George Mason pulls away from Penn State 85-66
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) The cheers reverberating from George Mason's locker room came from players experiencing their hottest streak in years. The quiet from Penn State's mirrored the whimper of the Nittany Lions in the second half as their run was snapped.
Marquise Moore scored 25 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, Otis Livingston added 18 points and the Patriots beat Penn State 85-66 for their sixth straight win and best stretch since 2011-12 on Wednesday.
''It was a great win for our team, really proud of our guys,'' George Mason coach Dave Paulsen said. ''We really, really competed with toughness in the second half, especially I think our second-half defense was really good.''
Jalen Jenkins added 15 points for the Patriots (7-3) who snapped Penn State's four-game winning streak.
Penn State led 38-37 after a wild first half that featured 12 lead changes. But the Raiders took control starting with Livingston's 3-pointer that made it 42-40 early in the second. They dominated from there, leading for the remaining 18:58 and outrebounded the Nittany Lions 44-29, outscored them 44-16 in the paint and held a speedy Penn State team to just two fastbreak points.
''We looked young tonight for whatever reason,'' Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. ''We have to figure that out. We have to play much harder.''
Payton Banks led Penn State (6-4) with 21 points. Shep Garner and Lamar Stevens chipped in 13 apiece for the Nittany Lions.
THE BIG PICTURE
George Mason: The Patriots are on a roll and keeping pace in a competitive Atlantic 10 conference that had five teams with six wins entering the night. They seem to have flipped a switch following a 93-65 loss to Houston on Nov. 21 and haven't lost since.
Penn State: The Nittany Lions had been winning despite deficiencies in a few areas while making up for them in others over the last four games. They weren't able to make up for their lack of production in the paint, however.
GUARDS ON THE GLASS
Paulsen was wary of the size advantage Penn State's forwards had heading in. The Patriots didn't start anyone over 6-foot-7 while Penn State boasted a trio of forwards at or taller than that. Paulsen was particularly concerned about 6-foot-9 Mike Watkins who was fresh off his best game where he blocked 12 shots against Wright State.
But the George Mason coach had faith in his guards' ability to attack the net and win those rebounds. Moore entered the game as the country's top rebounding guard with 10 per game and posted his sixth double-double of the season.
''We have some pretty good rebounding guards,'' Paulsen said. ''So you can't do it unless you have really active, rebounding guards.''
Penn State's gotten big time contributions from a handful of freshmen and started three as usual. But it was one of the veterans who shouldered blame afterward.
Banks was dejected after the game and pointed the finger at himself. Despite leading the team in points, he wasn't able to help on the glass.
''A lot of it just starts with me right here,'' Banks said. ''I had zero rebounds. We can't rely on Lamar (Miller) and Mike for the scoring load and Julian (Moore). Our guards have to rebound and that's what we lacked this game and it definitely showed on the scoreboard.''
George Mason plays at Penn on Saturday and has three of their final five games in 2016 at home.
Penn State plays Pittsburgh in Newark, New Jersey, on Saturday and has another on the road before closing out 2016 with a pair of games at home, including the Big Ten opener on Dec. 27.
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