Jesse Young hopped over the first row of fans and Jon Larranaga crashed into the scorer's table, both chasing loose balls in a blowout. The hustle of George Mason's two seniors set the tone in their final game at Patriot Center, leading the Patriots to a much-needed 69-52 victory over Old Dominion yesterday.
The pair's performances offered a snapshot of their careers. Young, a 6-foot-10 center, scored 19 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for his 16th career double-double. Larranaga, who has played every position but center this season, was typically diverse in finishing with 13 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists.
"When we get them playing that well, then we're a very good team," George Mason Coach Jim Larranaga said.
The win helped ease the pressure created by a two-game losing streak, with a 57-52 loss to James Madison here on Saturday briefly putting the Patriots in danger of falling into the play-in games of the Colonial Athletic Association tournament.
Now, George Mason (15-11, 10-7) has ensured at least fourth place, and possibly a third seed if Drexel loses to Delaware tonight and the Patriots beat the Dragons in Philadelphia on Saturday.
"We didn't play especially well against Madison," Jon Larranaga said. "We were really playing well as a team tonight, and that's how you want to be remembered."
Early in the game, Jim Larranaga pulled aside junior point guard Raoul Heinen and urged him to attack the basket more aggressively. Heinen, who had three assists and 10 turnovers over the previous three games, responded with 13 points, 4 assists and just 1 turnover. The Patriots had 17 assists after totaling 12 in the two losses.
"Raoul is a big catalyst for us," Jim Larranaga said. "When he plays well, we normally play well."
Young, whose inconsistency this season hit its low point when he scored a combined 10 points over the past two games, began the game aggressively, hitting a pair of fadeaway jumpers over the Patriots' first three possessions.
With 8 minutes 43 seconds left, he muscled inside but botched a layup and was blocked on a put-back before finally laying the ball in and drawing a foul for a three-point play.
"Jesse was a load to handle on the boards all night," Monarchs Coach Blaine Taylor said.
The play gave the Patriots a 19-18 lead and sparked a 10-0 run from which Old Dominion (11-14, 8-9) was unable to recover. George Mason led 41-26 at halftime and held a 20-point advantage for most of the second half.
"My mom was here," said Young, whose nervousness forced him to vomit at halftime. "It's the first time she's been able to see me this year."
* HOWARD 105, NORTH CAROLINA A&T 81: Senior guard Ron Williamson scored 39 points for the Bison, and the Aggies remained winless on the season. He scored a school-record 52 points in a victory over North Carolina A&T in January.
Mario Grove scored 20 points on 10-for-14 shooting for the Bison (11-14, 9-7 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference), who shot 55 percent and hit 11 of 26 shots from behind the arc.
Landon Beckwith scored 26 points for the Aggies (0-23, 0-14), who haven't won a game since Feb. 23, 2002.