By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 11, 2009
George Mason's 61-53 victory over Old Dominion yesterday was typical of so many games during the Patriots' prosperous winter: double figures in points and rebounds by Darryl Monroe, balanced scoring and a defensive effort that caused faulty shooting by the opposition.
Most importantly, the result sustained the Patriots' perfect record at home and in the Colonial Athletic Association.
After an early 12-point lead dissolved before 6,626 at Patriot Center, John Vaughan's three-pointers started and finished an 11-2 run as George Mason (12-3, 5-0) finally pulled away for its fourth consecutive victory and seventh in eight games.
Off to their best overall start in 25 years, the Patriots will have an opportunity Wednesday at William & Mary for the first 6-0 conference mark in program history. At home, they are 8-0 and have won 21 of 22.
"We are pleased with where we are," Coach Jim Larranaga said, "but we know that we have a lot of very difficult games in front of us."
Though they did not trail after the first two minutes, the Patriots had to withstand several charges by the Monarchs (9-6, 2-3), who were within five at intermission and one with 16 1/2 minutes left.
Monroe, a 6-foot-7, 275-pound senior forward, had 14 points and 14 rebounds for his third straight double-double and fifth of the season. Starting guards Cam Long, Dre Smith and Vaughan combined for 30 points and made 6 of 13 three-pointers.
Ben Finney and Gerald Lee had 16 and 15 points, respectively, for ODU, which has lost three of four.
Three-pointers by Vaughan and freshman Andre Cornelius and inside baskets by freshman Ryan Pearson helped the Patriots forge a 16-4 lead. But they made only three field goals the rest of the half, and when Lee hit a 12-footer early in the second half, the Monarchs trailed 32-31.
"We almost thought it was a 10-minute game and it was over," Larranaga said.
The Patriots were unable to solve ODU's zone defense and, as a result, labored to get the ball to Monroe and Pearson. "We came out real energetic, getting everyone involved," Long said. "We started slowing down on penetrating the defense and started kicking it around the perimeter."
George Mason's renewed penetration forced the Monarchs to collapse, which created space for the guards. Vaughan swished a three-pointer from the top of the key, and after Long's free throws, Smith struck from the right wing. ODU's Keyon Carter responded from 17 feet, but Vaughan hit another three-pointer to open a 10-point lead with 12 minutes to go.
The Monarchs hung around the rest of the way -- "we had them looking over their shoulder the whole night," Coach Blaine Taylor said -- and got as close as four before George Mason's free throw shooting in the final minute sealed it.
The Patriots limited an opponent to sub-40 percent shooting for the fourth straight game and to 60 points or less for the seventh time in eight outings.
"Confidence is pretty high," Monroe said. "We still have a long way to go, we still have to play our defense, moving the ball, sharing the ball, just keep playing hard and playing consistent."
· NAVY 71, BUCKNELL 67: Kaleo Kina scored 25 points as the Midshipmen won their first Patriot League opener in eight seasons by defeating the Bison at home.
Kina's free throw with five seconds to play iced the win after Bucknell had rallied from nine points down to within a point.
Chris Harris added 14 points for the Midshipmen (12-4, 1-0) and Cliff Colbert came off the bench to post 12 points and nine rebounds.
G.W. Boon led Bucknell (3-12, 0-1) with 20 points.