In OT, Mason Has Nothing

By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 4, 2007

George Mason was ahead for all but 83 seconds during regulation against Old Dominion last night. In overtime, however, the Patriots never led. In fact, they never scored.

After surrendering a late six-point lead, capped by Arnaud Dahi's buzzer-beating three-pointer, the Patriots fell apart in overtime and dropped a 66-56 decision to the Monarchs in the first of three consecutive games against the Colonial Athletic Association's top teams.

Before 9,804 at Patriot Center, the Patriots (13-10, 7-6) missed all five shots and committed three turnovers in the extra period. Brandon Johnson gave the Monarchs (17-7, 10-3) their first lead since 3-2 with a three-pointer with just more than three minutes left, then followed with a 17-footer and a steal to all but secure ODU's fifth consecutive victory and only its second win in its last nine visits to Fairfax.

"We kept our composure for the most part," Monarchs Coach Blaine Taylor said. "We didn't do everything right, but we just kind of hung in there and kept battling, kept battling, didn't panic."

Patriots Coach Jim Larranaga took responsibility for the loss, pointing to the end of regulation when, after Folarin Campbell gave his team a three-point lead with nine seconds remaining, he failed to call a timeout.

"I told the team after the game that I am very disappointed in myself," Larranaga said. "We should've called the timeout and got a chance to set our defense and not given Old Dominion a chance to race the ball up the floor, take a quick three and then get a chance to get a second three.

"That mental mistake on my part obviously was critical. . . . That's something I will have to live with and something we'll have to learn from."

With play continuing, Johnson passed Drew Williamson's missed three-point attempt out to Dahi, who made the tying shot from the top of the key.

"I was wide open," said Dahi, who had 25 points and nine rebounds. "I didn't think about it; I just shot it."

Despite Larranaga's admission, there was plenty of blame to go around. Campbell led the Patriots with 23 points and forward Darryl Monroe added 17 points and 11 rebounds -- both career highs -- but Campbell's back-court colleagues combined to shoot 2 for 17 and scored five points. John Vaughan, back in the starting lineup after nine reserve appearances, was 0 for 9.

Campbell and Monroe scored all of Mason's points the final 18-plus minutes, and the Patriots made only four field goals the last 16 minutes. They hit their first two three-point shots of the game, then missed their final 12. That shooting trend allowed the Monarchs to collapse on Will Thomas, Mason's best low-post player, and limit him to seven points, half his average.

"When it comes down to the wire, we're not as strong as we should be mentally, and that's what is costing us games down the stretch," said Campbell, whose team will visit first-place Virginia Commonwealth on Thursday and host second-place Hofstra on Saturday. "I still felt confident going to overtime. I knew we had this game, but the last five minutes we didn't bring it as a team."

Said Monroe: "Coach talked about being mentally tough and just those few mishaps, that was it."

Patriots Notes: Sophomore forward Chris Fleming, who sprained an ankle three weeks ago but had played in four games since, was in street clothes last night. Team officials are hopeful he'll be available Thursday. . . . The attendance figure matched the home-opening turnout against Wichita State -- a program record -- but unlike that game, there were a couple hundred no-shows last night. . . . Mason fell to 6-4 at home, its most losses at Patriot Center since 1997-98.

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