Patriots Remain Headed Back in Right Direction

By Marc Carig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 17, 2007

WILLIAMSBURG, Jan. 16 -- When George Mason hosted William & Mary two weeks ago, the Patriots looked like a team in turmoil, while the Tribe gave the impression that it would be the Colonial Athletic Association's unlikely darling this year.

But Tuesday night, the Patriots showed how much they want to keep that title for themselves.

The venerable Will Thomas and replacement starter Darryl Monroe dominated inside -- despite myriad defenses designed to hold them in check -- and the Patriots held off the Tribe, 76-63, at Kaplan Arena to avenge a loss on Jan. 3.

After falling under .500 overall and starting 0-3 in the CAA, the victory gave the Patriots their fourth straight win, the longest streak of what has been an up-and-down season.

"The biggest difference for us between tonight and two weeks ago is consistency," George Mason Coach Jim Larranaga said. "We've made good, consistent decisions. We had four turnovers tonight, that's a sign that we're being consistent."

George Mason (10-7, 4-3) had used a stifling defense to power its recent run, allowing just 43.3 points in its three previous games. And even though that defensive prowess didn't come into play against the Tribe, it hardly mattered because William & Mary (10-7, 3-4) failed to find an answer for Thomas and Monroe, who keyed another efficient offensive performance by the Patriots.

Thomas scored 19 points and grabbed four rebounds, hitting on his first eight shots. He didn't miss until the latter part of the second half, a reverse layup that nearly dropped after dancing on the rim.

Monroe, stepping into the lineup for the injured Chris Fleming, scored nine points on 4-of-6 shooting, while pulling down four rebounds.

"I had to step up and I was fortunate enough to do that," said Monroe, making just his third start. "Coaches want me to be aggressive on the offensive end. Tonight I was able to do that."

In combination, the pair proved particularly dangerous because their early aggressiveness softened the William & Mary defense, which was then forced to choose between collapsing to clog the inside or staying put to mind the perimeter.

The Patriots managed to make either decision a losing proposition for the Tribe.

George Mason hit 11 of 23 three-point attempts on the way to shooting 54 percent from the field.

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