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Western Michigan (22-12) at George Mason (20-14)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, March 27, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Patriot Center (10,000) -- Fairfax, Virginia. Television: AXS.tv. CBI Record: WMU 2-0, GMU 2-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The George Mason Patriots play host to the Western Michigan Broncos on Wednesday night in the semifinal round of the 2013 College Basketball Invitational.
The winner will advance to next week's best-of-three championship series to play either Santa Clara or Wright State.
WMU began the CBI by winning its home matchup in the first round over North Dakota State (72-71 in OT) before conquering a road clash in the quarterfinals at Wyoming (75-67 in OT). At 22-12 on the season, the Broncos have enjoyed an impressive eight-win turnaround from last year's lackluster showing (14-20).
Much like WMU, GMU played a couple of tight games to open its tournament run, triumphing over the College of Charleston on the road in the first round, 78-77, before prevailing at home against Houston in the quarterfinals, 88-84 in overtime, to improve to 20-14 on the season.
These two schools have never before faced each other in men's basketball.
The Broncos trailed nearly the entire second half of their quarterfinal matchup until they received a game-tying 3-pointer from David Brown at the buzzer to force overtime where they outscored Wyoming, 16-8, to capture the win. Brown provided a spark off the bench with 17 points, while Shayne Whittington was a difference-maker in the low post with 16 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks. Nate Hutcheson and Brandon Pokley rounded out the balanced effort with 12 and 11 points, respectively. On the season, WMU's scoring offense is modest at best, shooting 43.4 percent from the field for 67.4 ppg, but it holds opposing teams to less than 41 percent shooting and 64.0 ppg on the other side of the court. Whittington is a consistent force in the paint with 13.3 ppg, 8.9 rpg and 1.7 bpg, while Brown, Hutcheson, Pokley and Darius Paul all net between 8.9 and 10.9 ppg.
George Mason started its latest game red-hot, holding a commanding 28-9 lead less than nine minutes in, but its advantage gradually dissipated down the stretch as Houston battled back to force overtime with a game-tying bucket with 10 seconds left in regulation. Luckily for the Patriots, they scored the first points of the extra session and never looked back. Leading the charge in the 88-point effort was Sherrod Wright, who shot 4-of-6 from 3-point range and 11-of-14 from the foul line in tallying 29 points. Jonathan Arledge and Patrick Holloway poured in 11 points apiece, and Bryon Allen flirted with a triple-double as he logged 10 points, nine assists and eight rebounds. GMU is typically much less potent at the offensive end, averaging 67.7 ppg on 44 percent from the field, but it too scores more than it allows (65.4 ppg). Wright was one of the Colonial Athletic Association's top scorers this season with 16.9 ppg on 47.2 percent field goal efficiency. Arledge and Allen are solid complementary pieces with 8.1 ppg each.
Both squads possess very similar makeups and have been battled-tested with close games early in this tournament, so another wire-to-wire matchup is sure to be on tap in this one. GMU gets the narrow edge thanks to the home court advantage.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: George Mason 67, Western Michigan 66
03/27 10:31:40 ET