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George Mason Coach Jim Larranaga named CAA coach of the year

George Mason Coach Jim Larranaga receives 26 of 46 votes from CAA coaches, sports information directors and select reporters. (Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post)
George Mason Coach Jim Larranaga receives 26 of 46 votes from CAA coaches, sports information directors and select reporters. (Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 4, 2011; 12:35 AM

Jim Larranaga, who has guided George Mason to the nation's longest active winning streak and the top seed in the Colonial Athletic Association men's basketball tournament, was named the conference's coach of the year Thursday.

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Larranaga received 26 of 46 votes from CAA coaches, sports information directors and select reporters to finish well ahead of Mo Cassara, Hofstra's first-year coach who was chosen on 11 ballots. In his 14th season at the Fairfax university, Larranaga had not won the award since 1999.

Although the Patriots (25-5, 16-2) finished just one slot ahead of preseason expectations, Larranaga garnered widespread credit for the manner in which the team won its first outright regular season title in 12 years.

A year after his immature squad collapsed in the final month, Larranaga oversaw an up-tempo team that closed the regular season with a program-record 15 straight victories. The Patriots set the school mark for consecutive road wins (eight), went undefeated at home and, during one stretch in the streak, won eight straight by at least 14 points.

Despite having only two seniors, George Mason clinched first place with a game to spare and accumulated the most regular season wins in school history to all but secure an NCAA tournament berth.

In the CAA tournament, the Patriots will play eighth-seeded UNC Wilmington or No. 9 Georgia State at noon Saturday at Richmond Coliseum.

Three George Mason players received all-league honors: Senior guard Cam Long (Freedom-Woodbridge High) was voted to the first team, junior forward Ryan Pearson to the second team and sophomore swingman Luke Hancock to the third unit.

Hofstra senior guard Charles Jenkins, the league leader in scoring and assists, was the overwhelming choice as player of the year with 41 votes. Long (averaging 15.1 points per game and a CAA-best 44 percent on three-pointers) was second, with two. Jenkins is averaging 23.2 points per game, which ranks fourth in the nation.

Three seniors joined them on the first team: Northeastern guard Chaisson Allen, James Madison forward Denzel Bowles and Old Dominion forward Frank Hassell.

Pearson made a strong case for first-team honors, averaging 14.7 points and 6.9 rebounds. He was among five players to receive a player-of-the-year vote. Hancock, who shifts between small forward, shooting guard and point guard duties, averaged 11.1 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists.

Delaware freshman guard Devon Saddler (13.4 points per game) was named rookie of the year and ODU junior guard Kent Bazemore the top defensive player.


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