NICEVILLE, FLA. – Cincinnati used a stifling defense to hold George Mason to a season-low in point production en route to a 71-55 victory Friday night, while moving into the championship of the Emerald Coast Classic.
Cincinnati advances to Saturday’s championship, for the second time in five years and will meet the winner of the Baylor-Ole Miss game, which was played later Friday. Ole Miss beat Cincinnati to win the inaugural 2014 Emerald Coast Classic.
Senior reserve guard Cane Broome scored a season-high 21 points for the Bearcats who improved to 4-1.
Clinging to a 7-6 lead, Broome came off the bench hitting a pair of free throws and a layup in a 49-second span allowing Cincinnati to build a 11-6 lead and the Bearcats were never threatened.
Broome had 10 points in the first half helping stake Cincinnati to a 32-23 halftime lead.
“That’s why I like him coming off bench because we get better,” said Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin. “We sub to strength. He is able to come in and make you a better offensive team.”
“I just tried to come in and embrace the role coach puts me in,” Broome added. “I came in and tried to change the pace of the game.”
The Patriots were slow getting out of the gates in the second half, making only one of their first 13 shots, opening that period by missing their first eight shots from the floor.
Sophomore guard Javon Greene led George Mason (2-4) with 11 points.
Cincinnati dominated the boards, outrebounding George Mason, 33-20. Junior forward Trevon Scott, who scored 14 points, led the Bearcats with eight rebounds.
“Our defense was excellent, forcing 16 turnovers,” added Cronin. “We outrebounded them by 13, that was probably the difference in the game. We continue to evolve and improving as a team.”
The more physical Bearcats forced George Mason to shoot from the perimeter, launching three times as many three-point shots (23-7) than Cincinnati.
“That’s a really good team we played tonight,” said George Mason coach Dave Paulsen, whose team fell to 2-4. “From our perspective we played hard and competed. We can’t replicate the size, athleticism, the ball hawking and ability to block shots like Cincinnati does.”
“I just told our guys we need to know how to play hard and perform. That’s why we come to tournaments like this. We played well in stretches…we got in the paint but we had a hard time finishing. They (Cincinnati) played tough and so hard. Broome seemed to answer every time we made a run.”
Cincinnati increased its lead to 48-27 with 10:51 left on a jumper by Keith Williams before George Mason reeled off seven straight points.
Junior guards Jarron Cumberland and Rashawn Fredericks each added 11 points for Cincinnati.
The Bearcats shot 50.9 percent from the floor (27-53), while George Mason hit 44 percent (22-50).
George Mason will face the loser of the Ole Miss-Baylor game for third-place in the tournament starting at 3 p.m.