Tony Washington leads La Salle to comeback win over George Mason

La Salle’s Tony Washington looks to shoot through traffic in the second half.

La Salle basketball coach John Giannini had a feeling that Saturday could be a big day for redshirt senior center Tony Washington.

With two inexperienced freshmen to defend Washington, Giannini reasoned that his experience would hold court.

Washington made his coach look prescient and helped his team end a three-game slide in the process. With 20 points and 14 rebounds, both career highs, Washington helped La Salle earn a comeback 69-62 win over George Mason on Saturday at Tom Gola Arena.

“Tony had a big game; now he was going up against two freshman bigs and I told him he could have a big game,” Giannini said after the Explorers improved to 11-16 and 5-9 in the Atlantic Ten. “He really came through and played great.”

The 6-foot-10 Washington faced two freshman frontcourt starters in 6-7 Goanar Mar and 6-8 Greg Calixte.

Washington hit 9 of 11 from the field and surpassed his previous career highs of 16 points and 13 rebounds.

“It feel great,” Washington said. “I played hard for my team, and the outcome was great.”

George Mason coach Dave Paulsen said his two freshmen played with a lot of energy, but…

“He [Washington] has been around the block a couple of more times than our guys and they [the Explorers] did a good job of getting him the ball,” Paulsen said.

George Mason (12-15, 6-8) led by as many as 16 points in the first half and held a 45-32 advantage at intermission.

La Salle was giving the Patriots too many open looks, but that wasn’t the case in the second half, when the Patriots shot 6 for 29 from the field (20.7 percent) including 1 for 9 from beyond the arc.

Washington gave La Salle a 61-60 lead with an opposite (left) hand driving half-hook with 1 minute, 20 seconds left.

“Previous to this year, I used my left hand a lot, but this year, I don’t know what happened to it,” Washington said

After a miss by George Mason, B.J. Johnson extended La Salle’s lead to 63-60 on a 15-foot jumper with 43.9 seconds left.

Otis Livingston’s driving layup with 34 seconds left cut the margin to 63-62.

La Salle’s Pookie Powell hit two free throws with 25.4 seconds left, making it 65-62. Amar Stukes then made a steal and was fouled with 14.5 seconds remaining. He sealed the win with two free throws.

Johnson added 18 points for La Salle, while Stukes scored 12 and Powell had 11. Justin Kier, a 6-4 sophomore, led the Patriots with 19 points, but just five in the second half.