BLACKSBURG, Va. - The George Mason men's basketball team played a
second-straight overtime game for the first time in 14 seasons, but the
Patriots were unable to come away with a 2-0 start to the season as they fell
79-76 to Florida International in the opening round of the Dick's Sporting
Goods NIT Season Tip-Off. The loss sends Mason (1-1) to a consolation bracket
matchup against Monmouth tomorrow night at 8:30 p.m.
Senior Ryan Pearson posted his second straight double-double
with team highs of 18 points and 10 rebounds. Redshirt sophomores Sherrod
Wright and Vertrail Vaughns each chipped in 16 points while sophomore Bryon
Allen added a career-high 14. Senior Mike Morrison matched Pearson's total off
the glass with 10 rebounds, part of a 37-33 rebounding advantage for the
Patriots. DeJuan Wright led FIU (1-0) with 23 points and 15 rebounds.
FIU opened the extra period with a 9-2 run and never trailed
in overtime. Mason cut it to one possession when Vaughns hit a 3-pointer at
79-76 with 12 seconds remaining. After DeJuan Wright turned the ball over on
the Mason side of the court, the out-of-bounds play gave Pearson a look at the
game-tying trey, but his shot was untrue and Mason couldn't get another shot
off before the final horn.
The lead only changed hands three times in the first half,
as the Patriots scored the opening bucket on a 3-pointer by Vaughns. FIU went
on to lead by as many as seven as a Dominique Ferguson layup made it 12-5 less
than four minutes into the contest. The Patriots worked their way back in and
eventually tied the score at 22 after a pair of Jonathan Arledge free throws.
Two points would be the margin for the remainder of the half until a Wright
layup with six seconds left made it 36-32 as the period concluded. Wright had
15 points to lead all scorers while Pearson had a team-high eight.
Mason led by as many as four at 42-38 early in the second
half, but the Golden Panthers held the advantage for the majority of the second
half. Sherrod Wright's 3 pointer made it 64-62 Mason, but DeJuan Wright tied
the game. After a Pearson bucket gave Mason a 66-64 lead with 2:07 remaining,
FIU's Wright answered with a layup. He was fouled on the play, but couldn't
score the bonus. Mason had a chance at the last shot but Pearson's jumper was
off the mark, sending the game to overtime.
With the loss, Mason will now host a pair of doubleheaders
next Monday and Tuesday at the Patriot Center. Game times and ticket
information will be posted at a later date.