George Mason defeated the Spartans 75-65 in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. The sixth-seeded Spartans were not able to defeat the number 11-seeded George Mason team from the Colonial Athletic Conference.
It was the hot shooting by George Mason in the second half that allowed them to take control of the game. The Patriots shot 59 percent from the field and were 5-12 from beyond the arc.
"They were the tougher team tonight and that was the difference. When we took the lead we just made some some of the goofiest plays," head coach Tom Izzo said.
With 13:42 left in the game George Mason got out to a quick 8-0 run to take a 45-37 lead on the Spartans. Michigan State had just tied up the game before the run and it was looking like Maurice Ager was going to lift the Spartans into the lead until the Patriots went on a spurt.
Ager scored 10 points to bring the Spartans back into a 52-51 lead with 6:44 remaining in the game. Ager hit two three-pointers during that stretch, which was the last time Michigan State was in the lead.
"We took the lead, we had a chance but we came up short," Ager said.
Besides four three-pointers by Drew Neitzel, Ager was on his own against the Patriots. Neither Shannon Brown nor Paul Davis were factors in this game from the start to finish. Brown and Davis combined for just 15 points in the game and Brown was a dreaded 2-11 from the field.
Ager ended with a game high 27 points. He was 10-18 from the field and knocked down four big three-point shots for Michigan State. But without help from Davis and Brown, Ager was unable to deliver a victory on his own.
The Patriots did leave the door open for the Spartans to come back by only hitting 10-21 from the free-throw line in the final 3 and 1/2 minutes. However, Michigan State could not overcome the deficit.
A big key to the game was the rebounding and dominating play in the paint by the Patriots. George Mason out-rebounded the Spartans 38-23. Will Thomas led the Patriots attack down low with 18 points and 14 rebounds. Thomas showed superiority over Paul Davis down low and was able to control the post-presence of the senior in the second half.
After the game head coach Tom Izzo told the media,"The disappointing thing is they took it to us early, and kicked our butts inside."
Neitzel scored 14 points and dished out eight assists in the game. The theory about Michigan State going as far as their point-guard play takes them did not hold true here. It was the team that shot the best and rebounded well who came home with the victory and advanced to the next round.
Tom Izzo has a career winning percentage of .767 in the NCAA Tournament and Michigan State has made visits four of the last seven years to the Final Four. Izzo's record was meaningless on Friday when George Mason took the floor and ended the 2005-06 season for the Spartans.
"I'm disappointed, saddened. On this night, they brought it and we didn't," said Izzo.
George Mason will advance to the second round of the Tournament to play North Carolina.