And the Patriots, who have made 45% of their three pointers this month, made 9 of 16 from beyond the arc Tuesday night. When combining those offensive numbers with a defensive effort that limited VCU to 37% shooting you end up with a very impressive performance fitting of a team that's now won a school-record 12 straight games.
"We're excited that we're playing as well as we are but we have the utmost respect for the VCU program and their ability to play as hard as they do," said Larranaga after the game. "We told our guys that we needed to be sharp from the very beginning and if we did that it would help us to be able to control a little bit of the tempo of the game." (quote courtesy of George Mason Athletics)
Coach went on to laud his team's execution on the defensive end of the floor, and giving up just 19 points in the first half was another solid indicator of the Patriots' play. VCU finished with an offensive efficiency of 82.3, nearly 11 points below what Mason's allowed on the average this season (93.1). Luke Hancock was all over the stat sheet with 10 points, eight rebounds and seven assists and the same goes for Cam Long, who finished with 14, five and four. There were other key contributors for the Patriots, who next visit Northern Iowa in this weekend's Sears BracketBusters event.
Mike Morrison, the member of the starting lineup forgotten by most, accounted for 10 points and eight rebounds with three of those coming on the offensive end. And Vertail Vaughns scored 12 of George Mason's 14 points off the bench. The last time George Mason was this good their run to an eventual Final Four appearance began with a win on the road in BracketBusters (Wichita State in 2006). And while it would be irresponsible to say they can reach such heights at this point in the season, they've at the very least gotten a head start.
Other Notable Happenings
1. Marquette is now in serious trouble with regards to making the NCAA Tournament.
Buzz Williams' team once again began the year having issues in regards to closing out tight contests. But while last season's group was able to turn things around at about the halfway point in Big East play, these Golden Eagles are still waiting for that moment to come. And if they wait any longer Marquette will be in serious trouble with regards to making a return to the NCAA Tournament, thanks to their 80-68 loss to St. John's at the Bradley Center. The difference between the two teams wasn't so much Dwight Hardy's 28 points although they did help, but rather Marquette turning the ball over 18 times resulting in 18 Red Storm points. St. John's also held the advantage in fast break (21-13) and bench (19-4) points, with the latter edge being an eye-opener for Marquette with five league games remaining.
Jimmy Butler led three starters in double figures with 23 points but if the Golden Eagles are to turn things around young guards Vander Blue and Junior Cadougan need to become more productive. Their combined stat line on Tuesday: zero points, five assists and five turnovers. The triumvirate of Butler, Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom hasn't been enough to this point, meaning that others will need to step up (Dwight Buycks didn't play particularly well either) in order to turn things around.
2. Michigan State falls in Columbus, setting up a crucial game against Illinois this weekend.
Tom Izzo's Spartans certainly aren't dead yet, and for much of the game they held their own on the road against Ohio State. But once again they were unable to pick up a needed victory, placing even more emphasis on their matchup with Illinois in East Lansing on Saturday night. William Buford led four Buckeyes in double figures with 23 points and their ability to get to the foul line (23-29 to Michigan State's 5-6) made the difference in a 71-61 win. Kalin Lucas was solid for Ohio State with 15 points and five assists, and Michigan State reserves combined to score 27 points.
But if there's one player Coach Izzo and his staff need to tinker with leading up to the big matchup with Illinois it's senior Durrell Summers, who attempted just one shot and failed to score in 16 minutes of action. To say the least that's not going to get the job done, and as February turns into March it's your seniors who need to step up. Lucas showed some signs of being able to do so and Draymond Green's been a consistent factor for the Spartans. But Michigan State needs Summers to be a threat, especially on the offensive end of the floor, if they're to move into a position where they can scare some people in the NCAA Tournament.
3. The nation's longest win streak comes to an end, but Coastal Carolina doesn't lose their edge in the Big South.
Cliff Ellis' Chanticleers had the look of a team that could not be stopped within the Big South Conference. Going into Tuesday's home game against Gardner-Webb Coastal Carolina had won 22 straight games including 15 within conference play, and that stretch included having to boot forward Mike Holmes off the team. Desmond Holloway's been their leading scorer but he was cold on Tuesday, making just two of thirteen shots on the night. Holloway's game-tying shot attempt missed the mark, giving the visiting Bulldogs a stunning 59-57 win to move to...4-11 in conference play.
Brandon Crawford and Anthony Raffa combined for 23 points off the bench to lead CCU, who lost for the first time since the opening round of the Charleston Classic (against Georgetown) back on November 18th. The defeat however didn't hurt Coastal Carolina in regards to wrapping up the regular season crown as second-place Liberty lost at VMI. But those slim hopes of being a viable at-large candidate should they slip up in the conference tournament? Ripped into shreds by some pesky Bulldogs.
Top Three Games
1. Hofstra 81, William & Mary 78 (OT) Charles Jenkins added more pages to the career scrapbook on Tuesday night, knocking down a three to tie the game with 2.7 seconds left in regulation. But the All-America candidate wasn't done, draining a 35-footer as time expired in overtime to win the game. Jenkins finished with 28 points, including a three from beyond NBA range to end the game in OT. Quinn McDowell led the Tribe with 28 points and 12 rebounds.
2. High Point 70, Winthrop 69 (2OT) Nick Barbour's runner as time expired won the game for the Panthers at home. Barbour finished with 22 and Shay Shine added 19 for High Point, and Reggie Middleton led Winthrop with 21. Winthrop's Charles Corbin finished with 17 points and 15 rebounds.
3. Butler 64, Green Bay 62 Matt Howard's dunk with two seconds remaining won the game for the Bulldogs, who now find themselves alone in third place in the Horizon League. Howard finished with 22 points and eight rebounds to lead Butler, and Rahmon Fletcher led the Phoenix with 18.
Three Notable Performances
1. F Denzel Bowles (James Madison) 40 points (14-20 FG, 12-17 FT) and five rebounds in the Dukes' 72-61 win at Towson.
2. G Charles Jenkins (Hofstra) and G/F Quinn McDowell (William & Mary) Jenkins scored 28 and handed out four assists for the Pride in their 81-78 overtime win over the Tribe. And in a losing effort McDowell scored 28 while also grabbing 12 rebounds.
3. G Adrian Oliver (San Jose State) 35 points and 10 rebounds in the Spartans' 77-73 win over Montana State.