CHARLESTON, S.C. - A tip-in by Erik Copes with one second remaining in regulation led George Mason past host College of Charleston, 78-77, in the first round of the College Basketball Invitational presented by Buick on Tuesday night at TD Arena.
The Cougars (24-11) had led by as many as six in the final two-minute stretch, 77-71, on a three-pointer by senior point guard Andrew Lawrence (London, England) with 1:48 left to go.
The Patriots (19-14) went on a 7-0 run thereafter to advance to next week's quarterfinal round against Texas or Houston. Jonathan Arledge made a layup at 1:31 and Bryon Allen knocked down a three-pointer at 1:24 which proved to be the difference down the stretch.
Both teams traded the lead on six occasions including nine ties - a preview of a developing rivalry between the two schools as CofC joins the Colonial Athletic Association next season.
George Mason led by as many as 13 in the first half, but the Cougars managed to cut it down to single digits at halftime, 44-36. Sophomore Anthony Stitt (Charlotte, N.C.) was on fire in the second half as he provided a game-changing three-pointer with 11:43 on the clock to give CofC the 57-55 advantage.
Stitt scored 19 of his game-high 21 points converting on 5-of-7 from long range in the contest. Sophomore big man Adjehi Baru (Abidjan, Ivory Coast) added 16 points and seven rebounds, while Lawrence had 14 and junior Trent Wiedeman (Suwanee, Ga.) with 11.
CofC played without the services of redshirt junior forward Willis Hall (Charlotte, N.C.), who suffered a season-ending injury over the weekend in practice. He had played in all 34 games of the season leading up to the CBI and is out with a broken right foot.
For the game, the Cougars had a sound game shooting 51.1 percent (24-of-47) from the floor and 42.9 percent from beyond the arc (9-of-21), but the difference maker was 13 turnovers in which the Patriots converted into 29 of their final 78 points.
For only the third time this season, CofC used the starting lineup of sophomore Anthony Stitt, senior Andrew Lawrence, junior Anthony Thomas, junior Trent Wiedeman and sophomore forward Adjehi Baru (1-2). Wiedeman, who has been hobbled by injuries throughout the season, made his first appearance since the Auburn game in the ESPN Charleston Classic on Nov. 16.
With the win, George Mason is one game closer of tying the all-time series record with College of Charleston. The Cougars still lead 3-2 and have lost the last two-straight to its future league foe - both on their home floor.
CofC is now 2-1 all-time in CBI first-round games having advanced past the opening round in 2009 and 2010.
Andrew Lawrence closed out his four-year career 22nd all-time in career scoring with 1,219 points, tied for sixth with former great Dontaye Draper (2003-07) in career three-pointers made (207) and seventh all-time in career assists (393) surpassing Draper, Marion Busby and Ed Neirstedt on the list. He registered 14 points and dished out six assists against George Mason in his final collegiate game.
Anthony Stitt turned in his third 20-point game of the season with a game-high 21 points. It marked his fifth career 20-point outing and first postseason tournament appearance.
The Cougars shot a season-high 90.9 percent (20-of-22) from the free throw line, while the Patriots shot an opponent season-high tying 90.0 percent (9-of-10) from the charity stripe.
College of Charleston Head Coach Doug Wojcik
On the game
"It was a great basketball game. Tough way to lose on the tip-in. We shot the ball well tonight, no complaints there. That was a big shot by (Bryon) Allen. The turnovers started to happen - turnovers against their press. We just didn't come up with the win tonight. I'm really proud of the team. We really responded well in the second half. We have to make plays to win the game. I thought (Anthony) Stitt had a great look at the end."
On the spark in the second half
"They responded and I appreciate that. As we move forward, it needs to be like that all the time. That's the way we have to go."
College of Charleston Senior Point Guard Andrew Lawrence
On what the team did differently in the second half
"I feel like we picked up the intensity. We just really got going in the second half. We have to come out initially wanting to stop It would be a different game if we came out with the same intensity in the first half than the way we came out in the second half. We're really disappointed with the loss. Overall, I really appreciate what everyone has done this year."
On playing his last collegiate game at home
"It was great to play here again. I thought that the Wofford game would be my last chance. It was a great, great opportunity to play again. I appreciate everyone that came out tonight. We had a great crowd which was really good to see. You have to give George Mason a lot of credit. They made that play down the stretch - that tip-in really killed us. I really enjoyed my four years here and I've taken a lot of valuable life experiences from everything I've learned this year and the past few years, so I wouldn't change anything."
On Anthony Stitt's play in the second half
"He just played out of his mind. He was making every shot. I couldn't be more proud of the guy. I think he only had two points in the first half, then he came out and was on fire. I couldn't be happier for him."
College of Charleston Sophomore Forward Adjehi Baru
On being aggressive in the second half
"The only thing I can really say about that is that you just have to bring it from the tip. Don't wait until the second half. Everything's got to come from the tip and you just have to play the game until the end of the whistle. That's all."