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Lewis Turns JMU Outside-In

George Mason Men 89, James Madison 67

By Kathy Orton
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, February 6, 2005; Page E10

The James Madison basketball team had to realize its chances of beating George Mason last night weren't very good when the Patriots' burly center, Jai Lewis, an inside presence who leads the team in rebounding and blocked shots, squared up and fired a three-point shot -- and buried it.

Lewis's shot late in the first half spurred the Patriots, who dominated from that point and won, 89-67, before 9,610, the third-largest crowd in Patriot Center history.

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George Mason (12-9, 7-5 Colonial Athletic Association), which has won five of its last six games, remains in fifth place in the conference standings.

Lewis likely won't become George Mason's next three-point threat. His inside play is one reason George Mason averages more than seven three-pointers per game. The Patriots sank eight three-pointers against James Madison (4-16, 2-10).

"If we start playing him on the outside, and he starts falling in love with the three like almost every other college player, then we won't have an inside game," Coach Jim Larranaga said. "What allows us to shoot threes is his presence inside."

Lewis doesn't mind showing his shooting touch, though. He has made three-pointers in consecutive games and has made 2 of 3 attempts this season.

"If I'm trailing, I'm shooting the three," Lewis said with a smile.

Lamar Butler, George Mason's most consistent three-point shooter, agreed.

"We need to run some [perimeter] plays for Jai," said Butler, who went 1 for 4 from behind the arc.

Although he doesn't want his center focusing too much on shooting from the outside, Larranaga allows Lewis to take three-point shots when he's open.

"On occasions in practice, he'll step out and shoot the three, and I've never told him not to because the one thing I know is he's smart enough to know when to choose to shoot it," Larranaga said. "Honestly, Jai is one of the most well-rounded and fundamentally sound players I've ever coached."

The win was a total team effort. No Patriot took more than eight shots, yet six scored nine points or more, including Tony Skinn (Takoma Academy), who had a team-high 15 points. The Patriots were particularly effective at the free throw line, making 29 of 30 foul shots.

"I'm going to have to run that guy who missed," Larranaga said with a laugh.

It was Tim Burns, who went 1 of 2 from the line. Freshman guard John Vaughan made all nine of his attempts. Skinn and Butler each went 6 for 6.

George Mason never trailed after taking a 9-8 lead. The Patriots built their lead to 29-17 on Lewis's three-pointer, then took a 20-point advantage less than 3 1/2 minutes into the second half.

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