If George Evans has struggled with anything this season, it has been free throws. The junior forward for George Mason has worked hard lately to correct the problem, often arriving early and staying late after practice.
Last night, Evans turned his greatest weakness into a strength in George Mason's 75-66 win over East Carolina at the Patriot Center. Evans scored 12 of his team-high 22 points from the free throw line, as George Mason (9-7, 4-2 Colonial Athletic Association) won its third straight game and extended its home winning streak to 17.
The loss was the third straight for East Carolina (7-10, 2-4), which fell on Saturday at American, 72-64. The Pirates were picked in a preseason media poll to finish second behind George Mason in the conference, but last night's loss dropped them into eighth place in the nine-team league.
Meantime, George Mason climbed into a tie for second with James Madison, behind Richmond. The Patriots recorded season highs in free throw attempts (45) and free throws made (30), taking advantage of the 30 fouls committed by East Carolina. Evans took 15 of the Patriots' free throws.
The Pirates appeared to target Evans, the CAA's leading scorer this season and reigning player of the year, who entered the game shooting just 56.5 percent from the line. In fact, he's the only Patriot with a better field goal percentage (60.1 before the game) than free throw percentage.
"What do they call that with Shaquille O'Neal? The Hack Attack?" Patriots Coach Jim Larranaga said. "It's obvious that's what they were doing with George. The coach doesn't want the officials to call that, but it's obvious that there's a strategy."
Most of Evans's free throws came during the first 15 minutes of the second half, when his team stayed close with East Carolina despite torrid Pirates shooting. The Pirates made 13 of 21 three-pointers, with senior guard Garrett Blackwelder notching seven. Blackwelder had a team-high 30 points.
The Pirates led for most of the game, and were ahead 56-54 with 6 minutes 21 seconds remaining. At that point, Evans was fouled and Pirates Coach Bill Herrion was assessed a technical for arguing the call. Evans made both free throws, teammate Ahmad Dorsett made both of the technical free throws and Dorsett followed with a 15-foot jumper to complete the six-point possession.
"Free throws are all mental," said Evans, who made 5 of 10 field goal attempts. "If you're shooting them short, you aim long. If you're shooting long, you aim short. You've just got to make them."
NORFOLK STATE 97, HOWARD 85: Antonio Michell scored 30 points but the Bison (1-12, 1-3 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) fell in Norfolk. Damian Woolfolk paced the Spartans (5-10, 4-2) with 32 points.