Patriots are still seeking answers

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George Mason had several chances to atone for its slow start yesterday, but save for a flurry in the game’s fleeting moments, the Patriots could not take advantage.

Bucknell crafted a 13-point halftime advantage and hung on for a 60-57 victory at Verizon Center despite playing for the second time in as many days. The Patriots (3-3) scored only 20 points in the first half and trailed at the break for the fourth time this season.

“I think that is the question we keep asking ourselves,” George Mason coach Jim Larranaga said. “We’ve changed the lineup several times trying to find the right combination of players or the right defense. So far we don’t have the answers.”

Folarin Campbell led George Mason with 20 points, and reserve Dre Smith scored all 11 of his in the second half. Donald Brown had 16 points, nine rebounds and a pair of impressive blocked shots to lead Bucknell, which has won three of four after a 0-4 start.

After Bucknell, which lost at home to Northern Iowa 57-48 on Saturday afternoon, stretched its lead to 15 with the opening basket of the second half, George Mason answered with seven straight points. The Patriots stretched out their defensive pressure and cut the lead to six several times.

Smith hit a 3-pointer to make it 44-38 with 10:07 to play, but the Patriots went more than five minutes without a basket. They missed six consecutive shots and turned the ball over during the stretch.

Bucknell didn’t put George Mason away, but the Bison did make three shots just before the shot clock expired to keep the Patriots at a comfortable distance.

The Patriots struggled to find openings inside the 3-point line against Bucknell’s compact zone defense. Smith was 3-for-4 from beyond the arc, but his teammates were only 4-for-17.

“We settled for too many outside shots early, which is exactly opposite of what we want to do,” Larranaga said. “We clearly have to develop another inside guy because Will Thomas can’t carry the load by himself all the time.”

Bucknell center Chris McNaughton, preseason player of the year in the Patriot League, had a substandard offensive day (six points) but played a large part in frustrating Thomas, who missed eight of 12 shots and turned the ball over four times.

“We wanted to make him shoot tough shots over us,” McNaughton said. “He caught the ball off the block a lot and tried to back us in. … He missed quite a bunch of shots, and we made him throw it back out, and I think that was key point for us today.”

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