Tony Skinn hit acrobatic layups. Lamar Butler hit long-range jumpers. Together, the two guards from George Mason propelled the Patriots to a 74-58 victory over conference-leading Old Dominion last night at the Patriot Center.
The Patriots (15-10, 10-6 Colonial Athletic Association), who led most of the way, also came through with a stellar defensive effort. The Monarchs (23-4, 13-2) shot 32.8 percent and converted 2 of 15 three-point attempts. It was a dramatic reversal from two nights earlier when Virginia Commonwealth shot almost 60 percent, including 10 of 13 from behind the arc, in an 89-81 victory over the Patriots.
"We talked to the team yesterday about one thing, and that was to make a commitment to defense," George Mason Coach Jim Larranaga said. "We've been inconsistent in that area of the game."
Talking was one approach. Showing clips from the Virginia Commonwealth loss was another.
"Seeing is believing," Larranaga said. "The commitment has to be from everybody who steps out on the floor."
The commitment was certainly there from Skinn and Butler. Butler finished with a team-high 25 points, going 6 for 9 from long range. Skinn finished with 22 points for his third straight game with more than 20. In his last effort against Old Dominion on Jan. 15, Skinn was 0 for 11 from the field and did not score.
"Their guards played exceptionally well," Old Dominion Coach Blaine Taylor said. "We've done a nice job on the road but didn't have enough tonight."
Forward Arnaud Dahi led the Monarchs with 14 and Alex Loughton chipped in with 10. But the other three starters combined for only 14.
In the early going, the Monarchs went on a 6-0 run to seize a 10-7 lead. However, against George Mason's reserves, labeled the green team -- they wear green jerseys in practice -- Old Dominion was unable to take advantage. The starters soon returned, and after Old Dominion 7-foot-3 freshman backup center Sam Harris made a hook shot in the lane, the Patriots scored seven straight to go ahead, 24-16.
The Monarchs closed to three, but George Mason, thanks to nine points from Skinn, ended the half with a 13-3 spurt for a 37-24 lead. Skinn finished with 14 in the half, and Butler added 12. It was the third time this season the Monarchs have trailed at intermission.
Old Dominion came out strong to start the second half, cutting the deficit to nine on Loughton's short jumper. Larranaga called a quick timeout, which seemed to restore order. Butler hit a three and the lead was up to 14.
The Monarchs narrowed the gap to five midway through the half, but a Skinn layup and a Butler three-pointer extended it to 12.