John Kleeb, Staff Writer

The George Mason Patriots (16-12, 11-5) came up short against the College of Charleston Cougars (19-9, 13-3) on Saturday night in a heartbreaking 85-83 loss on Homecoming night at the Patriot Center.

“I think [the BracketBuster] is a tremendous concept; I think it gives a lot of juice to the weekend where a lot of teams are fired up to showcase their talents,” said Larranaga. “I thought the game itself was extremely entertaining and well-played. I was thrilled to see the crowd cheering for us wildly during the game.”

The enthusiastic crowd pleased Cougars Head Coach Bobby Cremins, who said after the game that he was impressed with the atmosphere at the Patriot Center as well as young Mason players such as forwards Luke Hancock, Johnny Williams and guard Sherrod Wright, all who had a major impact on the game and all who scored over 10 points.

The freshmen accounted for 53 of Mason’s 83 points in the game. The team was still without sophomore forward Mike Morrison, who had been suspended for a double technical foul in the game against the Old Dominion Monarchs.

The game started out promising enough for the Patriots, who led 43-40 going in to halftime. Johnny Williams had 14 points at the half and shot 7-of-8 from the field.

Head Coach Jim Larranaga was impressed with Williams’ performance. Larranaga said that Williams came to him during the week and asked for a chance to prove himself, which he did by scoring 18 points and shooting 80 percent from the floor.

“I’ve been working on my game outside of practice and just trying to get comfortable [with] my position, which I don’t think I’m nowhere near, but I think I’m starting to feel comfortable now,” said Williams.

The Patriots however struggled in the second half and trailed by 11 points with six minutes to go, but despite their recent struggles, they were able to rally for a near comeback.

Junior guard Cam Long drained a 3-pointer to bring Mason within one point with just under a minute left.
The Patriots managed to cut the Cougars’ lead down to two points with eight seconds to go.

The Patriots got the ball back and made what appeared to be a game-tying basket, but it was negated by an offensive foul which sealed the win for the Cougars.

The Patriots have two games left on their schedule before the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament begins.

Their last two opponents will be the Delaware Blue Hens and the Northeastern Huskies, whom the Patriots beat in last year’s homecoming game.

If the Patriots win out, they will receive the bye for the CAA Tournament in Richmond. The loss was the Patriots third in a row and its second consecutive home loss.

Despite the loss, the youthful Patriots showed fans their potential. The team will retain much of its nucleus next year with the exception of senior forward Louis Birdsong.

Redshirt freshman Kevin Foster made his first start and had 13 points and 10 rebounds for his first career double-double. Foster is impressed with the team’s chemistry going forward.