Because of the way George Mason has been playing, it was not unexpected for the Patriots to overwhelm Drexel in a nonconference game last night at Patriot Center. But it would have been considered unlikely for the Patriots to be led to victory by two freshman reserves, Jesse Young and Jon Larranaga.
That is exactly what happened.
Young had 13 points and Larranaga had 12 and a team-high six rebounds to lead the Patriots past the Dragons, 79-54, before 1,555. The victory was the Patriots' third straight, extending their home winning streak to 13 and giving them a winning record (5-4) for the first time this season.
"We're just starting to get more comfortable," said Larranaga, son of Patriots Coach Jim Larranaga. "The team's starting to move along now. We're getting in the flow. We're starting to play the way we want to play."
For George Mason, its improved play comes at a good time. Last night's game fell in between its Colonial Athletic Association opener, a win over American on Saturday, and next Monday's game against No. 17 Maryland at Cole Field House.
Seven of the Patriots' first eight games had been decided by nine points or less, while the other was a 13-point loss at Penn State. But last night, the Patriots were able to overmatch Drexel (2-5), which drew to 51-43 with seven minutes left but wilted under George Mason's pressure defense. The Patriots forced 25 turnovers.
Junior forward George Evans had 13 points, 4 steals and 2 blocks for George Mason. Senior forward Keith Holdan, who was in foul trouble most of the game, had 13 points.
Larranaga was a redshirt last season and entered the game having scored a total of 18 points. Last night, the 6-foot-6 graduate of St. John's Prospect Hall in Frederick notched his career high by making two three-pointers and going 6 for 6 from the line.
"The kid that really hurt us was Larranaga," Drexel Coach Steve Seymour said. "He hit a couple big shots that keyed runs for them."
Young, who entered the game with 19 points to his credit, had 11 in the first half.
"I got a couple breaks, I got a couple shots, and I think that's what got me into the game," Young said.
AUBURN 73, VIRGINIA TECH: No. 6 Auburn rolled into the final of the San Juan Shootout as Chris Porter totaled 17 points and 10 rebounds in Puerto Rico. Auburn (9-1), the 1995 tournament champion, has won seven straight, including Monday's 109-52 rout of host Puerto Rico-Mayaguez.
"The press opened a lot of easy layups for us and that's when we took control of the game," said Porter.
The Tigers will play Pepperdine in today's championship game. Virginia Tech will face Louisiana-Lafayette in the third-place game.
Mamadou N'Diaye added 16 points and eight rebounds for the Tigers.
Reserve Brian Chase scored a career-high 22 points for Virginia Tech (5-4).
VIRGINIA 69, RICHMOND 65: In Richmond, Adam Hall scored five of his season-high 23 points during a 9-0 Virginia run midway through the second half.
"I believe we wanted it more," Hall said. "In the long term, our pressure tired them out. They didn't have legs to make the basket."
The Cavaliers are 7-3. Greg Stevenson led Richmond (4-5) with 22 points.
"It was a street fight--it wasn't pretty," said Virginia Coach Pete Gillen. "I think we did wear them out. It was our most intense press of the year."