William and Mary, coming off an overtime loss on Tuesday to American, took the court last night expecting more tension, a close ECAC South matchup with George Mason, which is almost always tough at home. Not this time.
The Indians shot 60 percent, played consistently aggressive defense and routed Mason, 88-68, before 2,700 in GMU Gymnasium. William and Mary is 11-7 overall, 4-2 in the section; George Mason 9-10, 1-5.
Freshman guard Keith Cieplicki led the Indians with 24 points. He was supported by former St. John's standout Billy Barnes (21 points) and forward Mike Strayhorn (16 points).
George Mason senior center Andre Gaddy scored 21 points, but got little help from the rest of the Patriots. The home team shot 44 percent. Freshman swing man Carlos Yates, its leading scorer, made three of 14 from the field. Andy Bolden, the second leading scorer, had most of his 12 points after the Indians had built a big lead.
"I honestly didn't expect this," said William and Mary Coach Bruce Parkhill. "I'm elated with the way we played, especially after that very, very emotional loss to American. But I really was expecting a barn burner."
The Patriots, who had won seven of nine at home, trailed only 22-20 with six minutes to play in the first half after guard John Niehoff (12 points) sank a long set shot.
The William and Mary defense took over thereafter and forced three quick turnovers. The Indians got two jumpers from Cieplicki and took a 34-26 halftime lead.
Cieplicki, an agile 6 feet 4, from Burlington, Vt., made a lean-in jumper to give the Indians a 40-29 lead. That increased to 51-35 eight minutes into the second half, when Barnes made a driving hook and subsequent free throw.
After falling behind by 17 points, the Patriots pulled within 62-49 as guard Mike Yohe scored a three-point play with 7:30 remaining. But turnovers and poor shooting by GMU allowed the Indians to fast-break their way to a 68-51 margin. Mason could not recover.
"I thought I had a really bad game," Yates said. "We allowed the tempo to go their way early and we had to play their game of slowing the ball down and shooting free throws. Our offensive game is usually a faster pace. We seemed to lose our composure."