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News Feed - February 3, 2009

George Mason Coach Jim Larranaga is not happy with his team’s defense lately, particularly after the Patriots’ 73-71 loss at Old Dominion on Saturday. The Monarchs made 56.9 percent of their shots, the best field goal percentage defense allowed by Mason this season.

“We didn’t play any kind of defense for 40 minutes,” Larranaga said. “You have to establish defense as a priority when you’re a player. You can’t just play defense. You can be in the right place, doing the right thing, but just not doing it with a great enough effort or great enough physical presence and you let people do what they want to do.

“Our players need to start taking responsibility for how hard they are going to play and how difficult they are going to make it on the guy that they’re assigned to.”

After winning six in a row to open its conference season, George Mason (15-6, 8-3) has lost three of its last four Colonial Athletic Association games. It’s no mystery why the Patriots are struggling. They held their first six CAA opponents to 39 percent or less shooting, but have allowed three of their last four to shoot 45 percent or better.

The most notable breakdowns are occurring against their opponents’ top scorers. Early in the season, Mason had trouble containing the best player on the opposing team. Vermont’s Marqus Blakely scored 24 points against the Patriots. East Carolina’s Sam Hinant went for 27 points. Mount St. Mary’s Jeremy Goode had 22 points. But after yielding 22 points to Liberty’s Seth Curry, Mason had not allowed an opposing player to score 20 or more points – until Northeastern’s Matt Janning had 20 points in the Huskies’ 58-57 win. Since then, Virginia Commonwealth’s Eric Maynor had 28 points and Old Dominion’s Gerald Lee had 23.

Larranaga says the problems on defense are occurring both individually and collectively.

“An individual can only do so much,” Larranaga said. “He requires his teammates to help him in many situations, but the individual has to take great pride in working to make sure that the opportunities are limited. . . . In our game on Saturday, and unfortunately it’s been a situation that’s occurred much more on the road, that our defense seems to have a lot more holes in it.”

On Tuesday, George Mason has the challenge of stopping Hofstra’s Charles Jenkins, the CAA’s second-leading scorer at 18 points per game. The sophomore guard has averaged 25.7 points in the last three games. Hofstra (14-8, 6-5), the only team to beat Northeastern this season, had won four in a row until a four-point loss against VCU on Saturday.

By Kathy Orton  |  February 3, 2009; 5:44 AM ET
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