Traditionally, the nation's best collegiate volleyball teams come from the West. The tradition remains unchanged.

George Mason University lost to Southern California, 15-4, 15-11, 15-10, in its semifinal match tonight at the NCAA men's volleyball championships.

USC will play Pepperdine (24-2), a 15-2, 15-2, 15-7 winner over Ball State, for the national title Saturday night. The Patriots (27-7) will play Ball State (22-12) Saturday for third place.

George Mason looked tight from the start but recovered to give a Pauley Pavilion crowd of 2,000 -- and USC -- a worthwhile match.

With the Trojans serving first, George Mason was unable to convert any initial opportunities. The Patriots' hits were frequently wide and service returns found the net more often than the other side of the court.

A Scott Graf hit off a USC block gave George Mason its first point. Ric Lucas' spike into center court tied it at 2-2 for Mason.

But the Trojans didn't intimidate easily and came back to score almost at will for an easy first-game victory.

In the second game, the Patriots showed flashes of brillance as 6-foot-6 Moyo Kasim sent sharp shots unreturned to the USC side. George Mason jumped to a 4-1, but the Trojans scored five of the next six points to take a 6-5 lead.

USC took control, but the Patriots pulled to within 13-11. But freshman setter John Kristick netted his serve to give USC the serve and eventually a 15-11 victory.

Both teams looked tired at the start of the third game. At match point, Kasim's spike was blocked at the net to give the Trojans the victory.