College hoops preview: George Mason

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College hoops preview: George Mason

There is no point in pretending otherwise: from program defections to the loss of several key graduating players, the CAA men's basketball league is not entering the upcoming season with the sexiest of mid-major reputations. Programs hoping to enhance their NCAA Tournament at-large hopes by picking up those much-needed RPI victories in conference could be left holding the NIT bag.

Clearly, Paul Hewitt did the math. In turn, George Mason's coach stacked the Patriots upcoming non-conference schedule with one resume-boosting opportunity after another.

While the Sherrod Wright-Erik Copes led Patriots are expected to remain in the regular season title mix, no CAA team outside of favorite Drexel figures to land serious national preseason attention. Perennial power Old Dominion appears headed for a transition campaign. Delaware has the look of a dark horse candidate, but the program's lack of roundball tradition makes the Blue Hens a wait and see scenario. VCU now calls the Atlantic 10 home.

Obviously, the Patriots must navigate the always-tricky conference waters in winning style, but a strong effort before CAA play tips off could make the conference tournament title not become an all-or-nothing scenario.

The Patriots have two ACC teams on their schedule, starting with the regular season and home opener against Virginia on Nov. 9. An NCAA Tournament team last season, the Tony Bennett coached Cavaliers remain formidable, but may be without starting guard Jontel Evans for the in-state meeting.

On Dec. 2, George Mason faces Maryland at the Verizon Center in the Patriots first matchup against the Terps since 2004.

Mark Turgeon's aggressive recruiting effort has the College Park program headed in the right direction, but uncertainty exists when looking at the transitioning roster. Also potentially helping Mason's cause is the game will be played on what is essentially a neutral court - Maryland fans haven't exactly packed the Verizon Center in recent years.

Other notable foes among the 12 non-conference games -- all scheduled before New Year's -- include Big East program and 2012 NCAA Tournament participant South Florida, Atlantic 10 schools Rhode Island and Richmond, Missouri Valley stalwart Northern Iowa and perennial Patriot League power Bucknell.

The true wild card in the scheduling lot comes with a beachfront view. George Mason will participate in the Paradise Jam on the island of St. Thomas November 16-19.

The three-game stint starts against Mercer. Beating the Atlantic Sun program won't offer much help from the number-crunching perspective, but with a little luck, the Patriots could leave the island with exactly that. New Mexico, another NCAA Tournament team last season, stands as potential semifinal opponent while Connecticut and Wake Forest loom on the other side of the bracket.

In a comparable scenario last season, the Patriots fell to upstart Florida International during the NIT tipoff. Rather than facing Virginia Tech, George Mason met Monmouth followed by Brown and Albany in the consolation round. That's an RPI tradeoff no bracketoligist can embrace.

Home games against Boston University and UMBC round out this season's out-of-conference matchups.

George Mason opens CAA play Jan. 3 against Northeastern then end the regular season March 2 at Delaware. Drexel comes to the Patriot Center on Jan. 31 -- the Patriots only home date in a five-game span -- before George Mason returns the favor with a trip to the City of Brotherly Love on Valentine's Day.

Putting a number on the amount of non-conference wins needed to separate themselves from the at-large pack would just be a guessing game. We can say that simply putting the Mercer, Boston and UMBC contests on the good side of the ledger is not enough.

We can also say that Hewitt's scheduling has given his squad more than a puncher's chance at being in that at-large mix. If the Patriots can deliver a few knockout blows early on and then clean up in the CAA, there's a good chance George Mason will indeed pick up some bracketology attention.

Maryland women's lacrosse beats Boston College in championship

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Maryland women's lacrosse beats Boston College in championship

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- After a sporadic first half, top-seeded Maryland did what it normally does.

A 5-5 halftime tie was a 10-5 Maryland lead just 4:26 into the second half, and the Terrapins held on to beat Boston College 16-13 on Sunday in the NCAA women's lacrosse championship game.

"We struggled shooting in the first half," coach Cathy Reese said. "We came out in the second half on fire. Give these guys all the credit. They played hard. They played their hearts out."

