Patriots Win Against Mississippi State, 63-59

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

Will Thomas
Will Thomas had a game-high 22 points to go with nine rebounds in Mason’s 63-59 win over Mississippi State University on Dec. 30.
Mason Athletics photo

The George Mason men’s basketball team finished off the 2006 calendar year the same way the team began it – with a win in a tight game decided in the final moments.

The Dec. 30 victory, Mason’s first appearance at the Patriot Center in more than a month, had a bit of revenge mixed in as well, as Mason downed Mississippi State University, 63-59, in front of 7,846 fans. The Patriots lost to the Bulldogs, 63-61, exactly one year earlier in Starkville, Miss.

Mason (6-5) got a game-high 22 points from Will Thomas, who added nine rebounds and a season-high three blocks. Folarin Campbell added 13 points, all in the second half, and Dre Smith had 11 points on 5 of 10 shooting.

Mississippi State’s Jamont Gordon, who entered the game averaging 16.0 points, 7.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists, was held to a season-low eight points on 3 of 13 shooting. He had nine points and four assists. Charles Rhodes had 14 points and Barry Stewart added 11, while Jarvis Varnado had four of Mississippi State’s nine blocks.

Like last year’s game, which had 10 ties and five lead changes, Saturday’s game was very much a back-and-forth affair. There were seven ties and eight lead changes with the Bulldogs (9-3) leading by as many as seven in the first half and Mason by as many as six in the second half. But neither team could pull away from the other, even at the closing seconds.

Mason opened the contest with a 5-0 run, but the Bulldogs responded with a 16-4 run to take a seven-point lead. Mason had a 16-4 run of its own to retake the lead and go ahead 25-20. A Jordan Carter three-pointer and a Dre Smith fastbreak layup were critical points in that stretch. But Mississippi State refused to back down. They pulled to within two before the break on a Rhodes dunk and jumper in the paint.

The Patriots opened the second half with a 7-3 run to go up by six, but Mississippi State kept closing to within a basket. The Bulldogs finally tied the score at 48-48 on a Stewart three-pointer, and they took the lead on a Varnado layup. Those baskets were part of a 9-2 run that put Mason in a 54-50 hole.

Campbell replied with a three-pointer to make it a one-point game, and it was once again tied after Louis Birdsong hit a free throw. The game stayed close from then on, setting up Mason’s 5-0 run to end the game. The Bulldogs were held to just one field goal in the final 5:51.

The Patriots finished the game shooting .434 from the field, well above the 35 percent that Mississippi State’s opponents had shot on the season. Mason, meanwhile, held the Bulldogs to a .364 shooting percentage.

The Patriots have alternated wins and losses throughout the season. They will be looking for their first two-game winning streak of the year on Wednesday, Jan. 3, when they host the College of William and Mary at 7 p.m.

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