Men’s Basketball Opens Season with Come-from-behind Win at Cleveland State

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

Will Thomas
Will Thomas scored a career-high 25 points in the win over CSU.
Mason Athletics photo

Mason Men’s basketball returning junior forward Will Thomas had a career-high 25 points and five assists along with 10 rebounds, while sophomore guard John Vaughan added 18 points and junior forward Darryl Monroe scored 12 in his Patriots debut as Mason took a 79-74 win in their season opener on the road against Cleveland State University (CSU).

It was the fourth straight season-opening win for Mason.

But it wasn’t easy getting there. The Patriots allowed the Vikings to shoot close to 50 percent from the field, including nine of 24 from three-point range. Mason also turned the ball over 17 times while forcing just 10 turnovers. That combination was nearly a recipe for disaster, as Mason trailed for more than 30 minutes in the contest. However, some late defensive stops and some clutch three-point shooting down the stretch was enough for Mason to win.

The Patriots started slow, allowing CSU to jump out to a 6-0 lead. The Patriots’ first points of the 2006-07 season came when Vaughan hit a three-pointer with 18:05 to play, his first points since the 2004-05 season. That’s when the Mason offense became the Will Thomas show.

Thomas scored the next four Mason baskets and added a pair of free throws. During that stretch, the Patriots took a 9-8 lead before an 8-0 run by the Vikings put Mason in a seven-point deficit. Thomas helped dig them out, pulling Mason to within three, 16-13.

After a CSU free throw, the Patriots got scoring from another source, as Jordan Carter drove the lane, put a spin move on the CSU defender and finger-rolled the ball in to cut it to 17-15. But the Vikings followed with back-to-back three-pointers to build an eight-point lead.

The see-saw battle continued, as Mason scored six straight points, a Thomas basket sandwiched between a pair of field goals from junior forward/guard Folarin Campbell. But the Vikings responded with a 12-0 run.

With 3:57 to go in the first half, Mason trailed by 14, had turned the ball over 10 times and allowed the Vikings to make five of 10 from three-point range. Mason managed to shrink the deficit from 16 to nine prior to the half, as Vaughan had a pair of baskets in the final minute to make it 41-32.

The second half started with Mason devoting itself to the inside game. Monroe, who missed the final 15 minutes of the first half after picking up two quick fouls, scored the first six points of the second half. Thomas added two more baskets as Mason cut the lead to four on five of five shooting. On the next Mason possession, Campbell missed a fast-break layup, but Vaughan tipped it in to make it 46-44.

The game remained close and Mason had a chance to tie it, but Campbell missed a three-pointer and CSU drained one at the other end to put the Vikings ahead by six, 60-54, with 11:09 to play. After another CSU basket, Mason again found itself in an eight-point hole. This time, it was Campbell who bailed them out with a pair of deep three-pointers, pulling Mason to within two at 64-62.

The Patriots finally took their first lead with 6:22 to play when Vaughan drained a three-pointer from the left wing, putting the Patriots ahead 65-64. The lead didn’t last long, as a three-pointer put CSU back on top, but Carter answered with a three-pointer of his own, one that circled the hoop before dropping.

After a CSU miss, Norwood’s fast-break layup made it 70-67, giving the Patriots their largest lead of the game to that point. Mason extended the lead to 74-69 before CSU made a pair of free throws with 35 seconds to play.

Mason iced the game with a pair of free throws from Vaughan and Campbell, as well as one from the line from Carter. The Patriots shot 75 percent from the free-throw line in the game, while allowing Cleveland State just seven free throws.

Mason returns to action on Saturday, Nov. 18, when the Patriots play their home opener against Wichita State University. That contest, the third meeting between the schools in nine months, begins at 4 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN2. Prior to the game, Mason’s Final Four banner will be raised.

Write to at