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News Feed - January 27, 2009

An unremitting defense has long been a hallmark of successful George Mason teams. The Patriots usually are among the stingiest teams in the Colonial Athletic Association, holding opponents well below their usual points per game and field goal percentage.

Two opponents this past week debunked Mason’s defensive prowess, and as a result, the Patriots’ run atop the CAA standings this season ended. They fell into second place after losses at Northeastern and at Virginia Commonwealth.

“This week, I think our defense was not quite as good as it had been, and our coaching staff knows that we have to go back and revisit and our players have to recommit to doing the things we need to do defensively,” Coach Jim Larranaga said.

After forcing its first six CAA opponents to shoot below 39 percent, George Mason allowed Northeastern to make 54.8 percent of its shots in its 58-57 victory on Wednesday. It was the highest shooting percentage by an opponent against the Patriots this season.

Only two opponents had scored more than 70 points against Mason this season, and that was back in November. Vermont had 79 points, and East Carolina had 71 points. Then on Saturday, VCU put up 76 points on the Patriots.

While it would have helped to have John Vaughan, Mason’s best perimeter defender, guarding VCU standout Eric Maynor (28 points on 9-of-17 shooting), Vaughan’s absence wasn’t the only reason for the Patriots’ defensive lapse.

“We have evaluated a couple of areas in our game that definitely need to be addressed,” Larranaga said. “We were very, very disappointed in watching the tape to see our big guys not run the floor as well as they’re capable. We gave [Kirill] Pishchalnikov and Larry Sanders some open court baskets that will certainly be addressed at practice [Monday] and in the future.

“We’re going to have to do a much better job of getting everybody committed to playing transition defense, getting our defense set. When we get to the half-court level, and our five guys are back and helping each other, we’re a much better defensive team.”

George Mason, which had been leading the league in scoring defense, dropped to second behind Northeastern. The Patriots are now yielding 60.3 points per game. They are also second in field goal percentage defense behind Hofstra, allowing opponents to shoot 40.2 percent.

By Kathy Orton  |  January 27, 2009; 5:49 AM ET
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