Mason Wins Over S.C. for Third-Place Finish in Old Spice Classic

Posted: November 26, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

The Mason men’s basketball team overcame a 12-point first-half deficit and outscored South Carolina 9-4 in the final minute to take a 69-68 victory over the Gamecocks on Sunday, clinching third place in the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, Fla.

Louis Birdsong scored off an offensive rebound in the final minute and the Gamecocks turned the ball over on their final possession as the Patriots improved to 5-1 on the year, tied for the best six-game start in school history.

Will Thomas had a double-double with a team-high 22 points. He was named to the All-Tournament team after averaging 18.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists.

Cam Long set a career high with 13 points and five assists, and Birdsong also had a career-high 13 for the Patriots. John Vaughan added 14. South Carolina got 24 from Zam Frederick, including four 3-pointers, but his basket with 1:57 to play were the final points for the Gamecocks.

The Patriots struggled from the opening tip, allowing South Carolina to jump out to a 14-2 lead. The Patriots didn’t manage a field goal until 13:21 remained in the half when Thomas, whose free throws in the opening minutes were Mason’s only points at that juncture, banked in a shot from the right post. That started an 8-2 run that included a backdoor layup from Cam Long, a long jumper from Dre Smith and a mid-range baseline jumper from Thomas. But the Gamecocks responded by pushing the lead back to nine with a traditional three-point play from Devan Downey.

On the ensuing possession, Thomas picked a good time to hit the first 3-pointer of his career, banking one in as the shot-clock expired. Later in the half, with Mason down by 10 and Zam Frederick in the midst of scoring seven straight points for the Gamecocks, the Patriots turned to some youth for a run. First Long hit a 3-pointer, then Birdsong hit a pull-up jumper in the lane. Then Long stole the ball, went coast to coast and was fouled. Although he missed the free throw, Thomas got the offensive board, and the putback cut the lead to three, 28-25.

After a John Vaughan 3-pointer, Downey made a pair of free throws and then stole the ball and converted for a fastbreak layup to push the lead back to six. A Campbell free throw in the final second made it 38-33 at the break. South Carolina had a 19-14 edge on the boards in the half with eight offensive rebounds. Mason had seven offensive rebounds but the Gamecocks were shooting 51.7 percent to Mason’s 43.3 percent.

Mason opened the second half with back-to-back baskets to pull to within one, but Frederick answered with a 3-pointer. Birdsong answered with a basket in transition and his free throw made it 41-40. Mason had a shot to take the lead when Campbell stole a pass and went to the rim but Sam Muldrow got a piece of the ball and it rimmed out. After Archie scored off an offensive rebound, Vaughan drained a 3-pointer for the first tie since 2-2. After a defensive stop, Thomas’ jump hook gave Mason its first lead, 45-43.

Later, trailing by one, Thomas’ second-chance jump hook made it 49-48 and Vaughan’s runner in the lane put the Patriots up by three. The lead hit four when Long hit his second 3-pointer, but Frederick answered the next time down to once again make it a one-point game. After a Long steal and Vaughan basket made it 58-55, Brandis Raley-Ross answered with a 3-pointer to tie the game at 58-58.

The Gamecocks retook the lead on their next possession, and after Long responded, Mike Holmes hit a mid-range jumper to make it 62-60. Mason followed with turnovers on back-to-back possessions, and a Downey steal and layup made it 64-60 with 6:02 to play.

Mason came back with a 5-0 run as Smith scored on a drive and Thomas had a dunk and free throw off a beautiful pass from Long. But the Mason lead lasted just one possession as South Carolina scored on a tip-in to put the Gamecocks up, 66-65.

A Long steal and free throw tied the score at 66-66, and that’s where it stood entering the final three minutes. Frederick’s basket was followed by a Vaughan free throw and Birdsong’s basket to account for the final points.

Mason will next take the court on Thursday when the Patriots host Drexel in the first Colonial Athletic Association game of the season. Tip time is 7 p.m. at the Patriot Center.

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