- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 25, 2007

George Mason’s ugly side made an untimely return last night.

The Patriots came into a CAA showdown with Virginia Commonwealth on a five-game winning streak, blowing out opponents with sharp shooting and stellar defense. But in a 75-62 loss to the Rams at Patriot Center, George Mason looked more like the team that lost seven of its first 13 games, shooting inconsistently and looking susceptible on defense, particularly against 3-pointers.

VCU (17-3, 9-0) became the first team to win its first nine CAA games since 1991-92. The Rams made 12 of 20 3-pointers (60 percent) against the conference’s top team in scoring defense.

For the winners, B.A. Walker was particularly potent with 24 points on 5-for-8 3-point shooting, and point guard Eric Maynor was an excellent distributor with 10 assists to go along with his 10 rebounds and eight points.

Meanwhile, the Patriots (11-8, 5-4) bumbled countless opportunities to get back into the game by making five of 17 3-pointers and only nine of 21 free throws.

“They go 12-for-20 on supposedly the tougher shot, the 3-pointer, and we go 9-for-21 with no one on us,” George Mason coach Jim Larranaga said. “It was a one-point game at the half. I thought we were in good shape. Then, they struck gold in the second on offense.”

It was that kind of night for the Patriots to the dismay of a crowd of 7,579. George Mason hoped to show it was capable of competing for the conference title. Instead, the Rams moved to 8-0 on the road.

Folarin Campbell led the Patriots with 19 points but made only four of eight free throws. Will Thomas added 14 points but went 4-for-10 at the line. Dre Smith made only one of four 3-pointers on his seven-point night, while John Vaughan — who had made 13 of 25 3-pointers over the last four games — failed to score while missing three shots, including two 3-pointers, in 16 minutes.

“It was a big game. We have to show up for a big game,” Campbell said after the Patriots all but ensured their only path back to the NCAA tournament will be by winning the CAA tournament. “We go through 10 minutes of free throws every day. It is on us. We don’t take it seriously.”

George Mason’s Darryl Monroe had a career-high 14 points by halftime but did not score while taking only one shot after the break.

VCU took over after Campbell went coast-to-coast for a running bank shot to cut the Rams’ lead to 40-39. Walker and Michael Anderson made 3-pointers to push the lead to seven. Thomas’ spinning layup cut the deficit to 49-44 before VCU scored four straight.

George Mason had its chances to cut into VCU’s 59-51 lead. Thomas and Smith missed the front ends of one-and-ones. With the same score, the Patriots seemed to catch a break with 7:26 left after Jesse Pellot-Rosa (14 points) picked up his fourth foul and then his fifth on a technical for arguing the call. However, Campbell only was able to make two of the four free throws.

Notes — VCU’s only loss in its last 16 games was to Appalachian State 73-70 on Dec. 30. … VCU first-year coach Anthony Grant was an assistant on the Florida team that beat George Mason in the Final Four last season.

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