Good teams expect to win at home, and few teams this season are as successful on their courts as George Mason. The Patriots have a 13-game win streak at Patriot Center dating back to last season, which ties them for 12th place with Duke and Florida for the longest active home-court-winning streaks in Division I. (Kansas has the longest streak at 36 games.) Had it not been for a last-second loss to UNC Wilmington almost a year ago, their streak would be 25 games long.
George Mason Coach Jim Larranaga, a man who always has a statistic handy, says that the average home team wins 75 percent of its games and the average road team wins 25 percent of its games. “We’re 5-6 [on the road], which is still better than the average team is doing,” Larranaga said. “But we’re not looking to be average. We’re looking to be excellent.”
While it is not unusual to see a team perform better at home than it does on the road, the difference between George Mason’s play at Patriot Center and away from it is striking. In home games, the Patriots average 73.5 points and hold their opponents to 55.6 points, which puts their average margin of victory close to 18 points. On the road, George Mason averages 65.1 points and allows 64.8 points, a margin of victory less than a point.
The field goal percentages tell a similar story. The Patriots make 48.2 percent of their shots at home, but only 44.8 percent of their shots on the road. Their opponents shoot 37.1 percent at Patriot Center, but 43.9 percent on their home courts.
The numbers are pretty telling, and go a long way toward explaining why George Mason is blowing out opponents at home but struggling to put them away on the road.
Larranaga thinks one reason this team’s execution fluctuates wildly depending on the venue is its leadership experience.
“For this particular team, it’s more challenging [going on the road] because when this season started we were looking for new leaders, and no one’s really had those roles before this season,” Larranaga said. “Will Thomas and Folarin Campbell, they had that [leadership] role for several seasons. [This team is] trying to develop that countenance. Cam Long is coming into that role. John Vaughan is exerting himself, Dre Smith. Those are the three guys we’re really counting on to step up, but we also need Darryl Monroe because he’s such an important impact player.
“We have a lot of guys, including Louis Birdsong and the guys off the bench who are establishing what their roles are. . . . We have three freshmen coming in off the bench, and we need them to play very well like they did [against Hofstra]. It’s been a little more difficult for them on the road because the home team plays better.”
Smith says the biggest reason George Mason plays so well at home is the fans.
“They’re great,” he said. “From start to finish, they’re in it. When we seem like we’re slowing down a little bit, they’ll let you know. They’ll tell us to get up and get going. Our support is great. I think that’s the main contributor to our success. It’s so fun playing here.
“It’s really good because they’re here through thick and thin. There’s days out here where it’s snowing and rainy and bad. The streets are icy, and they’re still here, especially the student section. They’re great. Just hearing them, you don’t want to let them down because you know they’re true fans. It’s like they’re fighting with us right there on the court during the game. It’s like they’re another teammate.”
February 5, 2009; 5:35 AM ET
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