BY ZACH SEAY STAFF WRITER
Men’s basketball team missed another chance on Monday to add an impressive non-conference victory to their résumé in a 72-67 loss to the University of Vermont. Plagued by horrendous three-point shooting (3-18) and little defensive resistance in the second half, Mason fell to 4-6 on the season.
“I’m really disappointed in our defensive toughness,” said head coach Dave Paulsen. “I just didn’t see the fight in our guys that I saw two days ago down at William & Mary.”
Here are four takeaways from the Patriots loss.
- Justin Kier had a career night
The junior guard was Mason’s go-to scorer, as he eclipsed his previous career-high in scoring (20) with a 32-point effort, 23 of which came in the second half. As the only starter to score in double figures, Kier provided two of the team’s made threes from beyond the arc and was 6-6 at the free throw line.
Kier tied his career-high in steals with four, as well as collecting four rebounds in 32 minutes of play. This was the seventh time in 10 games this season where his scoring finished in double figures.
The Grottoes, Va. native was not particularly boastful on his achievement and said after the game, “We didn’t execute on defense at all. The points that I had tonight didn’t really matter. We lost and we’ve got to get better.”
- Everyone has to contribute on offense
Kier’s 32 points accounted for 48 percent of the team’s scoring, with Ian Boyd the only other Patriot to score in double figures. That was not the case in the team’s previous wins against the College of William & Mary and Morgan State University, and it cannot be going forward.
After scoring a combined 66 points in Mason’s three previous games, senior point guard Otis Livingston II finished with six points, making only one shot from the floor and turning the ball over seven times. Sophomore guard Javon Greene, coming off a combined 32 points in the team’s two previous wins, went 1-6 from the field and saw 21 minutes of action.
“Otis on Saturday at William & Mary played the point guard position about as well as you can play it, and he struggled tonight,” said Paulsen. “He’s our best player and sometimes you’re going to have an off night, and some other guys have to step up for him and we didn’t get enough of that.”
- You have to defend during both halves
After holding off Vermont’s top scorers Anthony Lamb and Ernie Duncan, letting them score only five and eight points respectively in the first half, the duo combined made 25 points in the second half. This was more than Mason’s entire team during the stanza, excluding Kier.
Trailing by five at halftime, Mason was outscored 26-17 to open the second half as Vermont built their largest lead of 14 at the 7:42 mark. From there it was an uphill battle for the Patriots to spark a comeback, as they cut the Catamounts lead to three with seven seconds remaining. The team was unable to get a steal as Vermont sealed their win at the charity stripe.
“Missing shots and offensive mistakes are going to happen, but defensive toughness and energy has to be a constant and that was lacking tonight,” noted Paulsen.
- Additional scoring opportunities hurt
In a game where hardly anyone was hitting shots from outside for Mason, the Patriots gave Vermont too many extra scoring chances , always trailing on the scoreboard as a result. The Catamounts scored 23 points off of Mason’s 16 turnovers and were +4 (10-6) in second-chance points with the help of 12 offensive rebounds.
The Patriots shot efficiently at the free throw line (14-16) to keep the deficit manageable, but each failed attempt to grab a defensive rebound combined with every turnover prevented Mason from ever tying the game or taking the lead.
Mason remains at home for a classic Colonial Athletic Association rivalry game with James Madison on Dec. 7 at 7 p.m. before the team gets time off for exams. Following that period will be their final non-conference home game against Navy on Dec. 21 at 7 p.m.