Men’s Basketball Upset by East Carolina, 68-65

Posted: December 3, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

The Mason men’s basketball team was a heavy favorite heading into Sunday’s BB&T Classic matchup with East Carolina at the Verizon Center, but the Patriots lost, 68-65.

Mason (6-2) was just 13 of 25 (52 percent) from the free throw line. The Patriots had just five assists and nine turnovers. The Pirates (3-4) were 12 of 16 from the line, 8 of 22 from three-point range and had 13 assists with 10 turnovers.

James Legan had a career-high 18 points for ECU while Darrell Jenkins added 11. Mason got 16 points from Dre Smith, all in the second half, while Will Thomas had 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Louis Birdsong added 12 points and eight rebounds.

It was an ugly first half for Mason. East Carolina jumped out to a 6-0 lead, but the Patriots, led by John Vaughan, responded. The redshirt junior scored seven straight points to put Mason ahead. With the Pirates ahead 13-11, they took control, going on an 18-8 run. During one stretch, Mason went four minutes and 40 seconds without a point. Jordan Carter’s two free throws and offensive rebound and putback in the final two minutes allowed Mason to go into the locker room down 35-23.

The Patriots shot just 28.1 percent in the first half, while ECU shot 46.4 percent. The Pirates were 5 of 12 from three-point range while Mason was 0 for 9. Mason’s lone edge was on the offensive glass where they had 10 offensive rebounds to ECU’s four.

Mason nearly erased that first-half deficit in two and a half minutes. The Patriots opened the half with an 8-0 run and outscored ECU by 10 in the first 2:08 of the second half.

Vaughan started the run with a basket inside, Thomas added a pair of buckets, Birdsong scored off an offensive rebound and Smith drained a three-pointer to cap the run. But with 15:49 to play and Mason down 40-37, Thomas picked up his fourth foul and headed to the bench.

That didn’t deter the Patriots. Mason finally tied the contest at 46-46 when Cam Long scored on an acrobatic alley-oop tip-in. Mason took its first lead since 9-8 when Smith banked in a three-pointer as the shot clock expired.

The lead didn’t last long, though, as ECU scored on back-to-back possessions, first a fastbreak layup, then a free throw, tying the score at 49-49.

But Smith got the lead back on another three-pointer, his third of the half, but again ECU countered, this time on a Legan three-pointer. Mason responded with a 5-0 run behind a Smith three-pointer and a Vlad Moldoveanu turn-around jumper, but the Pirates again came right back, first with a Legan three-pointer, than with a Jenkins drive and free throw. That brought Thomas back into the game after more than nine minutes on the bench. His free throw tied the score at 58-58.

The Pirates took a two-point lead on Legan’s free throws, but Smith tied it up on a pair from the charity stripe and Birdsong put Mason up 62-60 with a baseline jumper.

The Patriots struggled from there to put a nail in the coffin, while the Pirates were unable to make Mason pay. Then with 1:03 to play, Legan hit a three-pointer to give ECU a 63-62 lead.

Seconds later, a Mason turnover led to a Gabe Blair fastbreak dunk and a three-point ECU lead. After a Smith basket in the lane trimmed it to one, Jenkins hit a free throw for a 66-64 ECU lead. A Thomas free throw with five seconds to go pulled Mason to within one. But final ECU free throws clinched the win for the Pirates.

Mason will next take the court on Wednesday when the Patriots host Hampton at the Patriot Center at 7 p.m.

Write to at