Playing without standout forward Kenny Sanders for the first time this season, George Mason defeated Division II opponent Liberty University, 92-83, last night at the Patriot Center.

The victory improved the Patriots' record to 8-6.

Sanders was suspended for one game because of a curfew violation.

The Flames (6-9) began the game well, with Rutgers transfer guard Bailey Alston (33 points) scoring frequently from the outside. Alston's layup following a steal put Liberty on top, 15-12, with 14:22 left in the first half. Liberty got its biggest lead, 19-14, with 9:38 left in the half.

"We expected them to play hard, especially with Kenny not playing for us," said Mason's Amp Davis, who scored a team-high 23 points. "We have to run a half-court offense to win, and we weren't doing it until they were ahead."

That's when the guards, Steve Smith and Davis, went to work. Under a Mason press, the Flames committed four turnovers during a 24-5 Patriots run. Smith's three-point jumper put the Patriots on top, 38-24, with 3:34 left in the half.

The Flames made a run, helped by two Alston jumpers, and entered halftime trailing, 42-33.

But the Flames didn't quit.

Alston hit two free throws with 4:23 left in the game to cut the Patriots' lead to 75-67.

But Danny Deane's jump hook and a steal by Davis and a subsequent layup by Smith put the Patriots on top, 79-69, with 2:07 left.

"We worked hard on our half-court offense," said George Mason Coach Rick Barnes. "I wanted us to be an up-tempo team, but I think that we got better tonight because we used everyone on our offense to win."

The Patriots put the game on ice as Davis and Deane hit eight consecutive free throws between them.

Liberty's Brad Hamersley committed his fifth personal foul with 22 seconds remaining. Deane hit both free throws.

Smith had 16 points and Joe Lucas and Robert Dykes had 13 points apiece for George Mason. Box score, Page C7.