February 9, 2010
RODRIGUEZ, RAMS FALL TO GEORGE MASON, 82-77, IN OVERTIME
FAIRFAX, Va. – Although staying in nice hotels and not having to make the beds are a nice luxury, there’s nothing like being in the comforts of home.
The Virginia Commonwealth University basketball team knows that feeling all too well as it dropped its fifth road game of the 2009-10 campaign, an 82-77 overtime decision to George Mason University on Tuesday night at the Patriot Center.
24 points and seven assists from junior Joey Rodriguez (Oviedo, Fla.) wasn’t enough as several defensive miscues in the second-half let a 13-point halftime advantage slip away.
“It was a hard fought game on both sides. I thought we certainly played with enough energy and effort tonight, but the second-half execution was just not there,” Head Coach Shaka Smart said. “We did a good job on their ball screens in the first half, but for some reason we didn’t have the same success in the second half, which gave them the momentum they needed playing at home.”
Mason’s 17-game home winning streak against Colonial Athletic Association opponents looked in trouble early as the Black & Gold pointed the ball inside with junior Larry Sanders (Fort Pierce, Fla.) and senior T.J. Gwynn (Burlington, N.C.) (right) combining for 17 first-half points and leading a 22-point attack in the post over the first 20 minutes.
The pressure of the VCU defense forced nine turnovers that resulted in 13 points in the first half, while Rodriguez was busy carving it up and dishing out five first half assists.
Then the second half happened.
Mason reversed the first-half trends and allowed Mike Morrison, Ryan Pearson and Louis Birdsong to go to work, outscoring the Rams 28-10 in the paint in the second half, but still the Rams held a three-point lead with less than 30 seconds to play in regulation.
A tough jumper by Cam Long and a missed free-throw opportunity gave Long two more free-throws with four seconds remaining , which he drilled and sent the game to overtime, the first such contest for the Black & Gold since a 76-71 home win over James Madison last February.
Rodriguez would do his best to keep the Rams in the game, knocking down one of his six three-pointers less than 30 seconds into overtime, but a layup by Luke Hancock and a big-three point play by Pearson would seal VCU’s fate.
“It’s not just this game, I really think we’ve let six slip away this year,” Rodriguez said. “When we execute the game plan and grit on teeth on defensive, we’re tough to beat; you saw that in the first half tonight. We didn’t do that down the stretch and they did.”
It was a season-high for Rodriguez, who went 8-of-18 from the field, including 6-of-11 from beyond the arc. Sanders finished with 13, while junior Ed Nixon (St. Petersburg, Fla.) and Gwynn each chipped in 10 points off the bench. Gwynn also added seven rebounds and three assists to a very productive night for the veteran.
Long finished with 19 points, nine of which came from the charity stripe, while Morrison registered a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Patriots.
The Rams return to action on Saturday night in a 6 p.m. contest in Harrisonburg against the Dukes of James Madison.