George Mason blows big lead in loss to Drexel

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Sports,College,Kevin Dunleavy

Lee rallies Dragons from a 20-point deficit

If George Mason's first taste of Damion Lee was bitter, their second was downright sickening.

The sophomore guard scored 29 points, including 20 in the second half, and hit the winning 3-pointer to propel Drexel from 20 points down to an improbable 58-54 victory before 4,365 at Patriot Center on Thursday night.

A year ago, the 6-foot-6 guard from Baltimore introduced himself, scoring 16 of his 21 points in a 5:16 span late in the second half to rally Drexel to a victory in Philadelphia. On Thursday, Lee was even better.

"He's a terrific player," George Mason coach Paul Hewitt said. "He's got size. He can shoot the ball. He's got quickness, and they run him off screens constantly."

The last time that happened was with 23 seconds left. Lee rolled to the wing, took a pass from Frantz Massenat (seven points, four assists) and buried a 3-pointer, breaking a 54-54 tie. Twenty seconds later, Lee sealed the game, stripping Bryon Allen and drawing a foul. It was the second turnover for the Patriots in the final fateful 14 seconds.

Lee finished 11-for-19 from the floor and added nine rebounds. It was an all-around performance reminiscent of last season.

"This year was different because you're on the road," Lee said. "This isn't an easy environment to play in. It's basically you against the world."

Both Lee and Hewitt said the 3-pointer he hit with one second left in the first half was key. It cut the Patriots' lead to a manageable 38-25, and it got Lee in a groove.

"You can't give him any open looks," Sherrod Wright said. "He got some open looks. He knocked them down and got them going."

Wright (15 points) and junior Jonathan Arledge (14 points, five rebounds) helped stake George Mason (12-9, 5-4 CAA) to its biggest lead at 33-13 before Drexel (9-12, 5-4) charged back.

It was a second straight difficult defeat for George Mason, which was outrebounded 39-28 and outscored on fast-break (14-2) and second-chance (11-1) opportunities. In falling to 5-4 in the league for the first time since 2006-07, the Patriots shot 28 percent in the second half.

"We didn't rebound the ball. It was as simple as that," Hewitt said. "I just felt like every key possession down the stretch, they were getting three shots."

Drexel made up most of the deficit at the end of the first half and the start of the second, when it went on a 16-3 run to cut the lead to 38-32. Late in the game, it was all about Lee and a Drexel defense that held George Mason scoreless over the final 2:30.

"In those situations we talk about possession-by-possession, stop-by-stop," Drexel coach Bruiser Flint said. "This has been a house of horrors for us. We've lost some huge games here, some serious butt-whippings up in this joint."

But thanks to Lee, Flint now has back-to-back wins over the team that used to torment him.

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

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