With just more than seven minutes left in the first half, East Carolina's inexperience reared its head.

George Mason held the Pirates scoreless for the final seven minutes of the first half and ran off 14 consecutive points en route to a 77-63 triumph in the Colonial Athletic Association opener for both teams last night at Patriot Center.

The Patriots (7-4) were led by Kenny Sanders, who had 22 points and 11 rebounds. Brian Miller had 19 points and Steve Smith, who came off the bench in the first half to pick up the lethargic Patriots, had a career-high 15 points.

The Pirates (4-7), who started two juniors, two sophomores and a freshman, did a good job breaking the press and scored their first seven field goals inside, taking a 16-9 lead. Gus Hill, formerly of Flint Hill, had 11 of his team's first 16 points. He finished with 24 points and nine rebounds.

Smith's hustle and Sanders' rebounding and inside scoring then began to turn things in favor of the Patriots' who led 34-25 at the half.

"They {the Pirates} were very aggressive early and at this point of the season, every one knows about the other and you have to execute," said Patriots Coach Rick Barnes, whose wife gave birth to a 7-pound 1-ounce girl yesterday afternoon.

"When a team turns up the heat, we have to be able to turn up the heat, also. This was a good game for us."