Navy fans hope George Mason enjoyed itself a year ago, when the Patriots swept the Midshipmen, because that sweep will not be repeated this season.
Led by Kylor Whitaker's career-high 26 points and a defense that held all but one of the Patriots to fewer than 10 points, Navy defeated George Mason, 88-74, today in a Colonial Athletic Association game before 4,557 spectators at Halsey Field House.
The game, which included extremely physical play under the basket -- reflected in 45 fouls -- raised Navy's record to 4-0 in the CAA, 11-3 overall. It was the 100th career victory for Coach Paul Evans in his six years at the Academy.
The loss was George Mason's third in its last four games as the Patriots fell to 1-1, 7-7. Whitaker became the sixth player this season to record a career-high scoring total against George Mason.
"There's no love lost between these teams," said Whitaker, who made 12 of 22 shots and fell one point shy of scoring his 1,000th career point. "There was a lot of talk before the game about how they were going to beat us. They were real cocky. But there comes a time when you have to shut up and play."
Much of the acrimony surrounding this rivalry spilled over onto the court.
"I was like a pinball in there," said Vernon Butler, the Midshipmen's 6-foot-7, 245-pound forward. "But I gave as much as I got."
"I wish it had been more physical," said George Mason Coach Joe Harrington. "We play better when we're physical."
Whitaker benefited greatly from George Mason's decision to sag as many as three men back on center David Robinson and forgo any defense of the perimeter. Left unguarded for much of the game, Whitaker shot at will.
"(Mason) was all busy concentrating on the inside game," said Butler, who scored 18 points before fouling out with 2:20 to play. "Then, once Kylor started sticking it, the inside opened up."
The Patriots' preoccupation with Robinson held the 6-11 senior to a respectable 19 points and 13 rebounds, but his seven blocked shots left George Mason's offense in shambles at the other end.
George Mason was led by Rob Rose's season-high 32 points, which included 11 straight baskets during one second-half stretch. But the Patriots shot just 31 percent (19 of 51) from the field.
"I thought our shot selection was awful," said Harrington, whose four other starters totaled only 20 points. "I finally just told Rob to shoot whenever he got his hands on the ball."
After trailing by 22 points with 5:15 to play, George Mason rallied behind eight points from Rose and poor free-throw shooting by Navy to pull within 82-71 with 1:32 left.
But even as the Midshipmen missed the first shot in three straight one-and-one opportunities, the Patriots could get no closer, missing three shots and turning the ball over twice.
After allowing George Mason to flirt with a two-point lead, 8-6, at 14:34 of the first half, Navy took command for good three minutes later on a tap-in by Carl Liebert. Whitaker and Butler scored the Midshipmen's next 16 points and Navy led at halftime, 39-29. Catholic 69, Susquehanna 62
Senior guard John Winkler scored 12 of his 15 points in the second half to lead the Cardinals to the overtime victory at Susquehanna.
The Cardinals (6-5), who trailed by four with two minutes left in regulation, were led by junior guard Rod McCarry's 22 points. Susquehanna (8-3) was led by senior guard Don Harnum, who scored a team-high 22.