George Washington took advantage of poor shooting and ball handling by George Mason in the first half and withstood a late charge by the Patriots for a 76-69 victory before 3,066 last night at Smith Center.

Mason (2-2) trailed by 22 points at halftime and by 16 with 5:30 left in the game. But the Patriots battled back to cut their deficit to six points on several occasions. However, they allowed George Washington to make two key baskets off offensive rebounds down the stretch.

Mike Jones led the Colonials with 16 points and Cot Smith and Glenson Sitney each had 12. Kenny Sanders led Mason with 20 points.

"I thought we did an outstanding job on {guard Earl} Moore and {guard Amp} Davis," said George Washington Coach John Kuester. "I don't know how many Sanders wound up with, but he earned them."

"I told them they made a comeback, but comebacks aren't good enough," George Mason Coach Rick Barnes said. "I don't want to come close. I don't ever want these guys to accept the fact that coming close is good enough."

The Colonials looked in control when they led, 63-47, with 5:29 to play. But the Patriots made a 16-6 run to close the margin to six. Sanders made two layups; Brian Miller hit a three-point goal from the left side and Moore scored and was fouled with 1:30 left. His free throw cut the lead to 69-61.

Steve Smith then stole the inbound pass, one of George Washington's 19 second-half turnovers, and made a breakaway dunk that cut the margin to six.

Miller fouled Joe Dooley with 1:07 left. Dooley missed the front end of a one-and-one, but Jones cut inside of Sanders on the left side of the basket for a tipin that put the Colonials ahead by eight.

Seconds later, after a layup by Miller cut the margin back to six, Jones was fouled. He, too, missed the first free throw, but Ellis McKennie grabbed the rebound on the right side and scored to put the margin back at eight.

"He {Sanders} was trying to throw an elbow at me," Jones said of his rebound basket. "We were going at it all game. I spun around him and got to the ball."

"Other than a coule of simple fundamental things, like boxing out on the boards, we may have had a chance," Barnes said. "I was moving a lot of people in and out, and I'm not sure if it was me not giving them enough time to play and get into the game."

The Colonials (4-1) used a 21-3 run over the final nine minutes of the first half to blow the game open. Mason's only leads were at 2-0 and 4-2, but the Patriots were in the game until the 8:56 mark, when they trailed 19-15.

Mason then scored just one field goal over the next 5:47. The Patriots were one of eight from the field and committed five turnovers. They had trouble hanging on to rebounds and took poor shots.

"Lord, I hope that's as bad as we can play," Barnes said. "It reminded me of Seton Hall {the Patriots' first game of the season, which they lost, 85-63}. We just weren't ready to play."

Jones scored on a layup to put George Washington up by six. Smith then scored on a transition three-point play to put GW up by nine.

After a timeout by Mason, Sitney scored off an offensive rebound; Smith made another layup and Kenny Barer made one of two free throws. Sanders tried to assume the scoring burden, but missed a pullup jumper and had a shot in the low post blocked by Jones.

When Gerald Jackson hit a wide open three-pointer from the left side, it was 34-17, and Mason seemed out of the game.

But the Patriots made it close before it was over.

"It was just a matter of going out and executing in both halves," Kuester said. "We weren't mentally sharp. That's one of the things we pride ourselves on."