FAIRFAX, Va. — On paper it seemed like the perfect Homecoming match-up for a George Mason team looking to make one final push up the conference standings.
Georgia State, which will be exiting the Colonial Athletic Association after the season for the Sun Belt in a football driven decision, entered Saturday’s game just 2-10 against the Patriots since joining the league in 2005.
Even worse, the Panthers had never won in Fairfax (0-5) and failed to crack the 60 point barrier in the process.
Well, there is now further evidence as to why games should never been decided on paper.
Georgia State proved to be an unwilling participant in any Homecoming festivities by easily dispatching George Mason in a 78-60 win that was not nearly as close as the final score would indicate.
“We talked ever since the last game on Wednesday that this was the last time we were going to play in this building and that no matter what the score was we were going to play with a chip on our shoulder,” Panthers coach Ron Hunter explained.
George Mason jumped out to an early 19-13 lead as Sherrod Wright connected on his first four three-pointers. That seemed as good a sign as any for success as the Patriots leading scorer had suffered through three straight sub par outings.
That good stretch wasn’t around all that long as Georgia State immediately responded with a 31-7 run to take a 44-26 lead. George Mason cut it to 15 at half but never really threatened the rest of the afternoon.
“Just very disappointed because we haven’t put on a better performance here,” coach Paul Hewitt said after the game. “We have great support.”
“This is a very difficult for us to accept, but we have no choice. We didn’t play well enough to win. They did.”
R.J Hunter, who is in the midst of a CAA Rookie of the Year type season for his father, led Georgia State (14-14, 9-9) with 25 points.
Sherrod Wright snapped out of a shooting slump by hitting 7-of-10 shots from the field in leading the Patriots (15-11, 8-6) with 19 points.
For George Mason, a third consecutive CAA home loss is rare air. Actually, any home conference loss still doesn’t seem normal after their recent run at the Patriot Center.
George Mason came into the season riding an 18-game CAA home winning streak that included back-to-back perfect campaigns. Over the past five seasons the Patriots have posted a remarkable 42-3 league record in Fairfax.
Even more puzzling is the fact that they have won three straight on the road to go along with the current home woes.
George Mason falls a half game behind Georgia State, who is ineligible for the conference tournament.
Without the opportunity to play in Richmond, which coach Hunter referred to as a “disgrace”, the Panthers have created their own conference tournament.
And they are off to a 2-0 start.
Following an overtime loss to Towson on Feb 9, Hunter has been able to motivate his team that includes four freshmen in its top eight with an alternative ‘postseason’.
“We talked about the last five games that we played this year we wanted to play them like a conference tournament,” Hunter said.
“We aren’t allowed to play in the conference tournament; they didn’t want us to play in the conference tournament so every game we play is a conference tournament game for us.”
Notes: George Mason is currently 3-4 at home in the CAA. The last time the Patriots picked up four conference losses was in the 2006-07 season when they went 5-4. Georgia State’s 51 first half points were the most surrendered by George Mason this season.
Up Next: George Mason travels to Hofstra on Wednesday. Earlier this season the Patriots picked up a 57-46 win over the Pride.