Area Men

Against Green Wave, Patriots Produce Little to Like but Victory

By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Jim Larranaga sounded like a beaten coach after last night's game against Tulane.

"That was certainly no artistic performance," he said after George Mason shot 29 percent in the second half, made 1 of 11 three-pointers overall and relinquished a 12-point lead. "It looked like we were already home for Christmas."

The only statistical solace was the final score, a 60-52 victory before 4,508 at Patriot Center.

Despite the unsightly manner, Mason (8-2) won its third straight and remained perfect at home (5-0). Senior guard John Vaughan had 16 points, 8 rebounds and 3 steals, freshman forward Ryan Pearson contributed 12 points and 13 rebounds in reserve, and senior forward Darryl Monroe sparked a late resurgence.

"I guess our chemistry was just off," Monroe said. "Our defense was able to hold it down."

The Patriots led by eight at halftime and by 12 early in the second half, but Tulane (5-5) took advantage of Mason's choppy play to forge a 42-42 tie with 7 minutes 55 seconds remaining. Larranaga then abandoned his usual three-guard lineup and turned to a three-forward setup.

"I called the timeouts basically to rest them," Larranaga said. "Once I found the combination worked for us to defend them properly, then we were going to stick with it."

Monroe's free throws gave the Patriots the lead for good, and after Pearson scored inside and the Green Wave answered, Monroe hit a fadeaway baseline jumper and Mason made four consecutive free throws for an eight-point lead at the 5:12 mark. Tulane did not get closer than five.

The Patriots won despite making just six field goals in the second half. Three days after hitting 8 of 11 three-pointers against Radford after halftime, they were way off target last night.

The Green Wave wasn't much better. Kendall Timmons shot 9 of 13 for 18 points, but the rest of the team combined to make 13 of 48 (27 percent). Three Tulane players fouled out and another had four fouls.

Larranaga likes what he sees in the 6-foot-6 Pearson, who had seven points and six rebounds in 11 minutes of the first half. "He just has a knack," Larranaga said. "It's not his post moves, it's not his jump shot, he just has a knack for scoring. Same with his rebounding. He'll get a tip, he'll tip it to himself, he'll get a great rebound in traffic."

Pearson (five offensive rebounds) said his role is to "play hard, get a spark off the bench, get guys going with my energy and put up numbers."

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