George Mason was never out of Saturday’s game against Delaware, but the Patriots were never in it, either.
Trailing almost the entire game, George Mason failed to assemble a substantial run in the second half and dropped a 79-72 decision before 5,567 observers, their first home loss to the Blue Hens in 11 years.
Fueled by consecutive road victories, “I was looking to see some carryover,” Coach Paul Hewitt said. Instead, his team did not forge a lead at any point, conceded a 12-4 run immediately after intermission and wasn’t able to score more than five unanswered points in the second half.
Undone by foul trouble, soft defending and a sputtering offense, the Patriots (14-10, 7-5) fell into fifth place in the Colonial Athletic Association and dropped to 3-3 at home in conference play.
Hewitt received two-pronged production from the front court — a rarity during this guard-led campaign. Jonathan Arledge continued his winter surge with 15 points and a career-high 11 rebounds and Erik Copes, who has been hampered all season by a hip injury, had a career-best 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting and 10 rebounds.
Guard Bryon Allen added 12 points, five rebounds and eight assists (with no turnovers), but leading scorer Sherrod Wright shot 4 of 16 and finished with 12 points.
The Patriots corralled 17 offensive rebounds and had more field goals and three-pointers than Delaware (12-12, 7-4). But the Blue Hens had no issues with pressure and enjoyed numerous open shots, leading to a 14-of-25 conversion rate (56 percent) in the second half. They also hit 25 of 30 free throws overall (83.3 percent).
Hewitt was frustrated by the officiating. Midway through the second half, after Wright appeared to draw contract on a long jumper, Hewitt growled, “Are you serious?” as referee Haywood Bostic ran past him.
But the Patriots had themselves to blame, as well.
“We just kept on putting them on the line,” said Arledge, who collected his fourth foul with almost 15 minutes remaining on a borderline call under the basket. Copes and Allen fouled out and Corey Edwards committed three of his four in the first half.
Blue Hens guard Devon Saddler, the CAA’s top scorer, had 22 points despite shooting 6 of 17 from the field. Back-court partner Jarvis Threatt contributed 20 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. They combined to hit 13 of 15 free throws.
“They got off to a fast start, and it just seemed like every time we tried to string together some stops, we would put them on the foul line,” Hewitt said.
The Blue Hens are the third-poorest three-point shooting team in the CAA but started 4 of 7 to help build a nine-point lead. Over the final eight-plus minutes of the half, however, the Patriots held them without a field goal and forced three turnovers.
Arledge scored eight straight Mason points, but the Blue Hens made eight consecutive free throws to maintain the lead, 33-29, at the break.
Delaware regained its rhythm to start the second half, and when Threatt made an open three-pointer, the lead was 10. Copes kept the Patriots close, but the Blue Hens didn’t face much shooting resistance.
Mason’s last push came on Marko Gujanicic’s three-pointer with 1 minute 40 seconds left, trimming its deficit to five, but Josh Brinkley (17 points) scored inside and the Blue Hens made all eight free throws in the final 45 seconds.
Patriots notes: Starting forward Johnny Williams (concussion) missed his fourth consecutive game. . . . Arledge, who is averaging 17.3 points and 7.3 rebounds in the past four games, had his streak of consecutive made free throws end at 22.