For the first time in four years, Cornell men’s basketball lost a mid-major nonconference game. The Big Red fell to George Mason 90-83 on Wednesday in Fairfax, Va., getting handed their first loss of the season.
The Patriots of the Atlantic 10 Conference earned their third win of the 2023-24 campaign in the paint. Though it had the size, Cornell just couldn’t counter George Mason’s physicality. The hosts scored nearly half (44) of their points in the paint, forcing the Big Red to have to shoot their way to a win.
That said, Cornell did a pretty solid job of hanging around. The visitors made eight threes in the first half and trailed just 42-41 heading into the locker room.
But the Patriots opened up a 10-3 run to start the second half as the well started to run dry for Cornell. The Big Red couldn’t make enough timely shots in the final 20 minutes to put themselves in a position to win.
Junior guard Nazir Williams hit a three-pointer with 4:19 remaining to get Cornell within one, but that’s the closest it got. Keyshawn Hall, who scored 29 for George Mason and led all scorers, connected on a pair of free throws and Amari Kelly hit a jumper to put the Patriots up five. On the following possession, Sean Hansen rolled toward the rim wide open and missed a dunk to seemingly give George Mason momentum.
After Williams missed a pair of free throws, Hansen got an offensive rebound and to the line, redeeming himself with a pair of makes. But George Mason guard Darius Maddox connected on a contested triple on the other end to put the Patriots up six and essentially seal the victory.
Despite the loss, the Big Red still have positives they can take away. For the second consecutive game, they held their ground against an A-10 school. After defeating Fordham on the road Saturday, Cornell should feel good about playing a stout George Mason team well.
The Big Red went 14-for-29 from distance and a lot of that came from the success of junior forward Guy Ragland Jr. and senior forward Keller Boothby. They each ripped the nets at 4-for-5 shooting with Ragland ending at 16 points and Boothby at 12. The always consistent Williams added 13 as he stepped into the starting lineup for the first time this season.
Cornell heads to Florida at 3-1 on the season for a matchup with Cal St. Fullerton on Sunday. It’ll play either Southern Mississippi or Utah Valley on Monday in Brian Earl’s first multiple-team event as coach of the Big Red.