Deacons Edge George Mason 83-78 In OT

Nov. 11, 2005

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) - Eric Williams had 19 points and Trent Strickland had 18 points and 11 rebounds, helping No. 18 Wake Forest hold off George Mason 83-78 in overtime Friday night in the second round of the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic.

Justin Gray added 17 points for the Demon Deacons (2-0), who blew a 19-point lead in the second half before finally earning their 18th straight home win. Wake Forest advanced to face Florida in next week's semifinals in New York.

Tony Skinn had 23 points to lead the Patriots (1-1), who nearly earned their first victory against a ranked opponent.

Wake Forest appeared in control before George Mason turned to fullcourt pressure to methodically cut away at the lead, fueling a 16-6 run over the last 6 minutes to erase a 65-55 deficit and force overtime.

But the Demon Deacons - who followed a strong first half with shaky play after the break - finally pushed ahead by hitting their free throws. They managed only one field goal in overtime, but went 10-for-13 from the line, including 6-for-6 in the final 22.2 seconds.

Williams scored the only basket to open the period, then hit a free throw for a 74-73 lead. He missed the second, but the rebound was tipped out to Gray, who was fouled and knocked down two more for a 76-73 lead with 3 minutes left.

The Demon Deacons clung to a 77-75 lead when Michael Drum, Harvey Hale and Gray hit six more free throws to close it out, helping the Demon Deacons win for a second straight night despite blowing a double-digit lead.

In Thursday's 78-64 win against Mississippi Valley State, they led by 14 in the first half before the Delta Devils rallied to tie it midway through the second.


 

 

The Demon Deacons committed 15 of their 20 turnovers after halftime, with Gray - an all-conference shooting guard charged with replacing all-America Chris Paul at point guard - committing 10 turnovers.

George Mason shot 57 percent in the second half, but went just 2-for-9 in the overtime.

The Demon Deacons struggled defensively in their first-round win, failing to contain penetration from the smaller, quicker Delta Devils and giving up several open looks. They also committed 19 turnovers, a combination that kept the visitors in the game despite Wake Forest shooting 66 percent and taking a 36-26 edge on the glass.

This time, the Demon Deacons played better defense to start the game. And with the Demon Deacons shooting at a high percentage for the second straight night, it was enough to help them to a 15-point halftime lead that grew to 50-31 on Gray's jumper with 16:57 to play.

But they again had trouble putting the game away.

George Mason finally got a spark with its fullcourt pressure, forcing a stretch of five straight turnovers and providing more chances to get back in the game. And by the time Lamar Butler hit a pull-up jumper in transition, George Mason led 69-68 with 2 1/2 minutes left.

Chris Ellis answered with a 3-pointer on the next possession, and Wake Forest had a chance to win it with the score tied with 7.8 seconds left in regulation. But Strickland missed a tough shot before the horn, sending the teams into overtime tied at 71.

Wake Forest shot 60 percent for the game.

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