For Mount St. Mary's, it's all about the Mayhem

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Cheers and Jeers,Sports,College,Kevin Dunleavy

The resemblance between the Havoc defense of Virginia Commonwealth and the Mayhem defense of Mount St. Mary's isn't a coincidence. It's the design of coach Jamion Christian, an assistant last year at VCU, who has the Mountaineers within one game of the NCAA tournament.

When Mount St. Mary's (18-13) plays at Long Island University (19-13) in the Northeast Conference title game Tuesday night, it will be a chance for a Shaka Smart disciple to strike another blow for a chaotic defensive style that frazzles opponents.

The Mountaineers forced 14 turnovers in an upset of fourth-seeded Bryant in the quarterfinals and 34.4 percent shooting in an upset of top-seeded Robert Morris in the semifinals.

"We played right into their hands," Robert Morris coach Andy Toole told reporters. "We played into their style and system."

Many have fallen into the trap. After going 19-42 the previous two years, the Mount has reversed its fortunes under Christian and behind transfer guards Rashad Whack (George Mason) and Sam Prescott (Marist).

The defense of the Mount is so focused on swarming and overplaying that it can be beaten with patience and solid ball-handling -- so much so that the Mountaineers rank last in the nation is field goal percentage defense (50.7 percent).

Rattling third-seeded Long Island, which has gone to two straight NCAA tournaments, might be the ultimate test. Point guard Jason Brickman leads the nation in assists (8.5 pg), and Springbrook High graduates Jamal Olasewere (19.0 ppg, 8.5 rpg), the NEC player of the year, and C.J. Garner (15.6 ppg) have a combined seven years in the rotation of the Blackbirds.

- Kevin Dunleavy

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

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