CHARLESTON, S.C. — Luke Hancock had a career-high 18 points to lead George Mason past Charlotte 78-56 at the Charleston Classic on Thursday night.
Hancock scored 13 of his points in the second half as the Patriots (2-0) turned a tight contest into a rout. They'll take on North Carolina State in Friday's semifinals, with the winner advancing to Sunday night's title game.
George Mason let a double-digit lead dwindle to 30-24 by halftime and Charlotte (1-2) seemed to shake off a poor shooting half to get back in it.
The Patriots quickly ended the 49ers' comeback hopes. Mike Morrison had a basket and a three-point play to push George Mason's edge to 38-26.
Hancock took over later in the half, scoring 11 straight points to put the game out of reach for Charlotte and first-year coach Alan Major.
Jamar Briscoe led the 49ers with 20 points.
Ryan Pearson added 11 points and Cam Long 10 for the Patriots. Morrison ended with 9 points and 9 rebounds.
Hancock, a sophomore, improved on his career high of 15 points set against George Washington last December.
George Mason came into this one with an edge in experience as all five starters were back from a year ago. And the Patriots' tight defense early kept Charlotte off balance.
The 49ers made just 4 of their first 13 shots and committed six turnovers to trail 22-11 in the opening 12 minutes.
Charlotte, though, tightened up its defense and George Mason's baskets didn't come so easily.
The Patriots were held to two field goals the final six mintues as Charlotte cut the margin to 30-24 at the break, despite shooting under 30 percent (7 of 24) for the period.
Major, who replaced fired coach Bobby Lutz, didn't get his tenure off to the rosiest start when the 49ers lost their first home opener since 2005 last Friday night, 78-70, to Gardner-Webb.
Charlotte had an excuse for that one, playing without suspended regulars in Spears and An'Juan Wilderness.
This time, the 49ers were outgunned by the older Patriots.
Hancock made 8 of 12 shots. He also chipped in with four rebounds and three assists.