George Mason, led by Carlos Yates' game-high 30 points, pulled away in the second half to beat Division II Radford, 74-63, at GMU yesterday.
Yates, who ranked in the top five Division I scorers last week with a 25.2 average, suffered through a slightly subpar shooting night (eight for 18) but made 14 of 16 free throws.
Yates wasn't the only shooter having an off night. In the first half, neither team shot even 40 percent from the field. While George Mason warmed up in the second half, Radford did not. The Highlanders shot 38 percent for the game, and the Patriots emerged a winner for the seventh time in 12 games but first in the last four.
The visitors came into Fairfax with an 8-5 mark and played tough defense in the first half as George Mason couldn't hit stride. Radford led by as many as five points before the Patriots evened the score at 31 by intermission.
George Mason Coach Joe Harrington was not happy with his team's shooting in the first half. "I just told them at halftime that we had to make it happen. We had to take it to them with our offense and defense."
George Mason has lost two key players, Andy Bolden and Ricky Dillard, because of academic difficulties, and started Yates, a sophomore, and two freshmen.
"Everyone was really out of the continuity of the offense," Yates said of his team's opening half. "We've really been interchanging a lot of people. We're young and we're inexperienced. Tonight was the start of our foundation."
Radford stayed close in the early minutes of the second half but an inside move by Mike Shannon (nine points, 11 rebounds) began an 18-6 run in the next 4 1/2 minutes that put the game away. Shannon's strong inside performance came in only his third game back after sitting out, ineligible, last semester.
The Patriots raised their lead to 17 points, at 70-53, on a dunk by Dwayne Grace with 4:03 left, before coasting the rest of the way. Ricky Wilson chipped in with 10 for George Mason; no other Patriot made double figures.
In the three-game losing streak ended by George Mason, two of those losses were by one point, to William & Mary and Richmond. "This was a big game for us, coming off two one-point losses," Harrington said. "We needed to have a game where we were in control."