March 9th 2016
St. Luois Billikens 83 George Mason Patriots 78
The George Mason Pirates took on the St Louis Billikens in the opening game of the opening round of the 2016 Atlantic 10 Mens Basketball Championships at Barclays Center in Brooklyn New York. Both teams had less than stellar records as they were at the bottom of the conference with 20 losses apiece. The Billikens were 10-20 and the Patriots came in with a record of 11-20.
In-front of a slim crowd both teams looked to advance to the next round. George Mason is 5-13 against conference rivals with one win against the Billikens on January 17th. Both teams started off very slowly. George Mason Freshman guard Otis Livingston was held scoreless through the first nine minutes of the game. Junior guard Jaire Grayer had 6 early points for the Pirates.
St Louis led 10-8 after the 2nd dead ball. Grayer (George Mason) led the Patriots back from the early deficit. With 6:08 left in the half the Billikens retook the lead 20-19 led by Ash Yacoubou and Marcus Bartley who both had 5 points before the timeout. Bartley was 2-2 from the behind the arc at the 4:20mark and this wound be a trend throughout the game. Both teams did not shoot particular well from behind the arc but Bartley had the hot hand early for the Billikens. It was a low scoring first half as both teams shot poorly from the floor. George Mason shot a lowly 29% from the floor while St. Louis scored on 40% of their shots. The Billikens led 32-23 at the half after Bartley hit another shot from behind the arc to end the half.
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The second half began with a little more tempo as the Billikens scored 11 points in under 4 minutes to begin the half. The Pirates tied the game at 46 a piece after a 3 by Marquiese Moore. It was more of the same for St Louis in the second half after Bartley again hit another shot from behind the arc. Bartley was 6-7 from behind the arc, which led to a George mason timeout with 9:24 left in the second half. Bartley finished the game with 24 points and shot 7-8 from three-point land, falling one short of the A10 record. He struggled throughout the season as coach Jim Crews stated in the post game conference. Bartley struggled with injuries throughout the season however he chose the perfect game to come out of his offensive funk tonight. His 24 points was also a career high. The Billikens made shots all night and just seemed to be in a better offense flow. They shot 45% for the game from the floor and 52% from behind the arc. St. Louis also took care of the ball; they turned it over 5 times tonight.
“ The kids played really well…….Obviously Marcus Bartley was a lights out shooter”- Coach Jim Crews
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George Mason had a commanding lead on the boards however it did not translate to points. The won the rebound battle an astonishing 53-30 but still trailed by 10 points late in the game. They could not capitalize off of all those rebounds. George Mason made a furious comeback to pull within one with just under six minutes left in the game. They slowed down the pace of their offense and got contributions from Marko Gujanic, who almost single handedly brought them to within 2 very late in the game. He had a late 3 with pressure to give the George Mason faithful hope of a miracle finish. As coach Paulsen put it, this was a disappointing end to the year for his George Mason squad. Since winning it all in 2013 the Patriots have now lost the first game of the tournament for 3 consecutive seasons they look to regroup next season and hopefully return to some previous success.
“We had a hard time guarding them throughout the game……defensively we really struggled.” -Coach Dave Paulsen (George Mason)
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In a quick turnaround the Billikens will face George Washington University who are 22-9 tomorrow at Barclays Center at 2:30pm seeking to advance in the tournament.
Photo: Brian Haenchen Inside STL