

Despite shooting 50 percent in the second half, the Patriots did not get within seven points of GW’s lead.

“We executed well out of the gate, we executed well at the start of the second half and the most important piece is late game we had long drawn out possessions,” Joseph said. “We don’t want to take bad shots. We had some backbreaking plays that really fueled our team.”

The Colonials travel to VCU to face off against the Rams Saturday. Tip-off is scheduled for 12:30 p.m.

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