- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 22, 2011

George Mason endured a rare moment Wednesday night when it walked out of Patriot Center with a loss.

A contributing factor was something that’s become much more common: turnovers.

The end of the Patriots’ 18-game home winning streak coincided with a 22-turnover night, a jarring display for a team expected to be among the CAA’s top contenders.

“It was definitely on us,” guard Andre Cornelius said after the 75-64 loss to Duquesne. “It wasn’t that much pressure, but we made ourselves turn the ball over. We rushed our stuff a little bit on offense. they dictated what they wanted us to do on defense.”

It also wasn’t new.

It was the fourth 20-turnover game in 11 outings for Mason (7-4). In context, the Patriots had just eight 20-turnover nights in their previous six seasons.

Some of the issues come down to style. Former coach Jim Larranaga, who left for Miami in April, preferred a methodical approach. Paul Hewitt, in his first year in Fairfax, employs a more frenetic pace, which carries greater risk but also the chance to quickly uncork runs. An increase in turnovers was bound to happen, especially with an inexperienced backcourt.

Yet a third of the way through the season — and especially against an undersized Duquesne team desperate to keep Mason out of the paint — that side effect doesn’t appear to be ebbing.

Now, the Patriots must contend with a team whose defensive identity is forged through pressure. Manhattan (8-4) has forced at least 17 turnovers in its past four games and visits Fairfax on Friday.

“If we execute, it’s not a problem,” Hewitt said. “We played against pressing teams this year, and it wasn’t a problem. I don’t think their pressure bothered us tonight. I have to look at the tape, but there were some times we just threw the ball to them. I just didn’t understand it.”

Maybe that won’t be as great an issue in consecutive games for Mason. Hewitt said when pressure is anticipated, players at least know where the openings will be if they make the right decisions.

The return of Cornelius, who scored 11 points in his season debut Wednesday after a 10-game suspension stemming from an arrest for credit card fraud, will undoubtedly help cut down on the miscues. The senior came off the bench and at times spelled sophomore Bryon Allen at the point. Allen had seven turnovers against Duquesne.

There also was the issue of a break of more than a week, though Hewitt said workouts were good during the exam period.

“I don’t think it was time off, because we were practicing,” Morrison said. “It was just one of those days.”

It just happened to cost Mason its run of homecourt dominance, which matched the longest in Patriot Center history. The task of starting a new streak begins against Manhattan, a test for a team that wants no part of a penchant for giveaways it has shown at times to date and especially in Wednesday’s loss.

“I think for this team, so far this year they’ve responded well in those type of situations,” said Hewitt, whose team has yet to drop consecutive games this season. “We’ll be ready.”