By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 4, 2009
Reprinted from Wednesday's late editions
For George Washington, the first meeting with George Mason in 11 seasons Wednesday night was well worth the wait, a 66-49 triumph that wasn't as close as the margin and brought local bragging rights among these mid-level programs to Foggy Bottom for at least a year.
For the Patriots, it couldn't have unfolded any worse, beginning with the pregame suspension of two starters for a violation of team rules and continuing through an atrocious second half.
With senior Damian Hollis matching his career high with 25 points, the Colonials extended an eight-point lead at intermission to 20 six minutes into the second half and cruised to their fifth victory in six games before a raucous crowd of 4,125 at Smith Center.
GW held the Patriots (3-4) without a field goal for nearly eight minutes after halftime in the renewal of a series that will continue next season at Patriot Center.
"It was fantastic," Colonials Coach Karl Hobbs said of the atmosphere, which was enhanced by several hundred George Mason fans. "I know I will feel differently next year when we have to go play over there. It's going to be a great rivalry. It's going to be fun. I think it's fun for the students, for the players."
The meeting lost some luster with the absence of Patriots sophomores Ryan Pearson and Andre Cornelius, who, according to team officials, took pillows from hotels to use on flights home from recent road trips.
They are expected to return to the starting lineup for the team's Colonial Athletic Association opener at North Carolina Wilmington on Saturday. Cornelius, a 5-foot-10 guard, is averaging 9.7 points and has a team-best 11 three-pointers on 22 attempts. Pearson, a 6-foot-6 forward, is averaging 9.8 points and 5.7 rebounds
Freshmen Sherrod Wright and Luke Hancock entered the starting lineup, but the Patriots showed little of the promise that produced near-upsets of Villanova and Georgia Tech and a victory over Indiana at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
"We certainly have a lot of things to learn about what competition at this level is all about for some young guys," Patriots Coach Jim Larranaga said. "I called a number of timeouts to instruct the team as to what we wanted, a reminder of what we practiced. We went right back out and did exactly the same thing -- no passes, a lot of dribbling, very little teamwork.
"We haven't learned to do it, and until we do, we are going to have more nights like this, unfortunately."
Hancock, who is among 11 freshmen and sophomores, had 15 points, but George Mason's big men, Mike Morrison and Louis Birdsong, combined for 1-of-8 shooting for three points and veteran guard Cam Long shot 2 of 10 with five turnovers.
The Colonials exploited the Patriots' shallow roster and poor play, electrifying the boisterous student body with easy baskets in transition and doing whatever they pleased in the set offense.
"It was just an amazing amount of energy" in the arena, said Hollis, who shot 10 of 13 after making 36.4 percent through the first five games and added eight rebounds. "I know I fed off it and the team as well fed off it. It was nice playing in front of a lot of people" after averaging 1,880 spectators the first three home games.
With the Patriots missing 11 of their first 14 shots, the Colonials built a nine-point lead. The 6-8 Hollis offered a diverse repertoire, scoring on a one-hander, an 18-footer and a bank shot. GW's defensive intensity and the Patriots' sloppy ball-handling led to six consecutive turnovers and several breakaways.
Hollis converted a 16-footer, a three-pointer and a tap-in of his own miss to help the Colonials forge an 11-point lead. Hancock had the Patriots within 35-27 at halftime, but after the break, GW embarked on a 22-4 break. Kevin Foster's layup with 12:11 remaining ended George Mason's field goal drought.
"We kept the pressure on and we continued to attack the basket," Hobbs said.