- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 29, 2006

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Before he scored 12 points and had five assists in the Washington Wizards’ 116-98 win over the Golden State Warriors on Monday night, guard Antonio Daniels admitted he was caught up in George Mason’s NCAA tournament run.

“Man, I feel like I went to George Mason,” Daniels said. “I didn’t go to George Mason, didn’t go to school anywhere near George Mason. But I’m sitting there watching the games just like it’s my alma mater.”

Daniels’ connection is not to the program as much as it is to Patriots coach Jim Larranaga, who coached him at Bowling Green.

Daniels and Larranaga have a close relationship, made closer when Larranaga put aside his role as a coach to help comfort Daniels and his family when his older brother, Chris, a starting center for the University of Dayton, died of a heart attack in 1996.

Since joining the Wizards in the summer, Daniels and his wife, Sonia, have grown even closer to Larranaga. They have had dinner together following both George Mason and Wizards games.

In the later stages of the Patriots’ upset over Connecticut at Verizon Center on Sunday, which made George Mason the first 11th seed to reach the Final Four since LSU in 1986, Sonia called Antonio and told him that “she was going to cry” if Mason lost.

“That’s just because you know how good of a man [Larranaga] is, and you want the best for him,” Daniels said. “No one deserves it more than he does, I can tell you that. I’m a firm believer in karma and that good things happen to good people. For him to be the type of man that he is, I think it was just a matter of time before something like this happened.”

Daniels entered last night’s game at Sacramento hoping something good would happen for the Wizards, who handled Golden State on Monday night to reach the midpoint of their six-game Western Conference road game with a 2-1 record.

The Wizards got spectacular games from Gilbert Arenas (41 points, 10 assists and four steals) and Antawn Jamison (31 points, 14 rebounds), and Washington placed five players in double figures to improve its record to 36-33.

The Wizards were expected to have a harder time against Sacramento (35-35) last night. The Kings have won eight consecutive home games against the Wizards.

Sacramento has held its last nine opponents to less than 100 points and has won 14 of its last 15 homes games. The Kings are eighth in the West, two games ahead of Utah for the final playoff berth.

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