Reporting Bobby Bancroft
FAIRFAX – A lot has changed since George Mason last dropped a conference game at the Patriot Center.
Jim Larranaga is gone, he’s since left for Miami.
Paul Hewitt is in from Georgia Tech, and just one player that saw action in the Patriots last home conference loss on February 27, 2010 – Sherrod Wright – remains on the current George Mason roster.
The main constant after 18 consecutive league victories was the opponent as Northeastern handed George Mason an 84-74 loss in the Colonial Athletic Conference opener for both schools on Thursday night.
Head coach Bill Coen’s Huskies, who grinded out a 50-48 win almost three years ago, won in an entirely different fashion to complete the symmetrical bookend feel around George Mason’s home success.
“If you’re going to expect to beat them in this building, you’re going to have to have a shooting game like tonight,” Coen said afterwards.
If anybody should know how to get the elusive W in Fairfax, it would be Coen, whose Huskies responded in grand fashion, particularly in the second half by hitting 18-of-28 field goals (64 percent).
Northeastern (6-7, 1-0) received a career-high 15 points from freshman Zach Stahl off the bench to go along with strong offensive performances from Jonathan Lee (game-high 20 points) and Quincy Ford (18 points).
More importantly, however, was the trio’s efforts from three-point range as the Huskies shot 9-of-16 from downtown.
The aforementioned Stahl, Lee, and Ford combined to drain seven of those shots as Northeastern turned a close game down the stretch into a comfortable victory.
Thursday night was supposed to be the start to both a new year and new season after George Mason (7-6, 0-1) completed the challenging non-conference portion to its schedule.
Paul Hewitt purposely increased the degree of difficulty after last season’s impressive 24-9 (14-4) record wasn’t good enough for an invite to the postseason.
The Patriots picked up quality non-conference wins against the ACC (Virginia), Atlantic 10 (Richmond, Rhode Island) but just fell short in dropping games against the Big East (South Florida), Missouri Valley (Northern Iowa), and Mountain West (New Mexico) by four points or less or in overtime.
George Mason also dropped a 69-62 result to Maryland in the local BB&T Classic at the Verizon Center.
In his fifth game since earning the starting nod at point, Corey Edwards was efficient in directing the Patriots offense in the game’s first twenty minutes.
The sophomore handed out five of George Mason’s eight first-half assists. In fact the New York native was able to control the game without even attempting a single field goal as the Patriots lead 37-30 at the break.
Edwards steady play would continue throughout as he finished with eight points on 3-of-4 shooting and tied a career-high with seven assists. Season leading scorer Sherrod Wright was his usual, finishing with a team-high 19 points, while Vertrail Vaughns chipped in a season-high 13 points off the bench.
It just wasn’t enough as the Huskies began to get hot and Coach Hewitt knows exactly where his team came up short – defense.
“One thing we’ve done all year was defend at a pretty respectable level. But the second half they had their way,” George Mason coach Paul Hewitt said. “They were tougher taking the ball to the middle of the floor and making plays.”
Northeastern used a decisive 11-0 run to turn a 63-62 deficit into a 73-63 lead after Stahl’s three-point play with 3:09 remaining.
The second half comeback was complete, and with it, the end of a long winning streak.