An electric week in Baltimore sports reached the Towson Center last night, when Towson got George Mason, the darling of last year's NCAA tournament.
The Tigers squandered an opportunity to win over some curiosity-seekers, and the Patriots showed that they're ready to resume being a factor in the Colonial Athletic Association, as George Mason put together its most complete game of the season and pounded Towson, 73-44.
Towson (7-8, 2-3) lost for the fifth time in seven games. George Mason (8-7, 2-3) won two in a row for the first time since last March, when it made an astonishing run from an 11th seed in the NCAA tournament to the Final Four.
It was George Mason's first trip to Towson in two years and a homecoming of sorts for junior forward Will Thomas, one of the CAA's best. There was some purple in the stands, but it wasn't in honor of the Mount St. Joseph grad, as radio station WNST brought in a bunch of Ravens for a charity halftime shooting contest.
A crowd of 2,479 saw the Tigers' worst loss of the season and their biggest at home since Virginia Commonwealth's visit in 2003.
"That's about as bad as we've played since I've been here," said Pat Kennedy, in his third year as Towson coach. "We were horrible. It became like an avalanche. We have to start playing with better purpose at both ends. We looked dazed. It could have been a great evening for us."
Thomas had 16 points, and Folarin Campbell, the Patriots' other returning starter, had 18. They combined to make 14 of their 22 field-goal attempts, as George Mason shot 52.5 percent. Thomas attempted the Patriots' only two free throws, as their shooters enjoyed plenty of space.
"We don't have the continuity to be consistent," Kennedy said. "The kids didn't even look like they knew each other. They didn't compete. They [George Mason] ran a clinic at our expense. We let a lot of people down here."
While Kennedy had to explain a listless effort in his team's only shot at George Mason this season, Patriots coach Jim Larranaga, who is 10-0 against Towson since the Tigers joined the CAA, had been waiting two months for an effort like this.
"Anyone who's watched us knows that's our best offensive performance of the season," Larranaga said.
Thomas said it was a carryover from a sharp practice yesterday morning at the Patriot Center in Fairfax, Va.
"We had a great shootaround, excellent deny defense, nobody missing layups," Thomas said. "We're getting used to playing with each other now."
Looking nothing like the 109th team in the Rating Percentage Index, George Mason got its inside-out game going and ran a series of defenders at Gary Neal, limiting him to 18 points on 20 shots.
George Mason never trailed. Leading 15-13, 6-foot Jordan Carter blocked a Rodney Spruill three and went in for an uncontested lay-in, triggering a 12-2 run.
George Mason had been the worst three-point team in the CAA, making five a game. Campbell got their sixth two minutes into the second half. With that range stretching any defense Kennedy tried, Thomas followed with a three-point play that began an 11-0 run that made it 55-30 with 10:50 remaining.
The rout featured a third dunk off a lob pass for Gabe Norwood, who began his high school career at Broadneck, and some solid minutes for freshman Louis Birdsong, The Sun's Player of the Year last season while at Mount St. Joseph.
Towson won't play at home again until Jan. 20. The Tigers are at Virginia Commonwealth, which is undefeated in the CAA, tomorrow, for the 800th game of Kennedy's coaching career.
GEORGE MASON-Thomas 7-10 2-2 16, Fleming 0-1 0-0 0, Smith 2-7 0-0 6, Carter 4-4 0-0 9, Campbell 7-12 0-0 18, Konate 0-0 0-0 0, Norwood 4-5 0-0 8, Burns 1-3 0-0 3, Urbina 0-0 0-0 0, Vaughan 1-8 0-0 3, Makings 0-0 0-0 0, Monroe 3-6 0-0 6, Birdsong 2-3 0-0 4. Totals 31-59 2-2 73. TOWSON-Breaux 1-2 2-3 4, Abraham 4-7 0-1 8, Crossin 2-7 0-0 6, Coleman 0-2 0-0 0, Neal 7-20 2-2 18, Williams 0-3 0-1 0, Spruill 1-2 0-0 2, Tubbs 0-0 1-2 1, Goodrich 1-1 0-0 2, Pease 1-4 0-2 3, Raboin 0-2 0-0 0, Plack 0-0 0-0 0, Kannegieter 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-50 5-11 44. Half-George Mason 33-19. 3-point goals-George Mason 9-19 (Campbell 4-7, Smith 2-5, Carter 1-1, Burns 1-3, Vaughan 1-3), Towson 5-23 (Crossin 2-6, Neal 2-8, Pease 1-4, Coleman 0-1, Abraham 0-1, Spruill 0-1, Williams 0-2). Fouled out-Abraham. Rebounds-George Mason 36 (Carter, Monroe 7), Towson 29 (Breaux 9). Assists-George Mason 26 (Campbell 9), Towson 15 (Crossin, Neal 4). Total fouls-George Mason 14, Towson 10. A-2,479.