George Mason Men 90,
-- George Mason Coach Jim Larranaga has put away all the tricks he pulled out to get his Patriots through an injury-plagued November and December, junking the 2-3 zone defense and freshman-heavy lineups, and instead has put the fate of the team in the hands of its juniors and seniors.
His faith will rarely be rewarded more than it was tonight, when the Patriots dominated Towson for a 90-56 victory, the worst loss ever for the Tigers at Towson Center.
Junior swingman Mark Davis tied his career high with 26 points, center Jesse Young and forward Jon Larranaga, both seniors, added 20 and 18, respectively.
"Jon is our leader on the perimeter and Jesse is the leader inside," Jim Larranaga said. "They showed some great leadership tonight."
After Davis scored 14 points to help the Patriots take a 16-4 lead in the first six minutes, the elder Larranaga didn't have to do anything but watch the Patriots (8-5, 3-1 Colonial Athletic Association) cruise for the remainder.
Jamaal Gilchrist, a Notre Dame Academy alumnus, scored 14 points for Towson, and Lawrence Hamm had a team-high 16, but the Tigers could not get much going against the Patriots' scramble defense.
Pressure man-to-man defense "is our bread-and-butter," Young said. "It's huge to be able to play it again."
The defense produced 12 steals and 20 turnovers, even more remarkable considering its usual catalyst, senior Richard Tynes, went down with a left ankle sprain in the second minute.
Davis was electric, making three steals at midcourt and two three-pointers in the opening run. The junior college transfer forced the Tigers (3-10, 0-4) out of their offense set by repeatedly stripping power forward Jacob McCartney at the top of the key.
"I needed Brian Allen to beat Mark Davis," said Towson Coach Michael Hunt, referring to his all-CAA defensive team senior, one of a trio of upperclassmen embroiled in a very public dispute over playing time. "He did not do a good job tonight."
Although the Tigers reside at the bottom of the CAA standings, the Patriots were tripped up by similarly situated Hofstra earlier in the week, 60-57.
Larranaga cited Young's two rebounds against the Pride as a point of concern, and Young answered with a career-high 14 rebounds.
"We talked very directly to Jesse," Larranaga said. "We said, 'Your role on this team is to rebound. If we aren't able to get you the ball, you've got to get it yourself off the boards."
Larranaga now starts three juniors and two seniors, bringing in sophomore Colin Wyatt and two freshmen, Jai Lewis and Trent Wurtz, as reserves. Lewis and Wurtz each started for most of the early season.
"It's great to have these guys back," Young said. "Practice goes so much better."