Saint Louis just squeaks by George Mason again

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FAIRFAX, Va. — No. 10 Saint Louis will have little reason to overlook any opponent in next month’s Atlantic 10 tournament. For a dose of humility, the first-place Billikens can look back to an overtime escape act against the last-place George Mason Patriots.

Wednesday night at George Mason, Saint Louis needed heroic work from guard Jordair Jett, who scored all but one of his 25 points after halftime, and forward Rob Loe, who hit two three-pointers in overtime, as the Billikens survived another upset bid by the Patriots, 89-85.

In extending its school-record winning streak to 18 games, Saint Louis (24-2, 11-0 Atlantic 10) also got 16 points from guard Mike McCall Jr. The senior hit two free throws with one second left in overtime. Forward Jake Barnett contributed 14 points as the Billikens improved to 10-0 in true road games.

“Our conference is really, really good. Really good, really good,” Saint Louis coach Jim Crews said for emphasis. “I bet if you asked any (A-10) coach, ‘Would it shock you if you guys were 2-10?’ I don’t think it would have shocked anybody because it’s hard to win a game.”

It has been a frustrating season of narrow defeats and unrealized expectations for George Mason (9-17, 2-10). Wednesday was more of the same despite brilliant work from guard Sherrod Wright, who scored 13 of his career-high 34 points in the final 4:34 of regulation.

“They threw punches and we threw punches and they ended up getting the win,” Wright said. “We all fought hard. We all played hard. We didn’t give up.”

George Mason suffered another overtime defeat at Saint Louis on Feb. 1, falling 87-81. No other team scored more than 72 points against the Billikens, who entered the game ranked first in the A-10 in scoring defense (58.9 points per game), field goal defense (38.9 percent), and 3-point defense (26.7 percent).

“They’re record really doesn’t describe how they are as a team,” forward Dwayne Evans (13 points) said of George Mason. “They’re a really tough, physical team with guys on the perimeter who can knock down shots.”

George Mason led by seven points early in the second half, but Jett responded. The senior scored 15 points in less than nine minutes as Saint Louis battled back. When Jett hit one of two free throws with 0.5 seconds left, the game went to overtime.

Jett’s performance was a reversal from the first half when he took just one shot.

“Coach told me I wasn’t being aggressive,” said Jett who also had eight assists. “He told me make sure I’m a lot more aggressive in the second half. That’s what I did. It worked for us.”

In the extra session, Jett guided an offense that hit all five of its shots from the floor. Jett had a jumper and a driving layup and passed to Loe’s for one of his 3-pointers.

“Jordair’s a competitive kid. He’s got god-given talent,” Crews said. “He and Rob Loe, those guys are really, really smart basketball players. They do so many things that don’t show up in the stat sheet.”

Loe and Evans finished with 13 points each for the Billikens, who saw all five starters finish in double figures.

Patriots forward Jalen Jenkins scored 16 points and grabbed a game-high eight rebounds, helping George Mason to a 37-30 edge on the boards, which went for naught.

“They got really good players. They got quick guys and they got physical guys and as I said, they’re well-schooled,” Crews said. “I don’t know. It’s two overtimes. It’s not like we got any magic on those guys.”

NOTES: In the first meeting, F Rob Loe scored 10 of his 23 points in overtime. … Saint Louis returns home on Saturday to play another Washington-area school, George Washington, in the lone regular-season meeting of the teams. … George Mason has a week off before travelling to Richmond. … The loss was George Mason’s sixth in a row at home, the longest such streak in Fairfax since the 1994-95 season. … The last time Saint Louis won its first 11 conference games was the 1946-47 season when the Billikens were in the Missouri Valley Conference. The last time Saint Louis was ranked in the top 10 was 1964.