Freshman Kenny Battle made four straight free throws in the final 15 seconds to give Northern Illinois a 97-96 victory over George Mason last night, ending the Patriots' 17-game home winning streak.
Mason's Carlos Yates finished with 28 points and 14 rebounds. Just as encouraging for the Patriots was the inside play of Vince McQueen and Rob Nieberlein, who combined for 24 points and 16 rebounds.
Mason, which trailed by 13 points in the first half, pulled to 89-88 on Rob Rose's layup with 1:43 remaining. Northern Illinois' Bob Russ then sank one of two free throws. Rose missed a jump shot from the corner with 31 seconds left, and Jerry Williams' two foul shots gave the Huskies a 92-88 advantage with 23 seconds to go.
Battle (24 points) then made the pivotal free throws as the Huskies improved to 3-1. Mason is 2-2.
"I was concerned about (Battle) being there in the end," Huskies Coach John McDougal said.
The pressure didn't bother Battle, but earlier he did something more characteristic of a freshman.
With 12:58 remaining, Battle got a breakaway after a steal. A basket would have given the Huskies a nine-point lead, but Battle got fancy. He attempted an early takeoff for the dunk, but his timing was off and the ball slammed off the back of the rim.
"When he missed that, I figured the tide had turned," said George Mason Coach Joe Harrington. "I figured that was the break we needed."