Two similar teams, but Mason gets win

FAIRFAX — George Mason and Old Dominion have each had their share of great games this season. Both teams have also struggled.

The teams, mired in the middle of the 10-team Colonial Athletic Association pack, are the only conference teams to have beaten leader UNC-Wilmington, with the Monarchs having swept the series. But each also came into Monday’s game on a two-game losing streak.

George Mason closed Monday’s first half on a 27-8 run and coasted to a 69-52 victory over Old Dominion in the final regular season game at the Patriot Center this season.

Five Patriots scored in double figures, led by two players who were playing possibly their final home game.

Jesse Young’s game-high 19 points and 11 rebounds marked his fifth double-double of the season and 16th of his career. Jon Larranaga, son of George Mason coach Jim, contributed in many ways as he often does, with 13 points, six rebounds and four assists.

“I thought Jesse really came to play tonight,” said Old Dominion coach Blaine Taylor. “And Jon was just his steady self.”

“When we get them playing that well,” said Jim Larranaga, “we’re a very good team.”

Old Dominion surged to an 18-14 lead in the game’s first 10 minutes, before Young sparked Mason’s tear.

After 275-pound freshman Jai Lewis made a jumper from the elbow, Young gave Mason the lead on a play that characterized the senior post player’s hard-working ways.

Young grabbed the rebound on a Larranaga miss, went back up and had his shot stuffed. Young grabbed another rebound, went up again, made the layup, got fouled and made the subsequent free throw.

The Patriots (15-11, 10-7 CAA) forced the Monarchs (11-14, 8-9) into a 3 of 15 shooting stretch late in the half, while also getting easy baskets off steals. They punctuated their run with a Raoul Heinen steal that led to a gliding tomahawk dunk by Young, then Mark Davis immediately stole a pass and dunked with two hands to force an ODU timeout. At that point, the Patriots were on a 22-4 run over the past 7:56.

The victory was sweet relief for a George Mason team embarrassed on its home floor in front of 8,000 fans on Saturday. They shot just 33 percent in a 57-52 loss to seventh-place James Madison, but redeemed themselves in shooting 49 percent from the floor Monday.

“This being our last game, and we didn’t play especially well on Saturday, we wanted to go out on a good note,” Jon Larranaga said. “The 17 assists might be the most we’ve had all season. We really played well as a team, and that’s how you want to be remembered.”

While Larranaga had his father on the bench to share his last home game with him, Young, a Petersborough, Ontario native, had his mother in the stands for the first time this season. He sheepishly admitted during postgame interviews that his “Mom was here” and that had something to do with his big game.

With the win, the Patriots are in position to be seeded no lower than fourth in the CAA tournament, which begins Friday, March 7 in Richmond. If fifth-place Delaware beats third-place Drexel on Wednesday and the Patriots defeat Drexel Saturday, they could move into third place. The Patriots had won six of seven before consecutive losses to UNC-Wilmington and James Madison.

Old Dominion, on the other hand, has lost six of eight and turned in probably its worst performance of the season on Monday.

“It wasn’t one of our better performances,” said Taylor. “We’ve been doggone competitive most games.”

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