Long, Pearson pace Pa­tri­ots to un­sightly vic­tory

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

When the pub­lic-ad­dress an­nouncer pro­claimed that one minute re­mained in Ge­orge Ma­son’s 66-51 vic­tory over Ge­or­gia State on Satur­day, wide­spread ap­plause echoed through­out Pa­triot Cen­ter. It’s not an un­com­mon re­sponse when the home team is win­ning, but on this fit­ful af­ter­noon in Fair­fax, it cou­pled as an out­pour­ing of re­lief that the choppy and un­sightly game was near­ing a mer­ci­ful con­clu­sion.

The of­fi­ci­at­ing crew had used video re­play three times. Pan­thers Coach Rod Barnes had called a rapid suc­ces­sion of time­outs. There were in­jury de­lays, a tech­ni­cal foul, 37 per­sonal fouls, 33 turnovers and 45 free throw at­tempts.

The 5,714 spec­ta­tors seemed as ex­hausted as the play­ers.

“At one point, my [as­sis­tant] coaches said, ‘We need to sub.’ I said, ‘Why?’ It was such a slow­mov­ing con­test,” Ge­orge Ma­son Coach Jim Lar­ranaga said af­ter his team im­proved to 12-5 over­all and 4-2 in the Colo­nial Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion.

It was not only a plod­ding game, but a strange one as well.

Af­ter shoot­ing 67 per­cent Wed­nes­day at Northeastern, the Pa­tri­ots needed al­most 10 min­utes to make a sec­ond field goal. The Pan­thers (8-8, 3-3) en­tered as the sec­ond-worst free throw shoot­ing team in the coun­try (56.7 per­cent), yet made 11 of 14.

No­to­ri­ous free throw shoot­ers them­selves, the Pa­tri­ots con­verted 16 of 18 in the sec­ond half and 25 of 31 over­all (80.6 per­cent). Mike Mor­ri­son, a 43 per­cent shooter, made 6 of 9. Ma­son’s co-lead­ing re­bounder, with six, was 5-foot-10 An­dre Cor­nelius.

Dis­rup­tions and pe­cu­liar­i­ties aside, the Pa­tri­ots mus­tered enough de­fen­sive grit to trig­ger tran­si­tion bas­kets and a 9-0 surge dur­ing a 42-point sec­ond half for their eighth home vic­tory with­out a loss.

Cam Long had 18 points on 8-of-12 shoot­ing, Ryan Pearson added 14 and sixth man Isa­iah Tate con­trib­uted 11 points, six re­bounds and out­stand­ing de­fense to help pull the Pa­tri­ots out of their early-game dol­drums.

Their prob­lems ac­tu­ally be­gan at Fri­day’s prac­tice, which fol­lowed a la­bo­ri­ous week of travel to and from bliz­zards-tricken Bos­ton for Thurs­day’s 86-60 win over Northeastern.

“ The at­mos­phere and en­vi­ron­ment seemed re­ally dead,” Long said of prac­tice. “Ev­ery­body was look­ing a lit­tle lazy and tired.”

So Lar­ranaga halted the ses­sion, sent the play­ers to the locker room to re­group and then tried again. Al­though play im­proved, the weari­ness car­ried into Satur­day. The Pan­thers also ar­rived fa­tigued af­ter hav­ing their midweek game at James Madi­son de­layed a day.

What re­sulted was an ugly dis­play. Each team needed about 10 min­utes to score 10 points. The Pa­tri­ots struck for 12 straight to lead by nine be­fore the Pan­thers pulled within 24-21 at half­time.

The game con­tin­ued to sput­ter in the sec­ond half. Be­tween the 18-minute 9-sec­ond and 15:29 marks, there were five sub­stan­tial stop­pages: two Ge­or­gia State time­outs, an of­fi­cial time­out and two video con­sul­ta­tions. On the first re­view, an ap­par­ent Pan­thers foul was changed to a tech­ni­cal foul on Pearson for in­ad­ver­tently el­bow­ing his de­fender as he turned to shoot in the low post.

Ma­son was un­able to pull away un­til mid­way through the half. Lead­ing by two, the Pa­tri­ots in­creased the tempo and pres­sure, forc­ing sev­eral of Ge­or­gia State’s 20 turnovers. Dur­ing the 9-0 run, an in­stant be­fore a Pan­ther was go­ing to in­ter­cept an out­let pass, Tate tapped the ball ahead to LukeHan­cock for a layup as part of a three-point play.

“We started pres­sur­ing them on ev­ery score, and that sped them up a lit­tle bit in the full court and got them a lit­tle bit out of con­trol,” Tate said. “We were able to get some fast break points, we were able to get our guys go­ing and pick our en­ergy up.”

PRE­STON KERES FOR THE WASHINGTON POST

Ryan Pearson slams home two of his 14 points in the first half for Ge­orgeMa­son, which im­proves to 12-5 over­all and 4-2 in CAA play.

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