George Mason University

News at Mason

Turning men’s basketball into destination viewing

November 15, 2017   /   by Damian Cristodero

Students celebrate the start of basketball season with Mason's win over Lafayette Nov. 10, 2017. Photo by Ron Aira.

The George Mason University students who attended the Patriots’ season-opening men’s basketball game at EagleBank Arena on Nov. 10 did everything right.

Most stood for all 40 minutes as a show of support. They raised their arms in anticipation of made foul shots, chanted “defense, defense” at appropriate times, and went absolutely bonkers when junior guard Otis Livingston II stole the ball with 1.4 seconds left to preserve a 67-65 victory over Lafayette.

Most importantly, though, the students showed up — 1,596 of them filling sections of seats behind the two baskets as part of an enthusiastic crowd of 6,706.

“They bring us energy, and it helps us so much,” sophomore guard Justin Kier said. “When Otis got that last defensive stop, the rush just came from your feet. You could feel the energy. They definitely are part of the game.”

Sure, students loved that George Mason pulled out a thrilling victory with Kier hitting two free throws with 6.1 seconds left to break a 65-65 tie. Doc Nix’s nationally renowned Green Machine pep band was a hit, as was the new high-definition scoreboard. And, boy, it was nice to get away from their studies for a while.

But students also said it was important to support a team of fellow students.

“It builds a community, a cohesion,” said Jeremy Aylward, a junior criminology, law and society major. “Unit cohesion leads to our ability to accomplish our goals.”

“It’s just part of the whole college experience,” said Joshua Keruski, a senior government and international politics major. “It bonds the school together, and I think Mason is getting better at getting that school spirit and that common identity of who we are as a school.”

Aylward and Keruski said they often see the Patriots play, but for Sophia Seman and Preeti Joginapalli, the Nov. 11 game was their first at Mason.

“And I like it a lot,” said Seman, a sophomore nursing major. “It’s like a community within itself, and you get to be here with all your friends and support the team. It’s awesome.”

Joginapalli, a freshman computer science major, kept a list of must-dos for her next game, such as waving at opponents to distract them while they attempt foul shots.

“All these traditions I didn’t know about, I know about them now,” she said. “It’s really nice. I like the whole experience.”

“We just love the support,” junior guard Jaire Grayer said. “It really intimidates the other team and lifts us up and gets us going.”

That is why Kier said he and his teammates, when they have free time, attend games of other Mason teams.

“Just to show support,” Kier said. “We think it’s mutual we should do that. It builds relationships.”

The men’s basketball team seems to be building something as well. Two days after it beat Lafayette, Mason pushed No. 16-ranked Louisville hard, leading by as many as six points in the second half before falling 72-61 on the road.

“I think our guys have done a really nice job,” Mason coach Dave Paulsen said. “These are guys you want to rally around. It’s a fun atmosphere for the students. Hopefully, we’ll get more and more and more to come out.”

The Patriots face Binghamton at 7 p.m. Thursday at EagleBank Arena.