Baraka Okojie leads George Mason past DaRon Holmes II and No. 16 Dayton, 71-67

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) — Tony Skinn was part of the greatest team in George Mason history, the 2006 squad that made a shocking run to the Final Four as an 11 seed under coach Jim Larrañaga.

On Wednesday night, Skinn — now the Patriots' first-year coach — accomplished something even that George Mason team never did.

Baraka Okojie scored all of his career-high 19 points in the second half, and George Mason rallied past No. 16 Dayton 71-67 on Wednesday night for the first home victory over a ranked foe in program history.

“This has got to be the standard. This is a signature win for us, but there's more to come,” Skinn said.

Keyshawn Hall added 17 points for the Patriots (18-8, 7-6 Atlantic 10), who trailed 40-29 early in the second half before their physical defense keyed a 24-2 run that had Skinn asking the boisterous home crowd to get even louder.

George Mason won its third straight and improved to 13-2 at home this season, and this victory ended with the Patriots' student section pouring onto the court to celebrate.

DaRon Holmes II scored 26 points for Dayton (21-5, 11-3), but the Flyers struggled at times getting the ball to their 6-foot-10 national player of the year candidate. George Mason forced four shot-clock violations, converted 10 Dayton turnovers into 16 points and shot 70.6% from the field after halftime while holding Dayton to 35.7% in the second half.

The Flyers fell one-half game behind first-place Loyola Chicago in the A-10 standings.

Okojie, a 6-foot-3 freshman from Canada, finished 5 of 6 from the floor and 9 of 9 from the free-throw line, doing most of his damage on quick drives to the basket.

“My coaches got on me in the first half for not being aggressive, not getting downhill,” Okojie said. “I came out in the second half and just decided to attack their defense.”

George Mason attempted 29 free throws to Dayton's 14, and Flyers coach Anthony Grant said that was the difference.

“For us, that’s abnormal,” Grant said. “Give them credit. They were able to take advantage of those opportunities and be able to erase our lead and get a lead of their own.”

Dayton followed George Mason's big run with an 11-0 burst to tie the game at 53-all, and Javon Bennett converted a steal into a 3-pointer that gave Dayton its last lead, 56-55 with 5:56 remaining.

Okojie responded with driving layups on consecutive possessions to put George Mason back ahead by three, and the Patriots held on from there. Holmes had a chance to tie it with 34 seconds left but his hook shot rimmed out. Okojie made two free throws with 14 seconds left for the final margin.

Ronald Polite III added 13 points and Amari Kelly scored 12 on 5-of-5 shooting for the Patriots. The Flyers made 11 3s, but Holmes was their only double-figure scorer.

“DaRon Holmes, you're not going to find a better player, not only in our league but in the country,” Skinn said. “To be able to do that against a team like this, the belief is there.”

BIG PICTURE

Dayton: Grant has his best team since the Obi Toppin-led Flyers went 29-2 and finished third in the AP poll in the pandemic-halted 2019-20 season, and he knows he'll get every opponent's best effort.

“Because of what our team has been able to do throughout the year, every time we play, it’s a big game. No matter what the other team’s record is, no matter what's happening, it’s a huge game,” Grant said. “Their players were obviously excited to play and they stepped up, and our guys kind of played somewhat out of character.”

George Mason: Skinn, who was the second-leading scorer for the Patriots in 2005-06, beat a ranked opponent for the first time in his coaching career. The Patriots hosted a ranked foe for the first time since then-No. 4 Dayton won 62-55 on Feb. 25, 2020.

UP NEXT

Dayton: Hosts Davidson on Tuesday night.

George Mason: At Loyola Chicago on Saturday.

___

Get poll alerts and updates on AP Top 25 basketball throughout the season. Sign up here.

___

AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball