Santa Clara, CA – Both the George Mason Patriots and Santa Clara Broncos are hoping to put an exclamation point on their first appearance in the College Basketball Invitational when they meet in Game One of the tournament finals at the Leavey Center on Monday night.
Unlike the other postseason tournaments, the final of the CBI is a best-of- three series. The next matchup will be on Wednesday at the Recreation Athletic Complex in Fairfax, Virginia with the third game, if necessary, taking place on Friday at the Patriot Center.
After a pair of tight contests against the College of Charleston (78-77) and Houston (88-84, OT), George Mason had an easier time of it in the semifinals when it downed Western Michigan (62-52). In a postseason that has seen the Patriots announce their plans to move to the Atlantic 10 Conference later this year, they have made a nice showing in their first appearance in the CBI to improve to 21-14 on the year.
Santa Clara took home the CollegeInsider.com Tournament title a year ago and is looking to add another trophy to it mantle this week. The Broncos hosted Vermont in the first round, winning 77-67, but went on the road to top Purdue (86-83) and Wright State (81-69) to reach this point. Santa Clara is now 24-11 on the year and a win on Monday would not only give it a leg up in this championship series, but mark the first time since 1969 that the program would reach 25 victories.
Santa Clara has won two of the previous three meetings with George Mason, including the most recent in 2000 also at the Leavey Center.
Power by a career-high 23 points from Jonathan Arledge, the Patriots were able to defeat Western Michigan in the semifinals last week. In what amounted to a defensive battle, Arledge was the only player to reach double figures for the Pats who held the Broncos to just 35.8 percent shooting while forcing 23 turnovers.
Normally it is Sherrod Wright (16.7 ppg) that fills the role of top offensive option for GMU as he is the only player averaging in double figures this season. Wright had nine points on 3-of-7 shooting against WMU, but had scored a combined 49 points in the first two rounds of the event. Arledge (8.6 ppg, 4.7 rpg) serves as the second-best scoring threat for the Patriots, who are more of a balanced unit at the offensive end. Including Wright and Arledge, six different players net at least five points per game, with another two putting in at least 4.5 ppg.
Kevin Foster continued to have the hot hand as he poured in 33 points while hitting six shots from beyond the arc to push Santa Clara past Wright State in the semifinals of this tourney. Although the Broncos allowed the Raiders to shoot 54.2 percent from the field, they were able to win the game by committing only six turnovers while forcing 15.
Foster (19.0 ppg, 4.4 apg, 2.4 spg) has been on fire during the CBI as his effort against Wright State made him just the third player in school history to post back-to-back 30-point efforts -- he had 34 against Purdue. Foster also made a move up the national record books as his six 3-pointers moved him past Stephen Curry for fifth in NCAA history. Marc Trasolini (15.3 ppg, 7.5 rpg) had just nine points and three rebounds in the semis, but usually can be counted on for solid production in the frontcourt, while Evan Roquemore (11.6 ppg, 5.2 apg) excels as a distributor and second offensive option in the backcourt.