KINGSTON, R.I. - The George Mason men's basketball team built a double-digit
halftime lead and survived a second-half charge by the University of Rhode
Island, defeating the Rams 55-52 on Wednesday evening at the Ryan Center. Mason
improves to 5-2 with the win, while the Rams dropped to 1-6.
Sophomore Erik Copes pulled down a career-high 11 rebounds
and added nine points, leading a Mason effort off the boards that out-rebounded
the Rams 50-31, including a 19-10 advantage on offensive glass which translated
to 22 second-chance points. Redshirt junior Sherrod Wright led the offense with
14 points, while sophomore Vaughn Gray came off the bench to score 10 points.
Xavier Munford led URI with 24 points.
Mason used a 13-3 run midway through the first half to push
the lead into double digits, as a Marko Gujanicic 3-pointer at the 3:25 mark
made it 29-19 Patriots. Gray's trey with 34 seconds to go in the period made it
35-19, Mason's largest lead of the game as Munford hit a 3-pointer with six
seconds left to set the 35-22 halftime margin.
URI held the Patriots off the board for more than six
minutes into the second half, erasing the deficit at 37-al on Munford's 3-point
play at the 13:31 mark. From there it stayed within five points, and the Rams
led for just 21 seconds of the duration of the game.
Mason did not pull away, though. Down five with 2:45 to go,
Rhode Island cut it to one possession on Mike Powell's 3-pointer at the 2:10
mark. Munford had two chances to tie or take the lead in the waning seconds,
but both his jumper and 3-pointer were off the mark. Wright hit the front end
of a pair of free throws on an ensuing foul, and Nikola Malesevic's game-tying
attempt with three seconds left hit back iron, with Wright pulling down the
rebound to seal the win.
The Patriots will next make the short trip to Washington,
D.C., where they will face the University of Maryland in the 2012 BB&T
Classic. Tip-off from the Verizon Center is set for approximately 2:30 p.m.