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George Mason falls to Northeastern in CAA opener

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Sports,College,Kevin Dunleavy

Hot-shooting Huskies run away in second half

With a measure of symmetry, Northeastern ended George Mason's 18-game home winning streak against CAA teams on Thursday night in the Patriots' league opener. Three seasons ago, in the regular-season finale, Northeastern handed George Mason its last home loss in the conference.

This time, with the exception of point guard Joel Smith and coach Bill Coen, the cast was different but equally effective. With freshman Zach Stahl scoring all of his career-high 15 points in the final 14 minutes, Northeastern handed George Mason a humbling 84-74 loss before a quiet crowd of 3,724 at Patriot Center.

George Mason (7-6, 0-1) appeared destined to win when junior Sherrod Wright (19 points, five rebounds) made three layups in an 8-2 flurry that put the Patriots in front 50-44. But after that, George Mason had no answer for the offense of Northeastern (6-7, 1-0), which shot 64.3 percent in the second half and finished 9-for-16 from beyond the arc.

"They always play extremely well at home," Coen said. "If you're gonna expect to beat them in this building, you've got to have a good shooting night like we had."

In addition to the surprise work of the 6-foot-5 Stahl, Northeastern got big efforts from Jonathan Lee (20 points) and Quincy Ford (18 points, five rebounds), who compensated for an off night from Smith (eight points, seven rebounds), who delivered four free throws in the final 10 seconds.

Northeastern did it against a team that was ranked first in the conference in points against (61.1 per game) and third in field goal defense (39.8 percent).

"One thing we've done all year was defend at a pretty respectable level. But the second half they had their way," George Mason coach Paul Hewitt said. "They were tougher taking the ball to the middle of the floor and making plays."

With students away for holiday break, Patriot Center didn't pack its usual high-decibel punch, which helps fuel the George Mason defense.

"It actually didn't affect us at all," Patriots point guard Corey Edwards (eight points, seven assists) said. "We should have come out in the second half with a little more intensity."

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

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