GW's Lonergan warms up to George Mason rivalry

GW's Lonergan warms up to George Mason rivalry
January 23, 2014, 5:30 pm
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(Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports)

For years and years, George Washington solely represented the D.C. area in the Atlantic 10 conference.

George Mason crashed that party this season when the Patriots jumped from the CAA to the A-10.

Upon hearing the initial rumors, GW coach Mike Lonergan's first reaction wasn't to lay down the welcome mat.

"When I heard rumors they might join, for selfish reasons I wasn't sure," Lonergan said on Thursday at the Smith Center where the Colonials (15-3, 3-1) prepped for their first-ever conference game against George Mason (7-12, 0-5). Tipoff is 12 p.m. on Saturday at the Patriot Center with TV coverage on NBC Sports Network.

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That's not to say that Lonergan, who grew up in Bowie and played his prep career at D.C.'s Archbishop Carroll, didn't see the advantages of George Mason coming aboard.

"I liked it just because the CAA was kinda heading in another direction and the A-10 was becoming a top-7 league," Lonergan said. "But then I just thought for a local basketball fan that it was good for the area."

Back on Dec. 5, the Colonials faced and defeated Maryland on a buzzer-beating jumper by Oxon Hill native Maurice Creek in the BB&T Classic. Another opportunity for a local scalp comes Saturday in what is being called the "Revolutionary Rivalry."

"I've always been jealous of Philadelphia and the Big 5," Lonergan continued. "I think this is by far the best High School basketball in the country, pretty good college basketball. I think one of the things that holds us back is that teams don't play each other. I definitely am a big fan of it now and I think it's great for everyone involved."

The two sides last met on Dec. 1, 2010, the season before Lonergan took over the Foggy Bottom program. In that time, George Mason has been the better team, but the roles are reversed at this point in the season. The Colonials have been one of the surprises of the college basketball season and sit one-game behind first-place St. Louis in the A-10 standings.

Meanwhile the Patriots have lost six straight overall including the program's first five conference games, the last four by a combined 13 points.

"They've had some bad luck, been snake bit, whatever you want to call it," Lonergan said of GMU. "Every game is close; they've lost at the end of games. I feel bad for Coach [Paul] Hewitt. We also know they can turn it around at anytime. We respect they're talent. They're a very experienced team. ...We expect them to have a sold out crowd and be great atmosphere. We're going to have to play really well."