Men’s Basketball Takes Home Win Over Liberty

Posted: January 2, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

When the Liberty men’s basketball team converted on its opening possession of the second half to take a two-point lead, the Mason Patriots found themselves trailing for the first time all game.

The Patriots had opened the game with a 9-0 run but gradually allowed Liberty to get back into the contest, culminating with the Flames going up 30-28 just seconds into the half.

That Liberty lead was the best thing that happened to the Patriots. They responded with an 18-2 run that catapulted them to a 72-64 win in front of more than 6,000 fans at Patriot Center.

Mason (9-3) got balanced scoring as all five starters scored in double figures. Will Thomas had 17 points and 11 rebounds, Dre Smith scored 15 points, Folarin Campbell scored 14 points with eight assists, John Vaughan had 13 points, six rebounds and six assists and Louis Birdsong added 11 points on 5 of 7 shooting.

Anthony Smith had 24 points to lead Liberty (6-7). The Flames also got 18 from B.J. Jenkins and 16 from Alex McLean. As a team, they shot 52.1 percent from the field and 7 of 15 from three-point range.

Mason shot 52.2 percent, making 9 of 19 from behind the arc and holding a 29-21 rebound edge.

The Patriots opened the game with a 9-0 run behind three three-pointers. Smith hit two and Campbell hit one as Mason forced an early Liberty timeout.

The Flames responded, however, and played superior basketball for the remainder of the half. A 20-11 run tied the score with five minutes to go, but the Patriots answered with a pair of Thomas baskets. Mason outscored Liberty by one to close out the half and take a 28-27 lead into the break.

The halftime stats clearly showed a balanced contest with Mason holding a lead because of 4 of 10 shooting from three-point range. Liberty was 2 of 8 from behind the arc. Mason had a 15-12 edge on the boards, but the Patriots committed six first-half turnovers while Liberty had four.

Both teams had eight assists. Folarin Campbell tied Mike Hargett for sixth on Mason’s career assists list, recording the 312th of his career on Mason’s final basket of the half, a Birdsong basket inside.

Liberty opened up the second half with a three-pointer off a second-chance opportunity to give the Flames their first lead of the night. But Vaughan responded with a three-pointer, his first points in the game. That started the aforementioned 18-2 run that put the Patriots ahead by 14 with just under 12 minutes to play.

With the score tied 32-32, Campbell scored in the paint, Vaughan hit another three-pointer and a free three and Smith drained a three. Birdsong and Vaughan scored in the paint and Vaughan hit another free throw to make it 46-32.

Mason led by as many as 17 in the half, holding a 59-42 lead with seven minutes to play, but Liberty used a 9-0 run to trim the lead to eight. A pair of Thomas free throws stemmed the bleeding and Liberty never got closer than six the rest of the way

Mason will return to action this afternoon when the Patriots play at Georgia State at 3 p.m. That will begin a stretch in which Mason plays 17 Colonial Athletic Association games in its final 18 regular-season contests.

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