Saturday, December 7, 2013

George Mason struggling to finish games

If basketball games last about 38 minutes instead of 40, George Mason might be taking an eight-game winning streak into today's game at Akron.

Instead, the Patriots (5-4) have suffered losses in three of their last four games, largely because of an stunning inability to finish off otherwise winning efforts:

- On Thursday, George Mason led Delaware State by 10 with 1:24 remaining, only to wind up losing by seven (90-83) in overtime.

- On Monday, the Patriots led College of Charleston by 10 with less than four minutes left and were up seven with less than three minutes remaining. Final score: Charleston 66, Mason 64.

- On Nov. 23, the Patriots led Maryland-Eastern Shore by 12 early in the second half and by three with less than 20 seconds left. UMES forced overtime and got a layup at the extra period buzzer for a 93-91 victory.

To be fair, all three opponents have come up with some huge shots down the stretch to reel the Patriots in. But Mason has also had its share of self-inflicted wounds. Against Charleston, for example, the Patriots committed five turnovers inside the last four minutes to assists the Bulldogs in wiping out that 10-point deficit.

Mistakes like this will almost certainly be deadly against Akron, which boasts one of the nation's most explosive offenses (82.3 points per game). The Zips are led by reigning Mid-American Conference Player of the Year Rachel Tecca (27.6 ppg, 2nd in Division I to Baylor's Odyssey Sims' 30.0) and Hanna Luburgh (24.7 ppg, 8th in D-I).

The good news for the Patriots is their late-game issues, while frustrating, are for the most part correctable. So at some point this season, the players may look back on all the late-game struggles they used to have and laugh.

They're just not all that funny now.

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