James Legan scored 18 points, Darrell Jenkins had 11 points and 10 assists, and East Carolina surprised George Mason 68-65 Sunday in the BB&T Classic.
The Pirates (3-4) had lost seven straight to Division-I foes before holding off George Mason (6-2), the preseason favorite to win the Colonial Athletic Association title.
The Patriots went up 62-60 on a baseline jumper by Louis Birdsong with 3:38 remaining, and neither team scored again until Legan hit a 3-pointer with 1:05 to go. The Pirates then turned a steal into a dunk by Gabe Blair for a 65-62 lead with 41 seconds left.
Dre Smith scored for Mason, and after Darrell Jenkins made one of two free throws for East Carolina to make it 66-64, the Patriots took a timeout with 8.4 seconds left to set up a final play. Will Thomas got the ball, went up in the lane and got fouled.
He missed the first foul shot and made the second. Brock Young then made two free throws for the Pirates with 2.7 seconds remaining.
Thomas had 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Smith scored all 16 of his points after halftime for Mason.
Down by 12 at intermission, the Patriots wasted no time cutting into the deficit. John Vaughn scored in the lane, Thomas made two straight layups and Birdsong capped the 8-0 run with a putback. Then, after an East Carolina free throw, Smith hit a 3-pointer to make it 36-34.
George Mason pulled even at 46 when Vaughn fed Cam Long for an alley-oop layup, and the Patriots took the lead for the first time in the second half when Smith banked in a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired.
Two more 3-pointers by Smith enabled George Mason to expand the margin to 5 points, but Legan answered with a 3-pointer and Jenkins added a three-point play to put the Pirates ahead 58-57 with 6:36 to go.