The Santa Clara Broncos are one win away from their first College Basketball Invitational championship as they visit the George Mason Patriots for Game Two of the title series at the Recreation and Athletic Complex on Wednesday night.
Unlike the other postseason tournaments, the final of the CBI is a best-of- three series. After suffering an 81-73 loss in the first game of the series on Monday, George Mason needs a win in this matchup to force a decisive Game Three on Friday night.
Both of these teams are in the CBI for the first time, making the Patriots' setback on Monday its first ever in the Tournament after it got past the College of Charleston, Houston and Western Michigan in the first three rounds. George Mason is set to move on to the Atlantic 10 Conference later this year and has done a solid job in its final season as a member of the Colonial Athletic Association by posting a 21-15 overall record.
Santa Clara got the all-important Game One victory as it tries to add a CBI crown on top of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament championship trophy it took home a year ago. The Broncos bested Vermont, Purdue and Wright State in the first three rounds and at 25-11 after Monday's victory, have reached the 25- win plateau for the first time since 1969.
It was a tale of two halves for both teams in the first game. Through the first 20 minutes, the Patriots shot just 34.5 percent from the floor, which included a 1-of-5 showing from beyond the arc, while the Broncos posted 51.9 percent field goal efficiency, with 7-of-12 3-point tries finding the bottom of the net. That led to a 39-31 lead at the break for the Broncos, who held on for the win despite shooting just 36 percent overall in the second half thanks in part to a stellar 21-of-25 effort at the free-throw line.
Jonathan Arledge (8.9 ppg, 4.8 rpg) followed up his career-high 23 points in the semifinals with another fine outing against Santa Clara, dropping in 21 points and grabbing eight rebounds. Sherrod Wright (16.3 ppg) really struggled, which was a major reason the Patriots couldn't get the upper hand as the only player on the team averaging in double figures for the season tallied just three points while missing all six shots from the field. Byron Allen did his best to pick up the slack with 15 points and eight assists, while Patrick Holloway tacked on 17 points off the bench. To keep the series going, the Patriots need Wright to get back on track.
Four different players scored in double figures for the Broncos on Monday night, but they got just two points from their reserves. Santa Clara did force 19 turnovers, but still had room to improve as it was outrebounded by a 38-30 margin.
Kevin Foster (19.2 ppg, 4.4 apg) continued his electric shooting from the first three rounds of the tourney as he drained five shots from beyond the arc and finished with a game-high 28 points. Foster has racked up 95 points in the last three games and moved past Stephen Curry for fifth in NCAA history in made 3-pointers. Evan Roquemore (11.9 pg, 5.2 apg) had one of his best games of the season on Monday as he netted 20 points and also handed out six assists. Roquemore has been vitally important for his distribution skills this year, but he clearly has the talent to get points on his own. Marc Trasolini (15.4 ppg, 7.5 rpg) finished with a workman-like 17 points and seven rebounds in Game One to aid in the victory.