By Cody Norman, Staff Writer

After being rammed by VCU in the quarterfinal round of the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament, the youthful George Mason University men’s basketball team settled for a postseason appearance in the Tournament where they took on the Fairfield Scags. And their inexperience showed as the Scags rallied from a 27-point deficit in the second half to oust the Patriots 101-96 in the first round of the CIT.

Though they were without team captain and high-scoring junior guard Cam Long, Mason came out firing on all cylinders and poured in 13 points in the first four minutes of play. They were getting clean looks at the basket on seemingly every possession and took a 24-8 run into halftime with a comfortable 49-20 advantage.

Sophomore forward Mike Morrison set a career high in points with 19 in the first half on 8-for-10 from the field. Morrison pulled down seven rebounds and swatted four shots in an impressive early performance. Sophomore guard Andre Cornelius was on fire as he knocked down 4-of-5 three point attempts for 15 points in the early going while Mason shot a combined 59 percent from the floor.

The second half began in similar fashion as the Patriots stretched their lead to 27 with just over 16 minutes left to play. But the Scags clawed their way back with an incredible shooting performance by Mike Evanovich. The redshirt sophomore, who entered the contest averaging just under seven points per night, torched the Patriots on 9-for-14 from downtown in a 32-point effort.

The Patriots led 63-36 at the 16:08 mark after Cornelius drained one of his six 3-pointers. It seemed Mason was on its way to the next round of the CIT, but five minutes later, the Scags cut the lead to less than 19 points. Evanovich made a 3-pointer with 6:07 left to play, which trimmed the lead to single digits. With just under three minutes to play, freshman forward Luke Hancock made one of two free throws to extend Mason’s lead to 83-73 after Evanovich committed his fourth foul of the game.

The game was all but over as the Scags continued their improbable comeback when Evanovich made a 3-pointer to make it a one-point game with 27 seconds left. After two clutch free throws from sophomore forward Ryan Pearson, Mason held a three-point advantage with 19 seconds left to play. Head Coach Jim Larranaga elected not to foul and send Fairfield to the line. Evanovich made him pay with a game-tying triple with 0.1 seconds left on the clock.

Forward Anthony Johnson scored to give the Scags their first lead of the game to open the overtime period and went on to score 12 of his team’s final 14 points as the Patriots completed their disappointing collapse with a 101-96 loss.

Morrison was hindered by foul trouble in the second half and finished the night with 25 points, nine rebounds and six blocks while Cornelius set a career mark with 28 points and nine rebounds in the contest.

Pearson tossed in 16 points on 5-for-10 shooting. Junior guard Isaiah Tate added a 14-point, nine-rebound effort, both being career highs for him. Hancock struggled shooting the basketball, but found his teammates for 11 assists in the losing effort.

Johnson torched Mason with 25 points, 11 rebounds, four blocks and three steals, and Needham struggled shooting throughout the night, making just five of 18 shots and one of seven 3-pointers, but still managed to put in 21 points.

Finishing the season with a 17-15 overall record, the Patriots look towards next season where they return all but two players.