George Mason outlasts UMass basketball in overtime

Staff Writer
Published: 2/13/2019 10:59:22 PM

FAIRFAX, Va. — Tre Wood drove down the lane and flashed a smile after getting a layup to fall with 1 minutes, 39 seconds left in regulation.

The points gave UMass a two-point lead, an advantage it doubled 32 seconds later when Wood poked the ball away from George Mason’s Justin Kier and Carl Pierre soared the other way for a layup. Yet that lead did not hold up for the rest of the second half. The Patriots scored on their final two possessions to force overtime and then outlasted the fatigued Minutemen 80-75 at EagleBank Arena on Wednesday night.

“Just get stops, that’s all we’ve been focusing on for so long and we’ve been emphasizing it,” Pierre said. “Down the stretch we didn’t do a great job of that. If we would have gotten stops, it would have changed the whole outcome of the game.”

Indeed, the Minutemen (9-16, 2-10 Atlantic 10) struggled to string together stops at critical times to hold off the Patriots on the road. In the first half, UMass surged out to a seven-point advantage at the final media timeout, but it didn’t last for much longer.

A string of mental miscues – lowlighted by Djery Baptiste trying to substitute during live play and earning UMass a technical foul – caused the lead to evaporate in 95 seconds. UMass was able to keep the game tied heading into halftime, but then allowed George Mason (15-10, 9-3 A-10) to score six points in the first two minutes of the second half to extend the run to 15-1 spanning the two halves. Matt McCall used a timeout to settle his troops, and it worked as the Minutemen tied the game within three minutes and didn’t trail by more than five for the rest of regulation.

“We weren’t getting any stops, we weren’t settling in defensively,” McCall said. “In overtime, too, we blew way too many pick-and-roll coverages. We looked in a daze almost out there. We just needed to settle in and settle down, and we did that.”

The major reason UMass failed to keep George Mason off the scoreboard was its inability to keep its hands off the Patriots. The Minutemen were whistled for nearly twice as many fouls as the Patriots, leading to a 37-16 discrepancy in free throws attempted. George Mason used that advantage to score 27 points at the stripe while UMass made just nine of its attempts.

It was especially poignant in the second half and overtime when the Patriots made 21 of their 24 attempts at the free-throw line. Those extra points came at a price as Keon Clergeot, Samba Diallo and Rashaan Holloway all battled foul trouble for most of the second half and overtime.

“It’s just being disciplined,” Pierre said. “All the fouls we pick up are ticky-tack reaching or bumping, we’ve just got to be disciplined and do our job.”

The second half belonged to Tre Wood for UMass, who showed off the multiple ways he could impact a game for the Minutemen. He scored all 13 of his points and dished out five of his eight assists in the second half and overtime, most of which came after he suffered cramps in both calves. On that play, he rose up to deflect away a cross-court pass and immediately knew something was wrong as he landed. He ran off in pain to the other end of the court and laid down before being attended to and being helped off the court.

Even then, he returned to the action after a few minutes, and continued to make plays for UMass. All five shots he made came with his team either trailing or behind en route to a career night in front of dozens of friends and family who made the short trip from Upper Marlboro, Maryland for the game.

“It’s just constantly working building my own confidence,” Wood said. “With Pip down, we had Keon, but I need to be able to run the team and then show up wherever I can.”

Wood’s offensive efforts complemented a third straight strong game from Pierre, who has become the focal point of the UMass offense with Luwane Pipkins sidelined by a hamstring injury. The sophomore from Boston scored a career-best 26 points on 10-of-20 shooting, including 6-of-12 from behind the arc. He was especially efficient on his rhythm 3-pointers, many of which came from a give-and-go action with Holloway on the interior.

Pierre also rose to the occasion in big moments, most notably hitting a 3-pointer with 18 seconds left in overtime that hung on the back of the rim for two seconds before dropping that cut the Patriots’ lead to one.

“He did a tremendous job (Wednesday) of using screens,” McCall said. “We used him in a lot of screening action and he did a terrific job of reading screens, using screens, when guys went up the inside bumping back and finding ways to get 3s off.”

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