FAIRFAX, Va. -- It's a disturbing trend.
Towson State plays its heart out at a field house in the ACC, Big Eight or Southeastern Conference, losing close while settling for a moral victory and improved standing in the power ratings. Against a foe whose heritage is equal or lesser, the Tigers perform listlessly.
It happened again last night, when Terrance Jacobs was the only Towson State player to show up at the offensive end in the first 15 minutes. George Mason ran out to an 11-point lead in the first six minutes and claimed an 89-75 victory over the Tigers before 2,324 at the Patriot Center.
The Tigers' latest attempt at giant-killing came 48 hours earlier, as they lost at Tennessee by seven Monday night. Earlier, coach Terry Truax saw his team play well before losing at North Carolina, Maryland and Colorado. Senior standout Devin Boyd went down with a season-ending injury in the opener at Colorado, but Towson State still is talented enough to beat some of the lesser lights against which it has struggled.
"We're getting into the part of our schedule where there are more George Masons than Tennessees or Marylands," Truax said. "We're having some lapses that just shouldn't be occurring. When George Mason dribbles to midcourt and throws a 40-foot bounce pass through our defense, that tells me where we are mentally.
"Tonight, we didn't sustain our defense and our shot selection in the second half wasn't very good. The only good thing about what we're going through is that maybe teams playing us will be overconfident."
George Mason is a regular in the first division of the Colonial Athletic Association and went to the NCAAs in 1989, but the Patriots have been devastated by sick call and came in with victories over only Northeastern and Division III Shenandoah. Seeking to end a six-game losing streak, the Patriots came out inspired, running out to a 15-4 lead in the first six minutes and stretching it to 33-17 with 4:22 left in the half.
Towson State laid out some fierce defensive pressure the rest of the first half, forcing five turnovers and scoring 14 straight points, seven by senior forward Chuck Lightening, to cut its halftime deficit to 33-31. Matt Campbell tied it 13 seconds after intermission, but the Patriots' Derek Shackelford made a three-pointer from the left wing and George Mason never trailed again.
Donald Ross, a freshman guard from Largo who came in averaging 5.9 points, had 22 points, thanks to 6-for-10 shooting from three-point range. Byron Tucker, a 6-11 senior center who also played his high school ball in Prince George's County, hurt the Tigers inside, as he had 19 points on 8-for-11 shooting and six rebounds. Shackelford, a junior from Walkersville who originally signed a letter-of-intent with UMBC three years ago, had 16 points and five assists.
George Mason, shooting 42.1 percent from the field in its first 10 games, hit 50 percent. Towson State shot 34.8 percent. Jacobs nearly was abandoned by his teammates in the first 16 minutes, as they made only two of their first 16 attempts.
Jacobs had game-highs of 25 points and 12 rebounds, and Lightening finished with 13 on 5-for-17 shooting.