FAIRFAX, Va. - The George Mason men’s basketball team erased a seven-point deficit in the final minute of regulation, but could not hold off Towson in overtime as the Patriots fell, 85-81, in their home finale on Tuesday night at the Patriot Center. Mason dropped to 10-7 in Colonial Athletic Association play with the loss and 17-12 overall, while the Tigers improved to 12-5 in conference and 17-13 overall.
Four Patriots scored in double-figures, led by a career night of 13 points and 15 rebounds by sophomore Erik Copes, his third double-double of the year. Junior Jonathan Arledge had a team high 17 points, while classmate Bryon Allen added 14 points and sophomore Corey Edwards contributed 10 along with a career-high five steals.
Jerrelle Benimon led the way for Towson with 31 points, while Marcus Damas added 23 and Bilal Dixon had a team-high 10 rebounds, leading a Tiger effort off the glass that out-rebounded Mason, 44-39. The Tigers also held the shooting advantage, going 29-for-59 (49.2 percent) compared to a 39.7 percent mark for Mason (29-73).
Redshirt sophomore Anali Okoloji drilled a 3-pointer with 1.9 seconds left to tie the score at 79, completing a furious comeback in the final 60 seconds. After a pair of Jerome Hairston free throws at the 1:16 mark made it 76-69, Mason got a pair of 3-pointers from freshman Patrick Holloway to just one Bilal Dixon free throw to make the score 77-75. With 24 seconds to go, Okoloji got his own rebound and was fouled, but could hit just one of two from the free throw line. The second attempt was rebounded by Towson, and Marcus Damas sank both his free throw attempts with 19 seconds to go, setting up the Patriots final offensive possession and Okoloji’s trey.
In the overtime period, both teams were scoreless for the first two minutes until a Corey Edwards layup put Mason on top 81-79. It would be the Patriots’ only points for the remainder of the game, as Jerrelle Benimon’s jumper tied the score, Dixon hit a basket in the paint and Damas sank two more free throws to ice the victory.
Behind a hot-shooting Benimon in the first half, Towson stormed out to an 11-4 run and went on to lead by as many as 10, after a Damas 3-pointer at the 10:16 mark left the score 30-20. Mason found counter-punches for each of the Tigers runs, tying the score at 32 on an Arledge jumper after a Patriots 12-2 run. Another stretch by Towson, 10 in a row and taking less than two minutes, put the Tigers up again by 10 and they would go on to lead 44-36 at the break. Benimon had 22 points in the first half while Arledge led the way for Mason with 11 points.
Prior to the game, Mason’s lone senior, guard Bryce Lewis, along with team managers Aaron Auger and Tyler Jorns were recognized as part of Senior Night.
Mason will close out the regular season on Saturday afternoon, traveling to the University of Delaware for a 2 p.m. tilt at the Bob Carpenter Center.