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Turnover-prone Mason suffers rare home loss

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Paul Hewitt didn’t think his George Mason team was ready to play Wednesday.

It was tough to quibble with his assessment.

The Patriots’ 22 turnovers and inability to rebound against an undersized Duquesne team earned them a 75-64 loss, snapping an 18-game home winning streak.

“I don’t think we had bad looks,” forward Mike Morrison said. “Just a lot of shots didn’t go down, and 22 turnovers, that’s a lot of shots we didn’t get to take.”

A lot.

Mason committed turnovers early (11 in the first half) and late (11 more in the second half). It self-destructed for swaths of the evening, got seven turnovers from starting point guard Bryon Allen and slogged its way through a lethargic post-exam test against the persistent Dukes (7-5) – who were not immune to turnovers on a sloppy all-around evening.

They did, though, make fewer mistakes than Mason (7-4), which narrowed a 15-point deficit to 40-39 early in the second half. But Morrison missed a dunk out of a timeout, and Duquesne’s T.J. McConnell hit a fastbreak jumper off the carom.

“We had a missed dunk out there and that’s definitely a tough one,” Morrison said. “I don’t miss too many of those.”

On the next trip, McConnell hit a 3-pointer, and the Patriots never got closer than a possession on one of their most forgettable nights of the year.

“Obviously, I didn’t go over things I needed to go over,” Hewitt said. “I thought we emphasized transition defense. I thought we emphasized just taking care of the ball. We talked about goals we had set for turnovers and transition baskets and we didn’t reach those goals. We didn’t give ourselves a chance to win.”

Five more observations from Mason’s first double-digit loss at home since 2007 …

* Cornelius’ debut. Senior guard Andre Cornelius made his first appearance of the season after a 10-game suspension following an arrest and subsequent guilty plea to misdemeanor credit card fraud.

The early returns: 11 points, three steals and an assist against one turnover in 24 minutes.,

“It felt good to be back,” said Cornelius, who received an ovation when he checked in nearly four minutes into the game. “ It felt good to have the fans with me before the game. I feel  like I was in a groove a little bit, but I was rushing my shots a little bit. I had to take my time.”

His impact on the rotation was immediate. Cornelius played more minutes than freshman Corey Edwards and as many minutes as Sherrod Wright. Freshman Vaughn Gray had his first DNP of the season.

“I thought he played well,” Hewitt said. “You could see his experienced helped him coming off a layoff like that.”

* Paint problems. Regardless of who is manning the backcourt for Mason, it’s clear the Patriots need to funnel the offense through Morrison and Ryan Pearson.

The two seniors combined for 19 points on 20 shots, and they managed only two free throws between them.

This against a team that started only one guy taller than 6-foot-6 and brought only one more off the bench.

“We were able to effectively keep the ball out of the interior, which I was not sure if we could do,” Duquesne coach Ron Everhart said.

* Home humbling. Mason mourned the end of its homecourt winning streak, which stretched back to the start of last season.

“It feels bad because we were on a winning streak [at home],” Cornelius said. “We said that coming out. It feels bad right now. It feels bad to lose at home. I hate losing period, but especially at home.”

The streak was tied for Mason’s longest at the Patriot Center.

* Dukes shuffle it up. Duquesne had started the same lineup for 11 straight games.

That changed when Everhart brought his four upperclassmen off the bench in response to a lackluster 85-71 loss at Western Michigan. McConnell was the lone regular starter to get the nod against Mason.

“We always had some obstacles to overcome at Duquesne ever since I’ve been there,” Everhart said. “The last thing I ever want to be is a coach who has a cool basketball team, and I thought in our last game, for the first time in a lot of years, maybe ever since I’ve been here, we were too cool to play hard. That’s not something that’s going to happen ever.”

* Up next. George Mason plays host to Manhattan (8-4) on Friday night in its final home game of the calendar year. The press-happy Jaspers are coming off an 81-62 victory at Towson and have already surpassed their victory total from last year.

Patrick Stevens

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