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Flames Fall In Close Contest at George Mason
Liberty falls to 6-7 on the season, while George Mason improves to 9-3 and remains undefeated inside the Patriot Center this year.
George Mason streaked to a quick 9-0 lead, courtesy of three-straight three-point buckets, capped by Dre Smith's second of the contest at 16:23.
Anthony Smith stopped the surge at 16:15 with a three-point bucket of his own, cutting the Mason lead to six points, 9-3.
The Patriots extended the lead to 10, 13-3, via a Louis Birdsong lay-up at 14:45. The Flames slashed the lead to four, 13-9, after scoring six-straight points. During the scoring burst, Smith connected on an alley-opp dunk from TeeJay Bannister and tallied another bucket from Bannister assist. Alex McLean ended the run with a bucket off another Bannister dime at 12:34.
The Patriots countered the run with five- consecutive points of their own, finished by another Dre Smith trey, this one contested from the wing at 11:11. The bucket extended the lead to an 18-11 advantage in favor of George Mason.
Liberty reduced the lead to two points, via a McLean bucket and another Smith three-point field goal at 8:02, cutting the score to 18-16.
The Flames then tied the game for the first time since the opening tip when B.J. Jenkins went coast-to-coast, laying in a bucket and knotting the game at 20, with 5:17 left to play in the opening stanza.
George Mason went on to hold a slight 8-7 advantage over the final five minutes, entering the intermission with a 28-27 lead.
Liberty started out cold from the floor, missing its first four shots, before recovering to shoot 48.0 percent (12-of-25) during the first 20 minutes of the game. Georg Mason was slightly better than the Flames, hitting 50.0 percent (12-of-24) of its shots during the first half.
Liberty took its first lead of the game when Smith hit a three-point bucket coming out of the intermission, taking the 30-28 advantage at the 19:12 mark.
The Patriots then went on an 18-2 run, regaining the lead, 46-32, capped by an old fashioned three-point play by John Vaughn with 11:43 left to play.
Liberty halted the Mason run when Smith scored a bucket at 11:17, cutting the lead to 10 points, 46-34. The Patriots then held an 11-8 advantage over the next four minutes, keeping a 57-42 lead after Folarin Campbell hit a three-point bucket at 7:33.
Campbell tallied another two-point marker at 6:56, staking Mason to a 59-42 advantage. The Flames then started inching closer to the Patriots, cutting the led to 59-48, after Smith hit a three-point bucket at 3:56. Liberty then cut the lead to six, 64-58, courtesy of a 10-5 run, capped by two McLean free throws coming with 1:45 left to play.
George Mason pushed the lead back to 10 after two more Vaughan tallies from the charity stripe with 44 seconds left in the game.
Liberty was able to cut the game back to six, 70-64, after Jenkins hit a three-point bucket with 17 seconds left. But that would be as close as the Flames would get as Mason held on to the eight-point victory, 72-64.
Both teams finished the game connecting on at lest 50 percent of their attempts for the contest. Mason edged the Flames 52.2 percent (24-of-46) to 51.0 percent (25-of-49).
The difference in the game was the Patriots' 22 trips to the free throw line, where George Mason connected on 15 tries. Liberty made only eight attempts from the charity stripe, hitting seven. Liberty committed only three more personal fouls (16 to 13) than George Mason, but was forced to foul late in the contest.
Liberty's Smith led the Flames with a career-high 24 points on 9-of-13 shooting. Smith also pulled down six rebounds. Jenkins scored 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting, while McLean chipped in 16 points.
All five of Mason's starters scored in double figures, while a field goal by Vlad Moldeveanu was the Patriots only bucket from a non starter. Will Thomas led the Patriots with 17 points, followed by Smith's 15 markers. Campbell chipped in 14 points, while Vaughan scored 13 points and Birdsong tallied 11 markers in the win.
Liberty returns to action on Saturday when they host Nyack inside the Vines Center. Tip off is slated for 2 p.m.