George Mason reaches title game with 71-68 OT win
CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) George Mason coach Dave Paulsen loves his team's passion and effort. The Patriots decision-making? That's still a work in progress.
Marko Gujanicic had 13 points, including two 3-pointers in overtime, to lift George Mason to a 71-68 victory over Oklahoma State and reach the finals of the Charleston Classic on Friday.
The Patriots (2-2) made plays in the extra period they had not made in regulation, Paulsen said.
''If someone had never seen our team play before, they'd say that team plays as hard as any team in the country with passion,'' Paulsen said. ''They're intelligence down the stretch? Not so much.''
Paulsen was still wondering how his team, which trailed 41-31 midway through the second half then rallied to lead 56-51 with less than a minute to go, squandered that edge.
Oklahoma State's Joe Burton sliced through the defense to get one basket then hit a straightaway 3-pointer after a George Mason turnover to tie things at 56-all.
Otis Livingston took a way-too-long 3-point attempt as the buzzer sounded that Paulsen said was not what was drawn up.
But the Patriots found their footing in the extra session, hitting 7 of 8 shots to topple their second Power Five opponent in as many days after beating Ole Miss to start off the eight-team event Thursday.
George Mason opened with losses to Colgate and Mercer. Paulsen says the Patriots showed what they're capable of at TD Arena this week.
''I told them, `Hey, the season not over, it's not make or break with the first couple of games,''' he said. ''But it should show that if they all buy in and do what they're supposed to do, we've got a chance to be a pretty decent team.''
The Patriots (2-2) held a 56-51 lead in the final minute before the Cowboys (3-1) forced overtime on Joe Burton's 3-pointer with 16 seconds to go. But Gujancic got George Mason started with his long-range shot.
Oklahoma State had a last possession to tie, but the ball was tipped away before they could get a shot off.
Jaire Grayer had a career-high 23 points off five 3-pointers and Shevon Thompson had his second straight double-double with 20 points and 17 rebounds.
Jeff Newberry led Oklahoma State with 20 points.
Chris Olivier had 19 points and five of Oklahoma State's 11 blocks.
Both teams looked like they had this won in regulation.
Oklahoma State used a 19-5 run in the second half to build a 41-31 lead on Olivier's inside bucket with 11:09 remaining.
But George Mason answered with a 25-10 rally to move in front 56-51 in the final minute.
Oklahoma State played without its offensive core in Phil Forte, who injured his left arm in the tournament-opening win over Towson and was on the bench wearing a sling for this one.
''You lose 17 points and a senior (in Forte) it hurts,'' Cowboys coach Travis Ford said. ''But we've got other guys on scholarship who've got to step up.''
George Mason had a season-high 11 3-pointers. Grayer led the way with five, while Livingston and Gujanicic had three each. The Patriots had only made 14 shots from behind the arc in their first three games combined.
Shevon Thompson had his second straight game with double-figure points and rebounds, both coming against Power Five opponents in Ole Miss and Oklahoma State. Should Patriot fans expect this every night? ''I would think so,'' Thompson said with a grin.
George Mason: The Patriots improved to 3-2 at the Charleston Classic with their opening-game win over Ole Miss on Thursday. They look to make it four in a row on Sunday night.
Oklahoma State: The Cowboys are protecting the basketball so far this season. They had one turnover in the opening half of their win over Towson on Thursday and finished with seven for the game. It's the second time in three contests they've had seven or fewer turnovers.
George Mason will play either No. 6 Virginia or Long Beach State in Sunday's championship game.
Oklahoma State will play either No. 6 Virginia or Long Beach State in Sunday night's third-place game.