No matter who takes the floor for George Mason these days the Patriots seem to find a way to win. Using their fourth starting lineup in seven games, the Patriots survived a late-game scoring drought to pull out a 55-54 victory over Hartford yesterday.
The win, before 1,779 at Patriot Center, extended the Patriots' winning streak to five. It came despite GMU going the final 3 minutes 42 seconds without scoring.
"Honestly, I have no idea how we won this game," senior forward Jon Larranaga said.
Freshman forward Jai Lewis was a big reason the Patriots (5-3) pulled out the victory. Lewis scored a career-high 17 points on 7-of-7 shooting in his third start of the season and second in a row in place of suspended senior forward Jesse Young.
Young's suspension, coupled with Coach Jim Larranaga's search for the right combination, gave Lewis a chance to shine.
Young received a two-game suspension on Dec. 9 for violating team rules. Jim Larranaga refused to comment on the violation other than to say that Young's status will be reviewed prior to the Patriots' Dec. 28 game against No. 2 Pittsburgh. The George Mason campus police Web site reported that an individual named Jesse Young was cited for public intoxication.
"His status has not been determined," Jim Larranaga said.
Lewis scored the first six points of the game for GMU and tied his season high of 12 points by halftime.
Although the 275-pound Lewis was an offensive force inside, he wasn't as effective defensively around the basket -- and he didn't get much help either. The Patriots allowed Hartford (3-5) to score 22 points off offensive rebounds. The Hawks, who have yet to win on the road, had 22 offensive rebounds and outrebounded the Patriots 46-30.
"They just outworked us, boxed us out and got in position to get the rebound," Lewis said.
GMU's final points came on Richard Tynes's layup, which made the score 55-52. Hartford's Trevor Good scored with 1:48 remaining to cut George Mason's lead to one. In the final 11/2 minutes, Raoul Heinen missed a three-pointer and a free throw. John Larranaga missed a jump shot. And Lewis missed a pair of free throws.
Hartford had two good chances to score in the final seconds, but Junior Amous's layup was blocked by Tynes and Aaron Cook's three-point attempt was blocked by Trent Wurtz. The Patriots finished with eight blocks.
Sophomore forward Colin Wyatt made his season debut at the 14:12 mark of the first half. Wyatt missed the first seven games after having surgery on his left knee on Sept. 25. Wyatt finished with two points and three blocks in eight minutes.
* RICE 82, NAVY 60: Omar-Seli Mance scored 17 points, and Jason McKrieith and Ryan Gillespie each added 14 as Rice University defeated Navy in Annapolis.
Rice led 38-36 at halftime and went on a 24-6 tear to begin the second half -- taking a 62-42 lead with 11:38 to play. Rice's run was highlighted by four three-pointers: one from Rashid Smith, another from Mance and two from Gillespie. Gillespie made all four of his three-point attempts.
After Rice's long-range exhibition, Navy (3-7) never was able to contend. Francis Ebong led the Midshipmen with a game-high 20 points and 12 rebounds.