GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands (AP)Jamal Hartwell II scored a career-high 23 points and Jordan Miller had 20 and George Mason advanced to the championship game of the Cayman Islands Classic with an 85-66 win over Nebraska on Tuesday night.
Javone Green added 17points for the Patriots, who are 7-1 for the first time since 1983-84. Hartwell, who had five 3-pointers and six assists, also career bests, and Miller combined for 28 points in the second half. AJ Wilson pulled down 14 rebounds and blocked five shots to go with eight points.
In the second half George Mason made 7 of 12 behind the arc and shot 61%.
Nebraska (3-3) was within 67-60 with 7:49 to play. Then the Patriots hit 7 of 8 shots to break open the game with an 18-4 run. Nebraska hit just one 3-pointer among eight shots, plus a free throw and had three turnovers to end its three-game winning streak.
”This was a gratifying win for us. It was a great team victory,” said Patriot head coach Dave Paulsen. ”We kept them out of transition and I thought we defended really well. Our offense, against their pressure, wasn’t perfect but I thought we distributed the ball well.”
Dachon Burke led the Cornhuskers with 14 points but only had two in the second half. Haanif Cheatham added 13 points.
Hartwell and Greene scored 10 points apiece as the Patriots opened a 37-28 halftime lead. A 29-12 rebounding margin helped, including 11-2 on the offensive end. The teams combined for 24 turnovers.
A Green dunk tied the game at 16 and then the Patriots hit three 3-pointers, taking a 27-19 lead on Justin Kier’s triple at the 7:22 mark. A 7-0 surge late in the half put George Mason up by 11.
”We did talk about the need, playing back-to-back game, to play with high energy,” Paulsen said. ”Was this the best game we’ve played this season? It feels like it. It certainly was a complete game, with our defensive energy and our offensive efficiency.”
George Mason: In addition to winning like they haven’t in 35 years, the Patriots had their first-ever 5-0 start before losing to No. 6 Maryland.
Nebraska: The rebuilding Cornhuskers only returned 50 points from last season, but had scored at least 80 points in its three wins. Nebraska last won at in-season tournament in 2000, the San Juan Shootout.
George Mason faces New Mexico State in the championship game on Wednesday.
Nebraska plays South Florida in the third-place game on Wednesday.