- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 21, 2007

FAIRFAX — Will Thomas found himself with possession a few steps from the basket and only one man to outmaneuver on his way there.

Each individual episode led to a foregone conclusion: an easy layup for the smooth George Mason big man.

Combined, they produced something just as inevitable — a 78-53 victory over Northeastern before 6,928 at Patriot Center.

Thomas scored 20 points on 10-for-11 shooting to match the third most efficient shooting night in school history as the Patriots (11-7, 5-3 CAA) won their fifth straight heading into Wednesday’s showdown with conference leader Virginia Commonwealth.

The junior frequently only had one man to beat whenever the ball was funneled inside from the perimeter. He would pause, then gradually back the defender in before fluidly hoisting an unstoppable hook in the lane.

“It’s good not seeing double teams and triple teams,” Thomas said with a sheepish grin. “One-on-one is great for any post player.”

Thomas made his first seven shots, a continuation of a torrid stretch coinciding with the Patriots’ surge.

He is 30-for-38 from the floor in his last four games, and is shooting 65.5 percent for the season.

While Adrian Martinez hit five 3-pointers — most from NBA range — to keep the Huskies (5-14, 3-5) within 36-30 at halftime, Thomas established himself as an immovable force in the paint. He slipped one in off the glass early in the second half, a textbook example of post play.

“If teams play him one-on-one, it’s an automatic bucket,” said guard John Vaughan, who scored 16 points. “That’s what I told him after he made his second straight layup. I told him if they play him one-on-one, that’s two points.”

The Huskies at times concurred with Vaughan’s assessment, if only because George Mason was not about to switch tactics. It was an unpleasant choice for Northeastern, which was concerned with George Mason’s outside shooting in the event of an interior double-team.

The fears were well-founded since Thomas kicked it to the perimeter several times as the Patriots shot 7-for-15 from the 3-point line. Thomas only had one basket in George Mason’s 12-3 run to open the second half. Instead, Darryl Monroe’s turnaround jumper and Folarin Campbell’s reverse dunk off a steal got the lead into double figures for good.

Moments later, guard Jordan Carter demurred on a nearly open shot on the right wing, instead zipping it to Vaughan at the top of the arc for an easy 3-pointer and a 48-35 lead.

It was one of many things to go right for George Mason, which held a 34-26 rebounding edge and committed only six turnovers. Carter, Gabe Norwood and Dre Smith combined for 13 assists and no turnovers, a sign the Patriots’ surge could continue well into the next six weeks.

Thomas was the main attraction, though, and he put on a three-possession clinic before departing. First came a hook, then a reverse layup and finally another easy bucket after he effortlessly backed his way to the basket to bump the lead beyond 20.

“He’s going to really punish you with the left-hand jump hook,” George Mason coach Jim Larranaga said. “If you try to take that away, he’s going to go immediately to punishing you on the drop step. He just knows how to play this game so simply. His clear picture of attacking the rim [is that] if the defense plays one side, that opens up the other side. He’s as good as I’ve ever coached at that.”

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