George Mason, according to preseason expectations, was supposed to give perennial power Old Dominion its toughest competition in the Colonial Athletic Association. The Patriots offered a reminder last night as to why they had earned those expectations.
Unfortunately, it was just a brief reminder.
The Patriots trailed by just four at the half, but No. 18 Old Dominion turned up the pressure and cruised to a 75-56 victory at the Patriot Center to extend its conference winning streak to 88 games. Old Dominion has not lost a CAA game since 1995 and has won 137 of its last 138 conference games.
George Mason (5-10, 1-3 CAA) is winless in 22 games against Old Dominion, in a series that dates from 1975-76. Still, the result can be considered an improvement for George Mason. Old Dominion (12-3, 5-0) had won its last eight games against the Patriots by an average of 35.1 points, and last night's game was the closest since the 1994-95 season.
George Mason led twice during the first half last night and trailed 35-31 at halftime, despite being outrebounded 27-13 in the opening period. But the Patriots turned the ball over in each of their first three possessions of the second half, and Old Dominion went on an 18-4 run that cemented its lead.
"Other than maybe the first five minutes of the second half, we pretty much stayed with them," George Mason Coach Debbie Taneyhill said.
Old Dominion's pressure defense was too much for the Patriots, who committed 23 turnovers. Junior guard Jen Surlas, the team's leading scorer, made just 3 of 13 field goal attempts, although she made three three-pointers and had a team-high 13 points.
It's been a rough start for the Patriots, who not only have struggled on the court but had two of their key players, sophomores Maggie Johnston and Terrana Pyfrom, dismissed from the team last month for unspecified violations of team rules.
"We have so much talent on our team, it's just a matter of putting it together," Surlas said. "It's about five of us on the floor and nine of us on the team getting together and playing well. It's not like Old Dominion is [up] here and we're [down] here. We just have to play."
* EAST CAROLINA 70, AMERICAN 64: The Pirates broke open a tie game with an 8-2 run in the final 1 minute 54 seconds at Bender Arena. Junior guard Kate Miller and junior forward Jina Lewis each scored 18 points to lead American (9-5, 2-2).
* VIRGINIA TECH 59, TEMPLE 54: Chrystal Starling and Amy Wetzel each scored 16 points and grabbed three rebounds to lead the Hokies (11-5, 4-1 Atlantic 10) past the Owls (5-12, 0-6) in Philadelphia.
* TULANE 92, HOUSTON 74: In Houston, Sarah Goree scored 11 of her 20 points in the first 5 1/2 minutes to lead the No. 21 Green Wave (15-2, 4-2 Conference USA).