- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 12, 2012

PHILADELPHIA — George Mason rolled into Thursday night with a real chance at creating separation in the CAA.

Instead it picked the wrong time – and the wrong opponent – to offer a scattershot approach.

The Patriots crumbled on offense in the closing stretch of a 60-53 loss to Drexel at the Daskalakis Athletic Center, suffering their first conference loss of the season.

“They out-toughed us at the end to get that win,” Hewitt said

More telling, the Patriots (12-5, 4-1 CAA) scored only 11 points in the final eight minutes against the stingy Dragons (11-5, 3-2), who completed a sweet of George Mason and Virginia Commonwealth.

Freshman Damion Lee scored 21 points – 16 in the second half – for Drexel, which does not have to play either the Patriots or the Rams on the road this season.

That’s hardly a concern at the moment for Mason, who have plenty to dissect after falling in front of a frenzied sellout crowd of 2,532.

It was a second straight shaky offensive night for forward Ryan Pearson, who is 1-for-13 from the floor in the last two games. The usual standbys on the perimeter, Andre Cornelius and Vertrail Vaughns, combined for one 3-pointer.

Yet the greatest scrutiny will remain with the final four minutes, when the Dragons erased a 51-50 deficit and in the end wound up with the largest lead either team enjoyed.

Mason managed only two points in its final eight possessions. When the Patriots didn’t turn it over, they forced shots and looked haphazard just a week after handling a boisterous environment at Old Dominion with aplomb.

“I just felt like we were rushing,” guard Bryon Allen said. “We weren’t playing the way we were in the first half. In the first half, we were definitely tougher than them. In the second half, we just started to get too lackadaisical.”

Mike Morrison scored 10 points to lead Mason, which fell to 26-5 overall and 15-2 against CAA opponents when the senior forward reached double figures in scoring. Both losses to conference foes came at Drexel.

The modest offensive output was no surprise considering the Dragons’ well-deserved reputation for stout defense and physical play. Intriguingly, it was Mason freshman Erik Copes who earned the most attention for his defense, blocking seven shots in the first half.

Drexel coach Bruiser Flint was displeased with his sputtering team early and saw a more vibrant bunch after the break. Key to that was Lee, a Baltimore product, who matched his career-high in scoring.

None of his baskets were more important than consecutive 3-pointers shortly after the final media timeout to give Drexel a 56-51 edge.

Story Continues →