FAIRFAX, Va. – Despite a second straight double-double from junior Sherrod Wright, the George Mason men’s basketball team fell to Santa Clara in the championship game of the College Basketball Invitational presented by Buick, 80-77, on Friday night at the Patriot Center.
Mason concludes its season at 22-16, setting a new school record for games played in a season. Wright scored a game-high tying 24 points along with 10 rebounds, while sophomore Erik Copes pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds for the Patriots. Junior Jonathan Arledge also reached double-digit scoring with 16 points. Kevin Foster scored 24 points and earned tournament MVP honors, one of three Broncos (26-12) in double figures.
Mason stormed out to an 8-0 lead inside of the first three minutes of game action, but the Broncos matched it and tied the score on a Foster 3-pointer at the 16:35 mark. Arledge answered with a trey on the other end, and the Patriots would go on to take a double-digit lead after a pair of Allen free throws capped an 8-0 run, making the score 21-11 with 11:50 left in the first half.
Santa Clara mounted another run of its own, an 11-2 scoring stretch which pulled them within 23-22. Wright’s basket from beyond the arc kept the Patriots ahead until Trasolini’s free throw at the 5:20 mark tied the score at 26.
The Patriots responded with a 9-2 run that ended with Wright putting back his own missed 3-pointer and making the bonus free throw, leaving the score 35-28 with 2:41 to play in the half. SCU pulled as close as four from there, including the halftime score of 37-33.
Wright led the way for the Patriots with 10 points in the first half along with seven rebounds, while Foster had a game-high 11 points in the first 20 minutes of play.
Out of the locker room the Broncos started strong and again cut the deficit to a single point, 44-43, after Trasolini’s dunk left the score 44-43. He would lay it in to give Santa Clara its first lead of the evening at 47-46 with 15:27 to play.
Santa Clara went on to lead by as many as seven when Trasolini’s jumper made the score 57-50, but the Patriots again found a response in a 9-2 run which tied the score at 59 on Vaughns’s 3-point swish from behind the top of the key with just over eight minutes to play.
It was a back-and-forth, up-and-down the court battle from then on, with five lead changes in the final five minutes. Arledge hit a turnaround jumper with to put the Patriots up 73-72 with 1:35 left to play, but Foster answered with a three from the right corner, giving SCU a 75-73 lead. Vaughns had a chance to tie the score at the 23-second mark, but hit just one of two from the charity stripe and Roquemore made both his free throws on the other end.
Down 77-74, Bryon Allen sank an up-and-under layup with 11.3 seconds to play to cut the gap to one point, and after being fouled on the inbound, Roquemore sank two more free throews to make it a 79-76 ballgame. When Wright was fouled on the next possession, he hit one of two to make it a two points game, while Foster did the same to set the scene for the final possession at 80-77.
Arledge got the rebound and pushed the ball ahead, where Holloway was waiting in the left corner and fired up a 3-point attempt as the clock expired, but it rimmed out and the Broncos claimed the tournament title.