By HAL McCOY
It was as if the University of Dayton basketball team sent an engraved invitation into the George Mason huddle that said, “We cordially invite you to win this game. R.S.V.P.”
George Mason responded with, “Yes, thank you, we’ll take it.”
And take it they did, a 67-63 victory over the Flyers Wednesday night in UD Arena in a game that set back fluid basketball at least a decade.
The Flyers led, 63-60, with three minutes left after Jordan Davis buried a three, a rare occurrence this night because UD made just 8 of 27 three-pointers.
From there UD missed four straight shots and committed three turnovers as George Mason put away the game with a 7-0 finish.
It was a costly home loss in the Atlantic 10 Conference for the Flyers, who dipped to 4-and-2 while George Mason climbed to 6-and-1.
And it wasn’t as if George Mason was silky smooth. The Patriots shot about the same as the Flyers. UD made 24 of 54 and George Mason made 24 of 53 and 6 of 20 from three.
In addition the Flyers put the clamps on George Mason start Justin Kier, averaging more than 17 a game and more than 11 rebounds a game. He scored just 12 on 3 of 10 shoots, 1 for 5 from three.
But UD’s insistence on casting long range clankers was the downfall. When they got the ball inside to Josh Cunningham or Obi Toppin, they scored. They just didn’t do it.
Cunningham was 6 for 9 en route to game-high 15 points and Toppin was 5 for 5 and scored 11.
When the game began, the Flyers scored five quick layups and one three-pointer to take a 13-8 lead. George Mason called a time-out and plugged the hole down the lane, forcing the Flyers outside.
Crutcher was 3 for 12 and 2 for 9 from three. Jordan Davis missed his first nine shots and finished 2 fr 14, 2 for 9 from three.
It isn’t often a team treats its home hoops like foreign objects, but on this night the Flyers shot as if they were playing blindfolded.
After Davis made his desperation three as the shot clock expired with three minutes left to give the Flyers a 63-60 lead, the Arena roof collapsed on UD’s heads.
The Patriots scored two quick baskets underneath, one a layup by Jarred Reuter and one a follow off a missed shot by Ian Boyd.
That gave George Mason a 64-63 lead with a 1:40 left. Obi Toppin missed the front end of a one-and-one, a constant thorn inside UD’s sneakers.
Just before the three by Jordan Davis, Josh Cunningham missed the front end of a one-and-one. The Flyers, poor free throw shooters all year, made 5 of 9. George Mason, the league’s best free throw shooting team at more than 80 per cent, made 13 of 16.
After Toppin missed his free throw, George Mason’s Justin Kier made 1 of 2 for a 65-63 lead. Jordan Davis missed a three and Crutcher was called for traveling.
George Mason missed a shot and Ryan Mikesell grabbed the rebound, giving the Flyers a chance to tie or take the lead with a three. But Davis missed a driving lay-up with 16 seconds left.
George Mason knocked the ball out of bounds after the Davis miss and the Flyers still had a chance. After two timeouts to set up a play, Crutcher took a wild and deep heave with 4.5 seconds left and missed.
Kreuter made two free throws with four seconds left to put the tape on the package.