George Mason Coach Jim Larranaga figures he has started a game with his team in a zone defense five times during his coaching career. He would much prefer to play man-to-man and pressure defense.

Larranaga, however, may soon become a convert to zone defense if the Patriots continue to play well. George Mason has started its last three games in a zone defense, winning all three, including last night's 65-45 nonconference victory over Niagara before 2,832 at Patriot Center.

"We're a team that likes to play pressure defense," Larranaga said. "We're not as deep as we've been. We don't have as many guys to go to. We've been utilizing the zone to give us a secondary half-court defense, and it worked effectively."

Since enduring its worst start in 23 seasons, George Mason (3-3) has won three straight not only because of its defense, but the Patriots also have been playing better offensively.

Led by Jesse Young's 18 points, George Mason had four players score in double figures.

"We have so many new guys," junior forward Jon Larranaga said. "I think we played more zone [against Niagara] than we did my entire freshman year."

Niagara (1-4), which was held to its lowest scoring output of the season, shot just 29 percent from the field. Tremmell Darden, who has scored in double figures in the Purple Eagles first four games, missed 11 of 13 field goal attempts and finished with four points.

"That's as good of a defensive team as we have faced this year," Niagara Coach Joe Mihalich said. "They really cover a lot of areas in that zone."

As the season has progressed, the Patriots have begun to have a better understanding of each other. That's led to a much more productive offense.

"The first two games we didn't know how to play together," Young said. "We're just now starting to find a rhythm. . . . The past couple games we've been moving the ball, sharing it."

* WILLIAM & MARY 60, VIRGINIA TECH 52: Sherman Rivers (Potomac) scored 18 points and the Tribe held the Hokies to 13 points and 16.7 percent shooting in the first half in Williamsburg.

Adam Hess had 13 points and 12 rebounds for William & Mary (1-4). Carlos Dixon scored 12 points for Virginia Tech (4-3).

* JAMES MADISON 84, AKRON 82: David Fanning scored the last two of his 28 points on a shot with 34 seconds to play, rescuing the Dukes at home after they blew a 21-point lead in the second half.

Chris Williams added 15 points for James Madison (2-3). Derrick Tarver and John Hollingsworth led the Zips (2-3) with 26 points each.

* COASTAL CAROLINA 63, NAVY 59: Jason Jeanpierre scored 13 points and Scott Long had 10 points and nine rebounds but the Midshipmen (2-5) turned the ball over 22 times in Conway, S.C.