- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 9, 2001

The battle of the mid-majors goes to Southern Illinois.
Guard Kent Williams scored 15 of his season-high 26 points in the second half to rally the Salukis to a hard-fought 73-66 victory over George Mason before 3,114 yesterday at the Patriot Center.
With a perfect opportunity to garner some national recognition and perhaps some votes in the next Associated Press Top 25 poll, Mason allowed one of the early giant killers of this college basketball season to escape from Fairfax.
All the Patriots had to do was convert free throws, hit a few timely 3-pointers and watch their RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) skyrocket. Instead, it took Mason less than three minutes to squander a 10-point halftime lead and let the surprised Salukis back into the game.
This is just the fifth time the Patriots (5-2) have lost at home over the last four seasons. Since 1998-99, the Patriots are 35-5 in the friendly confines of their 10,000-seat campus arena.
Maybe it was the pressure of final exams, fatigue or playing three days earlier, but the Patriots were not the same team in the second half. Making just three of 20 3-pointers (15 percent) and nine of 18 free throws (50 percent) for the game didn't help.
"I felt we took them out of their offense a little more in the second half," said Williams, who made five of nine 3-pointers. "It seemed like they shot a lot of those 3s when the shot clock was under 15 [seconds] or 10."
The Salukis (7-1), out of the Missouri Valley Conference, outscored Mason 45-28 in the second half. In the first half, Mason was able to penetrate for layups and work the offensive glass. The Patriots grabbed 11 offensive rebounds before the break but only two afterward. By closing in their defense, the Salukis shut down the lanes Mason was able to penetrate in the first half.
"They weren't going away I knew that, and I think our guys knew it but you get caught up in the emotion of the moment, and we needed to be a little bit more poised," Mason coach Jim Larranaga said.
Freshman guard Lamar Butler [Oxon Hill High School] led the Patriots with a career-high 14 points on 4-for-10 shooting. Regardless of the outcome, the Patriots can rack this one up as a quality loss.
The Salukis have been one of the nation's biggest surprises with upsets of then-No. 24 Indiana (72-60) and Iowa State (66-57) at home and Saint Louis on the road (69-64). They also took No. 6 Illinois to the wire 75-72 in the championship game of the Las Vegas Invitational.
Southern Illinois coach Bruce Weber had nothing but good things to say about the Patriots, who don't play again until Dec. 22 in their Colonial Athletic Association opener against Delaware.
"I think they are going to win 20 games," Weber said of the Patriots. "They play as hard as anybody that we've played, and we've played some of the big boys. Mid-majors can compete."

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