An­other game in Nor­folk, an­other GMU set­back

Pa­tri­ots are close, but lose for sev­enth straight time at ODU

The Washington Post Sunday - - Sports - BY STEVEN GOFF goffs@wash­post.com

nor­folk — It hap­pens ev­ery win­ter: The Ge­orge Ma­son Pa­tri­ots board a bus in Fair­fax, spend three-plus hours on the in­ter­states, stay at a ho­tel across the street from Old Do­min­ion’s im­mac­u­late arena and the next af­ter­noon, with a plot line that re­volves an­nu­ally, they lose to the Monar­chs in front of a rowdy sell­out crowd.

The sev­enth con­sec­u­tive gut­ting de­feat at Con­stant Cen­ter came Satur­day, a 69-65 de­ci­sion that wasn’t de­cided un­til the fi­nal four sec­onds.

With the Pa­tri­ots trail­ing by two, An­dre Cor­nelius missed a three-pointer and ODU’s Frank Has­sell com­pen­sated for two late misses from the free throw line by mak­ing a pair with 1.9 sec­onds left to cap a wildly en­ter­tain­ing game be­tween the Colo­nial Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion’s pre­sea­son fa­vorites.

Ma­son (10-5, 2-2) over­came a late six-point deficit to draw even on Cam Long’s fourth three­p­ointer, but the Monar­chs (12-3, 3-1) went ahead on a power move by Has­sell (18 points) with 1 min­utes 23 sec­onds re­main­ing. Both sides then missed from the field, set­ting up­Ma­son’s last pos­ses­sion with 30 sec­onds to go.

The Pa­tri­ots had la­bored all day to pen­e­trate against the taller Monar­chs’ zone, so with his fi­nal time­out, Coach Jim Lar­ranaga in­structed his team to use screens and look for an out­side shot.

“We don’t have the kind of size and back-to-the-bas­ket scor­ing where we could’ve moved the ball around and dumped in­side,” he ex­plained, a point sup­ported by Ma­son’s dearth of front-court pro­duc­tion un­til the late stages.

The Pa­tri­ots had made seven of their pre­vi­ous 13 three-point­ers, and when they found Cor­nelius on the top right side, they were primed to end their funk in Nor­folk.

“It was the best look you can ever get for a last-sec­ond shot,” said Cor­nelius, a 5-foot-10 guard who is sec­ond on the team in three-point­ers and had made two ear­lier.

“It felt good when it left. I knew it was good.”

But not good enough. To the re­lief of the Monar­chs and their 8,344 sup­port­ers, the shot struck the rim.

“ The [de­fen­sive] ro­ta­tion got screwed up a lit­tle bit,” ODU guard Kent Baze­more said. “We didn’t want [Long or Cor­nelius] with the ball. When [Cor­nelius] went up, I was like, ‘No!’ ”

Ide­ally, the Pa­tri­ots would’ve pre­ferred to have got­ten the ball to Long, a se­nior guard who had made all four three-point at­tempts and 9 of 14 over­all for a sea­son-high 23 points. Cor­nelius was the next-best op­tion, and as Lar­ranaga said, “It’s his shot, it’s a very good look.”

Ryan Pearson scored eight of his 13 points­down­the stretch and Luke Han­cock added 13 plus seven as­sists for the Pa­tri­ots, who on Wed­nes­day will con­clude a stretch of six road trips over seven games with a visit to Northeastern, where they’ve lost four in a row by an av­er­age of 15 points.

De­spite be­ing out­re­bounded by just four, Ma­son was un­able to se­cure ODU misses con­sis­tently. The Monar­chs claimed 18 of­fen­sive re­bounds, one shy of the Pa­tri­ots’ de­fen­sive to­tal, and had 23 sec­ond-chance points. Long, who is 6-4, was the only Ma­son player with more than three de­fen­sive boards.

“It’s been a con­cern all sea­son,” Lar­ranaga said. “We only lost the [over­all re­bound­ing] bat­tle by four; it seemed like 24.”

With mul­ti­ple-shot pos­ses­sions, the Monar­chs pen­e­trated ef­fec­tively and uti­lized their su­pe­rior in­side game. Ju­nior for­ward Chris Cooper (For­est Park High) equaled his ca­reer high with nine points for the Monar­chs, who im­proved to 22-1 at home the past two sea­sons and re­warded Coach Blaine Tay­lor with his 200th vic­tory since ar­riv­ing in 2001.

Still, the Pa­tri­ots had their chance.

“We knew it was go­ing to come down to the wire,” Cor­nelius said. “We got a good last-sec­ond shot and I should have just knocked it down.”

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