Short-handed GMU falls

By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 17, 2010; D03

George Mason's Cam Long drove to the basket in the final seconds Tuesday night with an opportunity to not only beat William & Mary, but secure a first-round bye in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament for the Patriots and extend their two-year unbeaten run at home against conference foes.

Danny Sumner, a native of Fairfax and a Paul VI graduate, prevented all three from occurring, and in the process, saddled George Mason with its fourth loss in five games, a 63-60 decision in front of 5,539 at Patriot Center.

With the Tribe ahead by a point, Sumner blocked Long's shot with about three seconds left. David Schneider followed with two free throws and Long's mid-court heave was off course, lifting William & Mary (19-7, 11-5) to its fourth consecutive victory and ending the Patriots' home streak in league play at 18.

Despite holding an 11-point lead at halftime and receiving a career-high 22 points by freshman Kevin Foster, the Patriots (16-11, 11-5) missed a chance to stay within a game of co-leaders Old Dominion and Northeastern (both 13-3) with two conference games left. It was just their third loss in the past 41 home games.

While Foster compensated for the absence of suspended forward Mike Morrison, scoring more points than he had in his previous seven appearances combined and tying his career high in rebounds with nine, George Mason's starters didn't produce.

Long, the team's leading scorer, missed all six field goal attempts and finished with three points. On Saturday, in a 16-point loss at Old Dominion, he shot 1 of 8 and had five points. Ryan Pearson, the Patriots' second-leading scorer and top rebounder, attempted just four shots and finished with six points and four rebounds.

Larranaga said he believes late-season fatigue is a factor. "There's nothing you can really do when every game is so important: Your best players have to be out there," he said. "They both were less aggressive with the ball than they are normally."

Fatigue was hardly a factor in the first half as the Patriots turned an even game into an 11-point advantage. They parlayed turnovers into transition opportunities, resulting in fluid ball movement, layups and open jumpers.

Andre Cornelius (five assists) and Luke Hancock (seven assists) triggered the fast break and distributed to Foster, who entered the game averaging 3.9 points and hadn't played in five of the previous nine contests.

Foster was in the regular rotation early in the season, highlighted by 15 points against Georgia Tech, but as the holidays approached, he "lost his focus and, as a result, his quality of practice really dropped off," Larranaga said. "It's only in the last three weeks that he has been back, and you still have a lot of guys who have played in front of you for so long. It's very nice at this time of the year to have someone come off your bench and give you a lift."

Despite that lift, the Tribe set the tone in the second half and drew even with about seven minutes remaining. The Patriots answered with consecutive alley-oop tosses by Hancock to Foster for dunks.

Said Hancock: "It got the crowd into it, got our team going, it felt like we were going to execute like we were doing over and over again."

The Tribe was unfazed. A three-pointer by Quinn McDowell (19 points) with 3 minutes 21 seconds left provided the lead, which grew to three before Hancock converted a three-point play. Schneider scooped in a shot from the lane with a minute left to restore the Tribe's edge, and Long made just 1 of 2 free throws with 29 seconds to go.

Schneider missed the front end of a one-and-one with 11 seconds left, setting up the decisive sequence.

Patriots notes: Larranaga watched his sons Jon and Jay, both former college standouts, play pick-up basketball with President Obama on Sunday at Fort McNair, university officials said. Obama and the Larranagas were part of a team that won four of five games. . . . Rashad Whack (shoulder injury) returned to practice last week but has not been cleared to play. With two other freshmen out for the season and Morrison suspended, the Patriots had only nine players available.

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