With less than 30 seconds to go, George Mason trimmed a VCU lead that hovered around 11 points for much of the second half to just two possessions.
After a Javon Greene layup made the score 66-61, the Patriots took eight seconds to foul KeShawn Curry. Fortunately for George Mason, Curry missed the front end of the one-and-one opportunity.
Down two scores, the Patriots pushed the ball up the floor quickly, needing a quick bucket. But the rims on the left side of the floor at EagleBank Arena in Fairfax did not cooperate, as two 3-point attempts were off the mark. The clock expired, and VCU escaped Fairfax with a 66-61 victory Wednesday night.
The win improves VCU’s conference record to 2-0 in conference, 9-2 overall. The Rams are riding a seven-game win streak. The Rams’ last loss was a road loss to Penn State on a buzzer-beater in early December.
George Mason falls to 5-4 overall, 1-2 in the conference. The Patriots’ only Atlantic 10 conference victory was in double overtime against Massachusetts.
George Mason’s zone defense gave the Rams fits early, giving GMU an early 18-9 lead. AJ Wilson and Tyler Kolek accounted for 12 of those points on that run, including two early 3-pointers by Kolek. Kolek, a freshman from Rhode Island, entered the game with a shooting percentage above 70%.
But VCU began to battle back in the first half, making it a back-and-forth affair as halftime drew closer. George Mason entered the locker room with a 32-31 lead after Bahaide Haidara picked the pocket of Ace Baldwin and made a buzzer-beating layup.
The Rams took control in the second half, holding GMU to five points in the half’s first eight minutes. VCU stretched the lead to as much as 15 points, helped in part by a 7-0 second half run. The lead leveled off at 11 points before George Mason’s late rally that fell two possessions short.
It was another excellent night in the sophomore season of Bones Hyland. The sophomore guard achieved his first career double-double, grabbing 10 rebounds to go with a game-high 23 points. Hyland has tallied four 20-point games thus far this season.
Junior forward Vince Williams joined Hyland in double figures. Williams continued his breakout campaign with 12 points, three rebounds, three assists and three steals. The three assists led the Rams, while Williams tied with Hyland for the team lead in steals.
George Mason saw four players crack double-digits in scoring, led by sophomore Josh Oduro’s 13. Wilson and Kolek both totaled 12, while Javon Greene added 10 of his own off the bench. Oduro fell one rebound short of a double-double.
Wilson suffered what looked at first to be a serious injury, hitting his head on the floor in the second half. Wilson was down for a couple of minutes and helped off the floor but would later return to the bench.
VCU was slightly shorthanded Wednesday night, with two players not making the 98-minute trip up Interstate 95. Brendan Medley-Bacon did not travel to be with his newborn daughter, while Mikeal Brown-Jones is in COVID-19 protocol. VCU went on pause over the weekend due to COVID-19 protocols but were cleared to resume basketball activities on Monday.
George Mason will stay in Fairfax this weekend, where it will host Richmond on Saturday at noon. Richmond won earlier Wednesday evening against Rhode Island.
VCU will return to downtown Richmond for its home opener. The Rams will host Rhode Island on Saturday at 2 p.m. VCU has not beaten Rhode Island since Feb. 19, 2019, have lost the last three meetings and are 1-8 in their last nine matchups. Rhode Island has also eliminated VCU from the last three A10 tournaments.
*Featured image via Twitter/VCU_Hoops*