- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 13, 2002

George Mason, playing at home against a team with a key starter missing, had a chance last night to reach 20 victories and allow its program to take a step up.
Apparently, the Patriots are not ready to take that step.
St. Joseph's guards Marvin O'Connor and Jameer Nelson combined to score 42 points and lead the Hawks to a 73-64 victory over the Patriots in the opening round of the National Invitation Tournament before 3,355 at the Patriot Center.
It was all there on a platter for George Mason. St. Joseph's, a perennial Atlantic 10 power, was a preseason top 10 selection. This is the type of victory people notice, and George Mason came up short partly by making just five of 21 3-pointers (23.8 percent). George Mason ended its season 19-11.
"I wasn't really expecting to get a home game in the NIT, especially playing against an Atlantic 10 team [because] usually they get more publicity," said George Mason forward Jon Larranaga, who led the Patriots with 22 points. "We really didn't take advantage of the situation we were presented. For teams in our situation, you have to win these games if you want to get on the map."
St. Joseph's was without second-leading scorer Na'im Crenshaw, a 6-foot-5 senior guard who averaged 14.3 points this season. After Crenshaw skipped practice Sunday and arrived late Monday, coach Phil Martelli suspended him for one game and didn't let the slasher/shooter travel for last night's game.
The Hawks (19-11) didn't need Crenshaw because O'Connor and Nelsen were enough by themselves. O'Connor (14 points), Nelsen (28) and reserve wing Delonte West (eight), who is from Greenbelt, outscored the Patriots guards 50-17.
Nelson scored 11 of his game-high 28 points from the free throw line. Nelson, a first-team Atlantic 10 selection, scored his 28 points on just 12 shots from the floor. The 6-foot sophomore guard from Chester, Pa., added six assists and three steals to his line.
"We didn't think they had a matchup where they could guard Jameer," St. Joseph's coach Phil Martelli said.
Martelli was right. George Mason freshman point guard Lamar Butler left the game in the first half with shin splits. Raoul Heinen, the Patriots' designated stopper, got into foul trouble in the second half, and Nelson scored 15 of his 28 points after the break.
The Patriots made a short-lived run at the Hawks late in the second half. After being down by 58-40 with 12:39 left, the Patriots cut the deficit to 58-53 on Rob Anderson's 3-pointer from the left wing with 7:14 remaining. That was as close as the Patriots got down the stretch.
This game really highlighted the difference between the Colonial Athletic Conference and the higher-profile leagues like the Atlantic 10.
St. Joseph's was quicker, stronger and bigger across the board than the Patriots. Nelson and backcourt mate O'Connor were the best players on the floor last night.


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide