SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Taking the court in the month of April for just the second time in school history, the George Mason men’s basketball team could not fire the opening salvo as Santa Clara took game one of the College Basketball Invitational presented by Buick championship finals, 81-73, on Monday evening at the Leavey Center.
Junior Jonathan Arledge scored a team-high 21 points while freshman Patrick Holloway matched his career best with 17 points, all coming in the second half. Junior Bryon Allen added 15 points to help pace the Patriots (21-15) offense. For the Broncos, Kevin Foster led the way with 28 points, one of four SCU (25-11) players in double figures.
Mason led 6-3 early on before the Broncos embarked on a 7-0 run which put them on top, 10-6. The Patriots answered, tying the score at 13 on an Arledge free throw and using a 9-0 run to take a 17-13 lead inside of 10 minutes left in the half. Santa Clara pieced together another run, going up 28-19 thanks to a string of 12 unanswered points. It was part of a larger 16-1 run that pushed the Bronco lead to 32-20 with five minutes left in the first half.
The Patriots chipped away, pulling to within two possessions after a Vertrail Vaughns 3-pointer made it 37-31, but Cowels’ putback dunk with less than 30 seconds on the clock made the score 39-31, where it stayed as the halftime horn sounded.
Arledge led the Patriots with 11 points and six rebounds in the half, while Roquemore and Foster each scored 13 to pace the Broncos, who shot better than 50 percent including a 7-of-12 mark from beyond the arc. Mason, for its part, was just 1-of-5 from 3-point range and 10-for-29 total (34.5 percent).
Using an 11-1 run, the Patriots cut the deficit to a single possession, 47-44, six and a half minutes into the second half. After another Holloway 3-pointer, his 10th consecutive point for the Patriots, and an Allen free throw made it 50-48, the Broncos answered with a 8-2 run to move their advantage to 58-50. Mason would get no closer than four, though, as the Broncos closed out game one of the series despite a frantic Mason comeback effort in the final minute.
Redshirt junior Sherrod Wright set a new school record with his 36th start of the season, breaking the single-season mark shared by Lamar Butler and Will Thomas during the 2005-06 season.
The teams will head cross country and prepare for Game 2, which will be played Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at the Recreation & Athletic Complex (RAC) Gym in Fairfax. With a win, the Patriots would force a deciding game three, which will be played Friday at 7 p.m. at the Patriot Center.