The Patriots then took the rest of the evening off, displaying neither killer instinct nor fatal vulnerability. They just drifted through the remaining 34 minutes with enough spurts to hold off the feisty Tigers, 65-53, in front of 1,202 at Towson Center.
Although the outcome was never in question and the Patriots (6-2) won their fourth straight heading into Tuesday’s visit to Virginia (7-1), Coach Paul Hewitt was frustrated by his team’s lack of engagement and concentration. The game was littered with unforced errors and poor decision-making, a missed dunk, 35-second violation and a foul on an inbounds pass.
“I wasn’t pleased after the opening session of the game,” he said. “We didn’t play to our strengths. We start hurrying. We had some catches that we were bobbling and traveling. As much as we do individual instruction, I am just going to chalk it up to inexperience.”
Against any other opponent, the Patriots might not have gotten away with it. Then again, against any other opponent, their approach probably wouldn’t have been so casual. The Tigers (0-7) have lost 26 consecutive games overall, 13 in a row at home and 19 straight in CAA play. Since joining the league 10 years ago, they have lost all 18 meetings with the Patriots.
The Tigers, starting three freshmen and a sophomore, began the week with the third-worst average scoring margin among 338 Division I teams in the country (minus-28.2). It’s been almost a year since their last victory (Dec. 29 at La Salle) and more than a year since their last home win (Dec. 1, 2010) against Western Michigan.
With about three minutes left Saturday, however, Marcus Damas made his fourth three-pointer to pull Towson to 56-51. Disregarding George Mason’s 19-5 start, the Tigers had outscored the Patriots 46-37.
Down the stretch, though, the Patriots prevailed. After Sherrod Wright’s dunk, Vertrail Vaughns provided the clinching shot — a three-pointer with a minute left that broke his streak of 14 straight misses over three games from that distance.
“Things go bad sometimes,” senior forward Mike Morrison said. “We tried to extend [the lead] further but never really got a chance to do it.”
Morrison had his most complete game of the season with 14 points on 7-of-10 shooting, eight rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots. Senior forward Ryan Pearson added 14 points and seven rebounds. Despite shooting 3 of 12, sophomore point guard Bryon Allen assembled another balanced stat line with 10 points, seven rebounds and three assists.
“We know we’ve got some talented players, we just need to slow down,” Pearson said. “We’re going to get it right in practice.”
Towson fans arrived at the arena directly from adjacent Unitas Stadium, where the football team had lost to Lehigh in an FCS playoff game, 40-38. Any prospect of equal drama seemed to be put to rest quickly as the Patriots scored on eight of their first nine possessions.
Towson compensated for its shortcomings with energy and persistence. It made 5 of 8 three-pointers in the half and Damas scored 10 of his 15 points in the last four minutes. (He finished with 25.)
The Patriots were effective in transition and collected 11 offensive rebounds in the half (18 overall) but had puzzling lapses at both ends. At one point, Hewitt inserted walk-on Bryce Lewis at point guard. George Mason’s lead at halftime was an unsatisfying 39-31.
The second half brought more of the same for the Patriots.
“I wasn’t happy with the body language sometimes when guys subbed,” Hewitt said. “It’s a league game now.”
Patriots note: Freshman point guard Corey Edwards (3.5 points, 3.2 assists per game) missed his second consecutive game recovering from a concussion. “He should be okay for Tuesday,” Hewitt said.