Smith’s Career-High 26 Leads Patriots Past Dukes in Opening Round of CAA Tournament

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

Dre Smith made his first seven three-pointers on Friday night en route to a career-high 26 points, and the Patriots made 10 of 19 from three-point range as the George Mason men’s basketball team defeated James Madison 73-62 in the opening round of the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA)Tournament.

Smith scored the first nine points of the second half as Mason built a nine-point lead, and after James Madison rallied to within three, the Patriots went to the inside game to put the Dukes away.

The Patriots scored 23 of 26 points in the paint or off free throws on fouls that occurred in the paint during one 13-minute stretch in the second half. In particular, a 16-3 run by Mason put the Patriots ahead 59-43 with fewer than nine minutes to play. After that, James Madison couldn’t get the lead to fewer than double figures until just 2:20 remained in the game.

Smith nearly set a CAA Tournament record for three-point field goal percentage, making 7 of 8 from behind the arc. His lone miss came in the final 10 seconds, and his shot was put up purely to avoid a shot-clock violation. His 26 points set a season-high for all Mason players.

Folarin Campbell added 10 points and eight assists, while Jordan Carter had five assists and a steal. Will Thomas finished with 14 points and five rebounds, and Louis Birdsong had a career-high 11 points and seven rebounds.

Mason’s perimeter game, which was nonexistent for most of February, reappeared early in the game, mostly behind Smith. He opened the Mason scoring with a three-pointer, and after Darryl Monroe tipped in an offensive rebound, Smith drained another from behind the arc. Campbell followed with a three-pointer, and then Smith hit his third of the game, this one with 14:25 to play.

Despite Mason’s strong shooting early, James Madison was right there, penetrating the lineup and getting the ball inside for easy looks. After a second Campbell three-pointer put Mason ahead 23-19 with 8:40 to go, James Madison responded with back-to-back baskets from Pierre Curtis, first a three-pointer, then a layup. That put the Dukes ahead for the first time since 5-3. Terrance Carter’s free throw with 5:32 to go in the half made it 25-23.

Chris Fleming’s right-handed hook shot with 4:15 to go tied the score and ended a scoring draught that lasted 4:25. Smith’s fourth three-pointer less than 30 seconds later put Mason back on top.

Campbell made a pair of free throws, while James made 1 of 2 and Thomas followed with a dunk inside for a 32-26 Mason lead. That edge was cut in half on Posey’s three-pointer with 2:02 to go, James Madison’s first field goal in 4:40. Curtis made one of two free throws with 4.5 seconds to go to make it 32-30 at the break.

The Patriots, having won their first game as a sixth-seed, will look to extend their CAA Tournament run on Saturday night when the Patriots play third-seeded Hofstra. The Pride have won four straight in the series, including a win in the semifinals of last year’s CAA Tournament.

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