FAIRFAX, Va. – Playing for the first time in eleven days, George Mason turned the ball over on their first possession just ten seconds into the game. It would be a foreshadowing of things to come as the Patriots committed a season-high 22 turnovers in their 75-64 loss to Duquesne on Wednesday night.
George Mason (7-4) was hoping that the return of suspended senior guard Andre Cornelius, a two-year starter who sat out the first semester after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of credit card fraud, would help bolster their efforts in setting a Patriot Center record with 19 straight wins and extend the nation’s tenth longest active streak. Instead the crowd of 4,054 would witness the Patriots first home loss since falling to Fairfield in the opening-round of the College Insider Tournament on March 16, 2010.
Coach Paul Hewitt, who must now figure out a way to add Cornelius (11 points) to an already crowded backcourt, knew that his team did too much damage early on in order to complete any type of second-half rally.
“They were much more aggressive, stole the ball 12 times, forced 22 turnovers, beat us in transition,” Hewitt said after the game trying to explain the double-digit loss. “We put ourselves in a hole and we tried to make a comeback at the start of the second half. We had a chance to go up but once we didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to go up and put them on their heels a little bit, they regained their confidence and reestablished the lead.”
After trailing 40-31 at halftime, George Mason went on an 8-0 run to pull within a point at 40-39 with 16 minutes 29 seconds remaining and had a chance to take the lead when senior Mike Morrison missed an uncontested dunk.
“That’s always tough,” Morrison said. “I don’t miss too many of those. Maybe I was a little rusty. I don’t think it was the time off at all though because we have been practicing. It was just one of those days.”
T.J. McConnell, who was recently named as a candidate for the Bob Cousy Award, was the only expected starter for Duquesne (7-5) after Coach Ron Everhart benched four starters, including his top three scorers in Sean Johnson, B.J. Monteiro, and Eric Evans.
It was McConnell who answered the Patriots run with five straight points of his own during a 15-2 Dukes run that seemingly put the game out of reach. McConnell finished with 12 points, four assists, and three steals as George Mason never pulled to within eight points the rest of the way.
Duquesne’s odd lineup wasn’t the only unusual stat of the night as the Dukes held a 32-28 rebounding advantage despite being among the nation’s worst in that category. They also shot 8-of-16 from behind the arc in winning their first game on the road this season after dropping their first three away contests.
Ryan Pearson and Vertrail Vaughns, who had been in a shooting slump, paced the Patriots with 13 points each.
Up Next: George Mason returns home on Friday night in hopes of starting a new winning streak when they take on Manhattan at 7pm.