George Mason Coach Jim Larranaga altered his starting lineup last night in order to honor his seniors in their final regular season home game, but if not for the special occasion, he still would have had to make changes.
Playing without injured leading scorer Folarin Campbell and suspended guard John Vaughan, the Patriots turned to Jordan Carter to snap a three-game home losing streak with a 60-54 victory over Georgia State before 4,567 at Patriot Center.
Carter, a junior point guard, scored a career-high 14 points, including seven during a game-ending 12-3 run, to provide the Patriots (15-13, 9-8 Colonial Athletic Association) with only their second win in the last six games.
"All I was thinking was that we couldn't let our seniors go out on a bad note," said Carter, who was averaging 4.7 points per game. "On top of that, I spoke with Folarin and he told me to go out there and play with no conscience -- just do what you do, and that's what I did."
Campbell, a junior guard who hurt his left hamstring in the final minute of Saturday's loss to Kent State, missed the first game of his college career, snapping a string of 91 consecutive appearances as well as 58 straight starts. In addition to his team-best 14.3 scoring average, Campbell entered the night first in assists, steals and three-pointers, and second in rebounding.
Larranaga said he would monitor Campbell's situation and might end up holding him out of Saturday's finale at Northeastern.
Vaughan, the team's third-leading scorer at 9.3 per game, served a one-game suspension for an undisclosed violation of a team rule. He had played in every game for which he was available in two seasons -- he missed last year with a knee injury -- but in the past five games had made 10 of 40 field goal attempts, including 1 of 13 three-pointers.
In their absence, Carter, Tim Burns and Dre Smith combined to make 6 of 13 three-pointers, and Will Thomas, despite making just 5 of 15 field goals and 3 of 8 free throws, contributed 13 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists. Lance Perique had 16 points for the Panthers (10-18, 5-12).
The Patriots' six-point halftime lead turned into a five-point deficit before they came back to tie it at 47. Later, after falling behind by three, Carter took charge with a steal and layup, a fast-break layup and a three-pointer from the left side for a 55-51 lead with 2 minutes 50 seconds remaining.
Perique countered with a three-pointer, but Thomas powered for a layup. Thomas then missed two free throws, but Leonard Mendez failed on a three-pointer and Burns scored three points in the final 17 seconds to seal it.
"The kid Carter made some big-time plays at a point in the game in which baskets were becoming difficult to come by," Panthers Coach Mike Perry said. "A game in which they were seemingly having a difficult time scoring, he gets two layups in transition . . . and then the three-point shot that he hit."
Patriots Notes:Seniors Burns, Gabe Norwood, Makan Konate and Charles Makings were honored before the game, and all but Makings (knee injury) started. . . . Mason set a program record for attendance with an average of 6,834, surpassing the previous mark of 4,812 in 1985-86.