Fairfax, Va.--Georgia State had its 11-game winning streak snapped at George Mason, which earned a 61-58 victory over the Panthers Saturday night at the Patriot Center. The Panthers entered the evening tied with the fifth longest winning streak in the country.
With the win, George Mason moved into sole possession of first place in the Colonial Athletic Association at 12-4, 4-0 in the CAA, while Georgia State fell to 11-4, 3-1 CAA. The game featured 10 ties and six lead changes as the teams battled all game long.
Jihad Ali led Georgia State with 19 points, including 12 in the second half, but the Panthers were never able to fully overcome an eight-point halftime deficit.
"I am really, really proud of my team," commented head coach Ron Hunter. "I am even more proud than after the win at VCU the other night. They left it all on the court and gave me everything they had.
"I think the streak and all of the other stuff was starting to get to them and it showed tonight.
"When we were down eight at halftime, I wondered if it would just be too much to overcome. Although we fought back and took the lead, it took all of our strength to get back into the game."
Mike Morrison paced Paul Hewitt's Patriots with 14 points and 15 rebounds, while Vertrail Vaughns added 17 points and five rebounds.
"I tip my cap to George Mason as they played a great game in a great college basketball environment (5,191 fans)," added Hunter.
After Vaughns opened the game with a three-pointer, Ali scored seven straight points to give State an early 7-3 lead. The Panthers stout defense held the Patriots without a field goal for nearly four minutes while building their biggest lead of the game.
Morrison's dunk capped a late first half 8-0 run for Mason, building the Patriots lead to 26-21 with 4:33 left in the first half, causing Hunter to call his first time out.
George Mason continued its run, finishing the first half on a 13-2 run to take a 31-23 lead at halftime. The Panthers scored just one basket over the final 7:14 of the half.
The Panthers came out strong to start the second half, using an 8-0 run of their own to tie the game 31-31. Georgia State held the Patriots without a basket for nearly eight minutes between the end of the first half and the first 5:15 of the second half.
As Hunter eluded to in his post-game press conference, the run seemed to take a lot of energy out of State, as the Patriots responded with an 11-3 run to take a 42-34 lead.
The Panthers potent defense, which forced 19 turnovers, kept Mason on its toes all-night and led to one last GSU run.
Senior James Fields' three-pointer from the corner capped a 13-4 run to give State a 47-46 lead with 4:58 to go in the game. It was Fields' second straight basket as he finished with 10 points and five assists before fouling out.
State trailed by just one, 52-51, with 1:29 to play, but Morrison's lay-up and a pair of Ryan Pearson free throws allowed the Patriots to pull away. Pearson, the reigning CAA Player of the Week, finished 0-4 from the floor, but 10-of-10 from the free throw line, adding six boards.
The Panthers held Mason to just 37.3 percent shooting and 27.8 percent from behind the arc.
Andre Cornelius came off the bench to give George Mason eight points.
State will return to action on Thursday night facing UNC Wilmington at 7 p.m. The game will air live on CSS, the third of four straight televised Georgia State games.
Coach Ron Hunter will coach his fifth annual barefoot game against the Seahawks. Hunter has coached a game in his bare feet in each of the last four seasons in support of Samaritan's Feet, an organization that provides shoes for underprivileged children around the world.
Fans can visit GeorgiaStateSports.com or call 1-886-GA-STATE to purchase tickets for the game or to learn more about donating to Samaritan's Feet.