St. John's cruised through a 76-65 victory over George Mason University here Friday night in the opening game of the Cougar Classic.

St. John's took a 4-2 lead two minutes into the game and never relinquished it. George Mason got within two six minutes later at 15-13, but the Redmen went on a 13-1 run and spent the rest of the game playing just hard enough to hold off the Patriots.The halftime score was 46-35, and the closest George Mason got in the second half was eight points, with 26 seconds left. As a measure of how close this wasn't, St. John's Coach Lou Carnesecca used 11 of his 12 players, and it wasn't because someone was in foul trouble.

The key stat of the game was the Redmen's 47 percent shooting from the field. While not spectacular, it was a good deal better than the 40-percent shooting of the Patriots.

"When you shoot the ball like we did," said Patriot Coach Ernie Nestor, "you can't beat a high-caliber team, and St. John's is definitely a high-caliber team."

The Redmen also won the board battle handily, 39-27, despite not having any obvious size advantage over the Patriots.

Junior forward Malik Sealy led the Redmen in scoring with 29 points. He was supported by Jason Buchanan with 18 and Billy Singleton, 12.

The Patriots' leading scorer was Robert Dykes, with 15. Others in double figures were Mike Hargett and Jamel Perkins, 11 each, and Henry Abrams, 10.

The Redmen face BYU for the tournament championship at 7:30 p.m. tonight.

George Mason plays Eastern Kentucky in the consolation game at 5:30 p.m.