Af­ter back-to-back losses on road, Ge­orge Ma­son edges vis­it­ing La Salle.

The Washington Post - - SPORTS - BY STEVEN GOFF [email protected]­

Ge­orge Ma­son on Sun­day re­cov­ered from two for­get­table vis­its to Richmond — dou­ble-digit set­backs four days apart that cost it first place in the At­lantic 10 — with a per­for­mance that re­quired bal­ance and com­po­sure against a streaky team on the up­swing.

Set­ting aside those de­feats at Vir­ginia Com­mon­wealth and Richmond, the Pa­tri­ots re­ceived con­sid­er­able con­tri­bu­tions from sev­eral play­ers and tight­ened their de­fense dur­ing a tense fin­ish to de­feat La Salle, 84-76, at Ea­gleBank Arena.

The vic­tory ended the team’s first los­ing streak since Novem­ber and lifted the Pa­tri­ots (14-10, 8-3) into a third-place tie with Day­ton, a half-game be­hind David­son and VCU.

“Af­ter the two games,” sopho­more guard Javon Greene said, “we were down a lit­tle bit, but we just [had to] for­get it and move on to the next game.”

Greene made the big­gest move, scor­ing a ca­reer-high 21 points and adding seven re­bounds and four steals. Jarred Reuter (16 points), Otis Liv­ingston II (14 points, five as­sists) and Justin Kier (13 points, eight re­bounds) were also in stride as the Pa­tri­ots shot 50.9 per­cent from the field and made 21 of 24 free throws.

Their re­solve, though, was tested near the end. Af­ter the Pa­tri­ots’ lead was trimmed to two with 1:50 left, Kier found Jor­dan Miller, who cut to the bas­ket for a layup. The Ex­plor­ers (7-15, 5-5) did not score again.

“That’s the kind of poise and play­ing for each other that we need,” Ma­son Coach Dave Paulsen said, “and maybe wasn’t there as much as we’d like the last two games.”

That sort of un­selfish­ness was fit­ting: On Sun­day, Liv­ingston, the fourth-lead­ing scorer in pro­gram his­tory, be­came the first Ma­son player to record 100 as­sists in each of his four sea­sons.

“I just want to thank my team­mates for mak­ing shots,” he dead­panned.

Kier, the team’s lead­ing scorer, had a re­fresh­ing game af­ter duds in the pre­vi­ous two de­feats. He did not at­tempt a shot in the first half — from the field or the free throw line — but ended up mak­ing 5 of 9 from the field.

The col­lec­tive ef­fort off­set five play­ers scor­ing in dou­ble fig­ures for the Ex­plor­ers, led by Pookie Pow­ell, who fin­ished with 18 points, six as­sists and three steals. Saul Phiri made five three­p­oint­ers on his way to 17 points.

The de­feat ended a four-game winning streak for La Salle, which be­gan the sea­son with 10 con­sec­u­tive de­feats, won three in a row and then lost four straight be­fore its re­cent resur­gence.

The Ex­plor­ers shot bet­ter than 50 per­cent much of the game and fin­ished at 49.1 per­cent. They hit 11 three-point­ers, in­clud­ing four in a four-minute stretch mid­way through the sec­ond half. In the fi­nal six min­utes, though, they shot 2 for 11.

“What I liked,” Paulsen said, “was we re­ally buck­led down and re­ally played at a high rate de­fen­sively. . . . We are still very much a work in progress de­fen­sively. We got more head room to re­ally be­come out­stand­ing de­fen­sively.”

The Pa­tri­ots raced to a nine­point lead in the first half, but long-range shoot­ing and drives to the bas­ket left the Ex­plor­ers ahead 39-37 at half­time. In the sec­ond half, each time Ma­son be­gan to cre­ate sep­a­ra­tion, the Ex­plor­ers an­swered. Two bas­kets from Liv­ingston stretched Ma­son’s lead to 78-71 with three min­utes left, but La Salle tight­ened the gap again.

The Pa­tri­ots made their fi­nal eight free throw at­tempts, in­clud­ing two by Greg Cal­ixte, who en­tered shoot­ing 31.4 per­cent from the line.

“We just stayed poised; we didn’t get rat­tled,” Liv­ingston said. “We had com­plete con­fi­dence that we could win the game if we just do what we’re sup­posed to do. It gives us a lot of con­fi­dence go­ing for­ward.”

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