FAIRFAX -- Georgia State defeated George Mason 78-60 on Saturday afternoon.
That basic lead stems from the notion that if you do not have anything nice to say, do not say anything at all. Seeing as this is a game recap, going silent is not an option.
Neither is pretending the net-torching Panthers did not dominate the Patriots for the final 30 minutes far beyond the look of an 18-point margin. Before a green and gold clad homecoming crowd at the Patriot Center, George Mason trailed by 15 points at halftime and 27 in the second half.
Neither is ignoring the disappearance of their longtime home court advantage, not after the Patriots (15-11, 8-6) suffered a third straight home loss.
This latest setback snapped a five-game winning streak over a Georgia State (13-15, 9-6) squad that had lost five straight in the series and never scored more than 66 points in 12 all-time games against George Mason.
The loss also dropped the Patriots to 3-4 at home in CAA games after finishing 18-0 at home in conference play over the last two seasons and 42-3 over five seasons.
"This is a very difficult for us to accept, but we have no choice," George Mason coach Paul Hewitt said. "We didn't play well enough to win. They did."
The homecoming day game began positively enough with the return of Sherrod Wright's shooting touch and collectively steady offense. In a 3-point shooting funk over his previous five games, the junior guard sank his four attempts. Wright's fourth 3-pointer gave the Patriots their largest lead at 19-13 with 12:38 remaining before the crowd of 8,010.
For those green and gold clad students and alumni watching from the Patriot Center stands, nothing good happened from there.
Wright finished with 19 points, but never made another 3-pointer and collectively the Patriots cooled. For the rest of the first half it felt like the Panthers could not miss.
Led by dynamic freshman guard R.J. Hunter - son of the Georgia State's head coach Ron -, the Panthers made 7 of 11 3-point attempts and shot 62.1 percent from the field. Sparked by Rashaad Richardson's 3-pointer, Georgia State pulled ahead with a 25-5 run, including a stretch of 16 straight points for a 38-24 lead with 6:25 left in the half.
"First half they shot the lights out," Hewitt said. "I thought we had pretty good energy at the start of the game but couldn't sustain it. They got on a run there."
They certainly did as Georgia State led 51-36 at halftime. The margin never dipped below 12 points from there.
Marko Gujanicic added 10 points for the Patriots, who shot 34.5 percent in the second half. The Panthers finished 10 of 19 from beyond the arc and scored the most first half points against George Mason this season.
Hunter, the runaway leader for CAA Rookie of the Year honors, finished with 25 points in the only meeting against the Patriots this season. Devonta White scored 23 points and Manny Atkins had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Panthers, who are leaving for the Sun Belt conference next season.
"We talked ever since the last game on Wednesday that this was the last time we were going to play in this building," Coach Hunter said, "and that no matter what the score was we were going to play with a chip on our shoulder."
Georgia State is one of three teams ineligible for the CAA Tournament, a fact that still rankles the Panthers coach in this final season.
"It still bothers me, it bothers me a lot I'm not going to lie," Hunter said. "I’ve said it publicly before, I think it’s a disgrace...But what we can control we said every place we go let’s leave our mark. This year we’ve won at two places Georgia state’s never won – ODU and George Mason. Let’s just leave our mark and move on."
In recent seasons on the Fairfax campus, the opposition's mindset mattered little.
George Mason 18-game CAA home winning streak ended in this year's conference opener, an 84-74 loss to Northeastern January 3.
Three straight wins followed, but the now the Patriots have endured an undesirable hat trick. George Mason previously blew a second half lead in a 58-54 loss to Drexel on Jan. 31 and then were handled 79-72 by Delaware last Saturday.
"Just very disappointed because we haven't put on a better performance here," said the rather of a matter of fact Hewitt.
The Patriots, now in sixth place behind the Panthers, have four regular season games remaining including Wednesday's road contest at Hofstra. The CAA Tournament begins March 9 in Richmond, leaving Hewitt scant time to steer this meandering ship into consistently winning waters.
"For whatever reason why weren't aggressive, weren't as sharp. You have to learn to fight through those things," Hewitt said. "We just got to get ready for the game on Wednesday."