George Mason vs. VCU: Patriots extend win streak to 12, take control of CAA race
Wednesday, February 16, 2011; 12:05 AM
RICHMOND - There were still more than eight minutes remaining Tuesday night in the Colonial Athletic Association's biggest game of the season, a showdown between the top teams in a formidable conference. But at Verizon Wireless Arena, a downtown lair that had been so unkind to George Mason over the years, fans were streaming toward the exits.
A gleeful bunch of green-clad Patriots, and a couple hundred of their supporters, punctured the lifeless facility with an early celebration. In another monstrous performance, George Mason routed Virginia Commonwealth, 71-51, for its 12th consecutive victory, shattering a program record that had stood for 27 years.
The Patriots (22-5, 14-2) moved a step closer to clinching their first outright regular season league title in 11 years, and thanks to Coastal Carolina's loss to Gardner-Webb, they claimed the longest active winning streak in the country. They also tied the school record for consecutive road wins (six).
"It's a great feeling, but you've got to understand, it just goes by how we play," senior guard Cam Long said. "If we continue to do that, the streak will continue."
There's little reason to believe anyone in the CAA will get in the way. During the streak, the Patriots have won all but one game by at least 14 points. By demolishing the Rams (20-8, 12-4), George Mason seized a two-game lead in the league standings with two remaining.
Although three teams are 12-4 in conference play, only Old Dominion could overtake the Patriots for the top seed in the CAA tournament next month.
After visiting Northern Iowa on Saturday, George Mason can clinch the title Feb. 24 in Fairfax against Northeastern.
On this night, the Patriots devastated the Rams with runs of 11-0, 13-2, 11-0 and 10-0 to win on VCU's court for the first time in five years.
The Rams, whose 22-game home winning streak ended Saturday against ODU, lost consecutive CAA games at Verizon Wireless Arena for the first time since the facility opened in 1999.
"It's embarrassing right now," VCU guard Joey Rodriguez said. "They took it to us."
The Patriots made nine of their first 15 three-pointers, including 4 of 5 in the first half by freshman Vertrail Vaughns and two in a row by Pearson, a power forward. In the second half, George Mason made all 13 free throw attempts and 4 of 5 three-pointers.