The Washington Times - January 18, 2012, 10:58PM

The prevailing theme of George Mason’s 89-63 bludgeoning of Delaware on Wednesday night was perhaps the Patriots’ efficient offense.

Or maybe it was the Blue Hens’ porous defense.


Probably, it was a combination of the two.

Mason (14-5, 6-1) remained in a share of the CAA lead with Old Dominion in an appropriate manner, dominating the paint against the woefully undisciplined Blue Hens (7-10, 3-4).

Ryan Pearson scored 24 points and Mike Morrison added 17 for the Patriots, who scored 52 points in the paint.

More revealing was Mason’s meager turnover total of eight, a number even coach Paul Hewitt couldn’t explain.

“If you know, tell me please,” Hewitt said. “I have no idea. We were cleaner. We were more efficient at times. We make some plays sometimes that I just scratch my head.”

There were few such instances of that on offense. But it is fascinating that for as well as Mason handled the ball while shooting 54.4 percent, it only had 13 assists on 31 baskets.

That means Delaware was more than a little culpable for the Patriots reaching 89 points for the second straight game. Mason had 15 points on the fast break and 26 off turnovers, and it was not uncommon to see a Patriot breezing to the basket for a layup.

But Mason warrants credit for making its transition game work especially well.

“We practice running and we want to be a running team and we want to be a high-scoring team,” Pearson said. “The way to get more possessions in a game is to get easy baskets. The easiest baskets you can get are uncontested layups.”

It turned out there were plenty of those to be had on Wednesday.

Six other thoughts from Mason’s latest victory over a second-division conference foe …

—— Handling business. Perhaps the most welcome sign Wednesday was how efficiently the Patriots dispatched Delaware.

It was 16-4 barely five minutes into the game. The Blue Hens never led and never got closer than four points after Mason’s opening burst.

It was precisely the sort of outing a championship-caliber team would be expected to collect on its home court against a struggling team. That’s especially true of Delaware, which has lost its six games in Fairfax under coach Monte Ross by an average of 18.5 points.

It’s also a skill the Patriots can immediately put to use again. Towson (0-19) visits the Patriot Center on Saturday and brings a 38-game losing streak stretching back to last season with it.

—— Conserving minutes. Mason’s biggest bonus Wednesday was a rare opportunity to rest regulars in conference play.

Pearson played only 29 minutes. Morrison was needed for only 26. None of the Patriots’ starting guards logged more than 24 minutes. Meanwhile, five reserves received at least 10 minutes of playing time.

Hewitt said he wasn’t consciously trying to manage the minutes of his top players as Mason began a four-games-in-eight-days stretch. Still, it won’t hurt to have a little extra rest heading into the next week.

—— Crowd control. Mason drew 3,927, its smallest crowd this season for a game included in the season-ticket package (its two Preseason NIT consolation games were not bundled into the season tickets).

It was an often-uninterested crowd, quiet at the start and only occasionally intrigued by the blowout in front of them.

The opponent didn’t help, and neither did the fact classes have yet to resume. The Patriots’ average attendance is 4,091 and ranks third in the CAA, well above most schools. But it is also far behind the 7,000-plus-per-game crowds typically seen at Old Dominion and Virginia Commonwealth.

—— Copes status uncertain. Freshman Erik Copes sat out for the second straight game. The forward had a rough fall in the second half of last week’s loss at Drexel.

Hewitt did not commit to playing Copes against Towson on Saturday, simply saying he would follow the instructions of his team’s athletic trainer. Copes is averaging 3.4 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.3 blocks.

—— Technically speaking. Morrison collected his third technical foul of the season after some extracurricular activity with Delaware’s Hakim McCullar at the end of the first half.

“Like coach said, they say the scouting report on us is soft and you can push us around and can punch us in the face,” Morrison said. “A lot of teams try to do that. I know this guy next to me [Pearson] isn’t going to let anybody do that, and I’m not either. We played hard and physical down there. Sometimes, fouls will be called on us, and sometimes fouls will be called on them and sometimes technicals happen. As long as it’s in the spirit of the game. You play hard down there.”

—— Gray’s day. Vaughn Gray provided at least six points in just three of Mason’s first 16 games.

He’s done it three games running, supplying a lift off the bench and further establishing the Patriots as one of the CAA’s deepest teams.

The freshman finished with seven points in 15 minutes, including a nifty layup in the first 10 minutes.

—- Patrick Stevens