Men’s basketball picks up first A-10 win over George Mason

Media Credit: Eric Lee | Staff Photographer

Redshirt senior guard Armel Potter dishes a pass to junior forward Ace Stallings in a game against George Mason Wednesday. The Colonials routed the Patriots 73–67.

With less than four minutes left to play in the first half, junior guard Maceo Jack nailed a three-pointer to give men’s basketball a lead in a back-and-forth tussle with George Mason. The three was his only bucket, but it changed the tide of the game to give GW a lead it never gave up.

The Colonials (6-11, 1-3 A-10) topped the Patriots (12-5, 1-3 A-10) 73–67 in their first Atlantic 10 win of the season. Redshirt senior guard Armel Potter led the charge, netting a season-high 26 points on 7-of-15 shooting from the field.

The squad played a short bench with senior forward Arnaldo Toro, sophomore guard Amir Harris, junior forward Javier Langarica and senior guard Justin Williams not dressed for action.

Head coach Jamion Christian said he played guys like sophomore guard Mezie Offurum and freshman guard Shawn Walker Jr., who usually don’t play many minutes but elevated the team to victory.

“That push by those guys today lifted our team more than our points and rebounds because they were just ready and they’re ready for the opportunity,” Christian said. “They earned that well before tonight. They earned it the last few weeks with how they’ve been working.”

Offurum shot a perfect 2-of-2 from the field and 3-of-3 from the charity stripe, collecting two rebounds and stuffing two Patriot shots. Walker Jr. came off the bench as a ball handler, hitting both shots from the field, including a three-pointer, and knocking down his only free throw for six points.

The Patriots started the night off with a jumper from redshirt junior AJ Wilson. Wilson finished the night with a team-leading 18 points and 11 rebounds. The Patriots were without senior guard Justin Kier, who averages 9.6 points in 22.6 minutes per game, because of a fractured right foot.

Freshman forward Chase Paar, who ripped a team and career-high nine boards, responded with a layup down low and the teams began to trade buckets. The lead changed five more times throughout the first half, with each team going on a five-point run to work the lead up to as many as six points.

After a three-pointer from Jack and a pair of triples from freshman forward Jamison Battle, the Colonials had a firm grip on the half, taking a six-point lead when the buzzer sounded. Battle, who earned his second A-10 Rookie of the Week honors Monday, notched 15 points and five rebounds in his fourth straight double-digit performance.

The Patriots struggled to find a rhythm early on and rounded out the first half below its shooting averages. George Mason sunk just 10-of-31 shots from the field and 2-of-9 attempts from deep. The Colonials had the hot hand, scoring 48 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the arc.

The Colonials’ stroke against the Patriots didn’t slow down in the second frame. The squad shot 12-of-24 from the field and 3-of-7 from beyond the arc. All three triples came within the first four minutes from the hands of Battle.

Redshirt senior guard Armel Potter steadied the offense, putting up nine points in the first half and exploding for 17 points in the second frame. He tallied a season-high 26 points, seven assists and six rebounds. Potter said the coaching staff and his teammates were his biggest motivators and sources of confidence.

“They kept just giving me confidence,” Potter said. “Even when I got blocked, ‘Keep going to the rim, keep being aggressive.’ And I just kept hearing that in my ear, so I’m like, ‘OK just go.’ I just had ‘go’ on my mind the whole game and it turned out pretty well for me, so I will try to continue to do that.”

The Colonials worked the lead up to 14 points at its highest but kept the Patriots at an arms’ length and never let the lead dip below two possessions. Potter said the Colonials nailed the “little details” against George Mason, which helped shut down the Patriots.

“We’ve got to pay attention to all the little details and I feel like we did that in the second half today and it helped us close out the game,” Potter said. “It’s not easy. It’s never easy to win, home or away.”

The Colonials have been on the opposite side of these wins, dropping its past three games by a slim five-point margin. But Christian said his team has focused on improving and maintaining a “mental, emotional and physical” balance to respond to challenging teams.

“There are always highs and lows, so we’re really just trying to work on and focus on our ability to bounce back from those situations and to really bounce back together as a connected unit,” Christian said. “We just got better and better there as the season’s gone on.”

The Colonials hit the road for a matchup against Massachusetts Saturday. Tipoff is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. and will be televised on NBCSN.

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