Caroline Steele had six goals and an assist, Taylor Hensh scored three times, and the Terps capped an unbeaten season with their 13th NCAA title. Jen Giles, Megan Whittle and Kali Hartshorn each had two goals and an assist for the Terrapins (23-0).

Maryland played in its fifth straight final and won its third title in four years. The only NCAA tournament loss during that span came in last year's championship game, when North Carolina knocked off the two-time defending champ Terrapins 13-7.

"Three for four isn't too shabby. Finishing up your senior season undefeated is pretty awesome," said Zoe Stukenberg, who had three assists in her final game with the Terps.

The heavily favored Terps scored 10 seconds into the game, They racked up those five quick goals in the second half, but Boston College kept it from becoming a runaway.

"We were a little shook up again in the first half," Boston College coach Acacia Walker said. "They're just so smart. They just tuned in and did what they needed to do. Every person did their job and we just sort of plugged away."

Kenzie Kent had five goals and five assists for Boston College, which reached the championship game for the first time. Sam Apuzzo scored four goals for the Eagles, giving her 80 for the season.

Although Maryland never trailed, the Terps were pushed by the Eagles, who battled back from an early 5-2 deficit.

After being shut out for the last 16:11 of the first half, the Terps stormed out of halftime to regain command. Whittle started it with a goal 19 seconds in, then Steele struck for two 1:18 apart to get the Terps comfortably on top again.

"Caroline played great. She was on fire," Stukenberg said. "We needed her. Nobody else was and she stepped up when we needed her. It was unbelievable."

Kent kept Boston College close with three straight goals to cut the margin to 11-9, then assisted on Dempsey Aresenault's goal with 14 minutes left to get the Eagles back within a goal.

"I think it gives negative mojo to your team if you think of how many goals you're down," Kent said. "Instead, we take it play by play and I think that's what got us out of that hole."

Caroline Wannen scored for Maryland with 12:04 left to start the Terps on another scoring surge. Hensh put Maryland up 13-10, then, after Kent's fifth goal of the game, the Terps picked up three more goals by Kali Hartshorn, Steele and Hensh with 4:07 left to all but seal another title for Maryland.

Apuzzo added a pair of late goals for the Eagles.

Hartshorn put Maryland up 1-0 10 seconds in. Hensh made it 2-0 1:42 later when she plucked her rebound out of the air and swept it in behind BC goalie Zoe Ochoa. Apuzzo answered with two goals for BC to set the back-and-forth tone that would last until the final few minutes.

Maryland holds on to beat Denver, advance to national title game

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Maryland holds on to beat Denver, advance to national title game

The Maryland men’s lacrosse team is returning to the national championship game for a third straight year.

The Terrapins held on to beat Denver, 9-8, in the national semifinals Saturday afternoon at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

Maryland’s Connor Kelly scored the go-ahead goal with 8:41 to go and the Terps defense held tight to preserve the victory.

Kelly scored three goals to pace Maryland on offense. The Terps led 4-1 in the first half and 5-3 at halftime before Denver tied it up at 8-8 with 10 minutes remaining ahead of what proved to be the game winner.

In the final two minutes, both teams had goals waved off because of crease violations – one from Maryland's Colin Heacock with 1:28 remaining and a second from Denver's Connor Donahue with 9.2 seconds left.

Maryland will now play Ohio State in the national championship game at 1 p.m. ET Monday. The Buckeyes beat Towson, 11-10, in the earlier semifinal Saturday.

For the Terps, the game will mark their 14th national title game appearance, though they haven’t won it since 1975. Since then, Maryland has finished as runner-ups nine straight times (1976, 1979, 1995, 1997, 1998, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016), including four times in the past six years.

The Terps fell 10-5 to Denver (2015) and 14-13 in overtime to North Carolina (2016) in the last two national title games.

In addition to the 1975 title, Maryland also won it in 1973. They also finished as runner-ups in 1971 and 1974.

The Maryland women’s lacrosse team will be playing in their own national championship game Sunday, against Boston College. The Terps beat Penn State, 20-10, Friday night, and Boston College rallied to beat Navy, 16-15.

The Maryland women’s team has won 12 national championships, most recently in both 2014 and 2015.