By Logan Hill
Josh Oduro caught an inside feed after Julian Reese went for the steal. He jumped up and over Ian Martinez, and finished the layup.
“Over the right shoulder, it’s a one point game, I mean, are you kidding me?” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “It was a high level play you know, in a big time situation. He misses that we might win the game, but he made it.”
Oduro’s bucket sealed the deal as No. 20 Maryland men’s basketball was shocked at home, falling to George Mason at the Xfinity Center, 71-66, for their first loss of 2021.
Maryland started things off better than they have through the first couple games of the season, finding plenty of scoring opportunities early. Establishing a little bit of a touch from deep, the Terps connected on two of their first four three-pointers, jumping out to an early 10-3 lead less than five minutes into the contest.
As the first half progressed, George Mason would crawl back into the game. Scoring on four out of five possessions, while Maryland suffered through a three minute scoring drought, the Patriots used an 8-0 run to take the lead 22-18 with less than eight minutes in the first half.
“George Mason was terrific, let’s be real,” Turgeon said. “Defensively, they were great, they were on a string with each other, wouldn’t let us get in the paint.”
Searching for a way to stop the bleeding coming out of the under-eight media timeout, Turgeon put his starting unit back on the floor.
Donta Scott hit a three on Maryland’s first possession out of the timeout to cut it to one, but George Mason’s D’Shawn Schwartz matched it to keep the Terps’ deficit at four. After a pair of missed free throws from Qudus Wahab, Scott again cut it to one with another shot from deep on the next possession.
Julian Reese took the lead back.
After trailing by one for a handful of possessions, Reese spotted up atop the key and let a three fly. It fell, giving Maryland a 27-25 lead with under four minutes remaining before halftime. Josh Oduro would knot things back up, but Reese ended an almost six minute period of trailing for the Terps.
Reese and Scott would both add baskets over the half’s final three minutes, but five from George Mason’s DeVon Cooper put the Patriots up at the break, 32-31.
George Mason began the second half with the same energy they had in the first. Through the first seven minutes of the latter period, the Patriots went on a 16-7 run to jump out to a 48-38 advantage. Schwartz spearheaded the attack, chipping in seven of his team-high 24 across four possessions to build the lead.
Maryland would use a run of their own to cut it to 46-51, but Schwartz hit another three, keeping the Patriots in control.
“They made a lot of shots,” Eric Ayala said. “They played team ball and found the right guy, they wanted it.”
The two sides would trade baskets deep into the second half, before George Mason put the game away.
Maryland cut the Patriots’ lead to four at 59-55 with 4:34 remaining in the contest. Reese went to the line and made one of two, cutting the Terps’ deficit to three; the first time it was within a score since early in the second half.
George Mason had one run left.
After watching the Terps cut it to three, Cooper hit on a tough layup over Ayala, and Schwartz hit his sixth three pointer, putting his side up 64-56 with just over three minutes to go.
Ayala hit a three out of a timeout to get it back to five and Maryland began a full court press, but Mason continued to fight for every possession, looking to close out the win.
With less than two minutes to play, Ayala again came up big from deep. He hit a pair of threes on back-to-back possessions to make it 67-66 with 57.3 to go.
“Just trying to find a way to win,” Ayala said. “I was just trying to help my team out as much as I can.”
Oduro hit the layup that would force another deep shot from the Terps, and Ayala’s third attempt in a row came up short. A pair of Gaines free throws provided the insurance, as the Patriots completed the upset.
Scott finished the game with 18 points and 10 rebounds, and Ayala chipped in 17 of his own, but it ultimately wasn’t enough to complete the comeback.
Their fourth game at the Xfinity Center to start the season, Maryland couldn’t overcome their slow start, after doing so in back-to-back contests. Playing from behind the entirety of the second half, the Terps couldn’t rally all the way, dropping their first game of 2021.
“We’re nowhere near where we’re gonna be,” Turgeon said. “Until we learn how to share the ball a little bit better and pass it better, make those decisions, our defense better be outstanding. It wasn’t outstanding tonight, and that’s why we ended up losing.”
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