With a team as flashy as Santa Clara in the CBI Championship game, you would expect pretty -- sweet shooting, crisp passing, an occasional dunk by Marc Trasolini or two. There was some of that sure.
There was a whole lot of ugly to go along with it.
Santa Clara recovered from its slow start faster than George Mason and the Broncos took Game 1 of the CBI Tournament Championship Series at home, 81-73. The series moves to George Mason's RAC for Game 2 on Wednesday.
If you had looked at the way this game started, you would have thought that Santa Clara was the one that had flown 3,000 miles to play in this game. Not that the Patriots were exactly fresh, but the Broncos couldn't find any offensive flow on their own floor, and struggled to get Kevin Foster moving in the offense.
That didn't stop them from slowly pulling away from George Mason. The Broncos used a solid start by Evan Roquemore (20 points, 6 assists) to creep into a tenuous lead until their name player could get going.
And if anything that is what makes the Broncos so dangerous in this series. You plan for Kevin Foster, but even if you trap him into bad decisions and difficult double teams, any of the other players in the Santa Clara starting lineup could get you.
Tonight was Roquemore's night and the only thing that slowed him down was picking up his second foul about two-thirds of the way through the first half. At the time, he was perfect from the floor, including three 3-pointers. Only his own foibles kept him from continuing his hot start.
Foster eventually got it going for the Broncos, but it wasn't simple. He finished with 28 points, including a 5 of 11 performance from 3-point range. Something says he will take it, but he won't be satisfied overall. The Patriots better beware.
George Mason twice executed comebacks that put a little fear into the Broncos.
Patrick Holloway came off the bench in the second half and immediately made his presence felt on offense. He scored 10 points in a row for the Patriots but was only able to cut the lead at the time from six points to three thanks to a Raymond Cowels 3-pointer, and a five-minute stretch following his outburst during which George Mason scored just two points.
The freshman finished with 17 points. He finished second in scoring for the Patriots, as Jonathan Arledge had 21 points as the Broncos defense seemed content to let George Mason take the ball inside.
The second comeback came at the end of the game in a furious run. Santa Clara was determined not to call timeouts when they had trouble inbounding the ball against a difficult full-court press by George Mason. The Patriots were out of timeouts, and Kerry Keating didn't want to add another chance for Paul Hewitt to draw something up.
That led to turnovers, and scrubbed attempts up the floor. The Broncos were eventually bailed out by a technical foul on Arledge. That set off a string of free throws that extended the lead from four back to eight and the final margin.
As a description, sloppy wouldn't do this game justice. Santa Clara had 17 turnovers to George Mason's 19. It is slightly expected from the Patriots, but not from Santa Clara. George Mason failed to make good on these miscues by the Broncos -- mostly because they were making their own gaffes in return -- and that eventually caught up with them as Foster got hot.
The thing to watch in Game 2 will be how tough the game is called. There were a number of hard fouls in this one, including one beat down of Roquemore by Arledge as the Bronco guard went up for a dunk. Roquemore went sprawling into the basket support and looked dazed, before righting himself and retreating up into the stands to avoid any confrontation with the George Mason big man.
The referees will certainly need to be watching that this doesn't get out of hand as they players travel to play in the tiny bandbox in Fairfax.
Wednesday's game tips at 7 p.m. Eastern.