Patriots down Wichita State, 70-67, in BracketBuster Game

Posted: February 19, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

It was the biggest regular-season game in George Mason school history and the Patriots came to play. After squandering a 13-point second-half lead, the Patriots looked to their seniors in the clutch, and they came through.

Jai Lewis passed out of a double team in the post and found a wide-open Tony Skinn on the wing, and the senior guard calmly drained a dagger of a three-pointer, lifting Mason to a 70-67 win at Wichita State University Saturday night.

Competing in the ESPN BracketBuster and playing for just the second time on national television in the regular season, the Patriots never allowed Wichita State to lead by more than three. A 6-0 run late in the first half gave Mason a lead it would hold until the final minute.

The Patriots (21-5) went ahead 64-55 with 3:53 to play when Lewis hit his second three-pointer of the night. But the Shockers (21-7) rallied, pulling to within three on a three-pointer from Karon Bradley with 2:00 to go and tying the score at 67-67 on a Sean Ogirri three-pointer with 28.7 seconds to play. That set up Skinn’s heroic shot.

Skinn had a game-high 23 points and is just four points shy of 1,000 for his George Mason career. The three points with 10.8 seconds to go were perhaps the biggest points he has scored as a Patriot.

Mason entered the game just outside the national top 25 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll. The Patriots entered the week tied for 27th, and by winning in a gym where Wichita State was 13-1 entering the game, Mason showed that it can play with some of the most respected teams in the nation.

Lewis had 16 points, five rebounds and four assists, while Will Thomas had 12 points and eight rebounds. Folarin Campbell added 11 points as Mason made 52 percent of its shots while holding Wichita State to 41.2 percent shooting.

The Wichita State coach, Mark Turgeon, was quoted in the Feb. 19 Washington Post as saying, “That’s not an upset. That’s a really good team that beat us, an NCAA team.”

Mason has now won eight straight and 14 of 15 games since a road loss on Dec. 30 at Mississippi State University. The Patriots tied the school record for best start after 26 games. Mason also held the opposition to fewer than 70 points for the 23rd straight game, the second-longest active streak in the nation behind Princeton’s 30-straight.

Mason will be back on the road on Thursday, battling third-place Hofstra University in a critical late-season Colonial Athletic Association game. Hofstra is 10-0 at home this year.

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