Wright leading Mason into BB&T clash with Maryland

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Wright leading Mason into BB&T clash with Maryland

Like the good ones do at whatever they do, Sherrod Wright took time to enhance his craft. Living the college basketball life, that meant a summer of purposefully firing off jumpers from all angles even though as a sophomore he knocked down shots with regularity. That meant tweaking the other components of his game that simply required more considering the task at hand.

Without the seniors that frequently carried the leadership role during the 2011-12 campaign, Wright's role would be changing. Heading into his junior season, the 6-foot-4 wing's mental game needed adjusting as well and exactly for situations George Mason finds itself right now. The wins are coming, but the point production is lacking - and surging Maryland waits. The local programs meet in the second game of the BB&T Classic doubleheader which tips off Sunday at 12:15 with George Washington against Manhattan.

With three straight wins and a 5-2 record, the Patriots are finding paths to victory even if the trail isn't a thing of beauty, at least not offensively. After leading the CAA in scoring with 70 points per game last season, the Patriots currently rank 302 nationally with 59.6 points. The last two games George Mason managed to triumph despite scoring totals 48 and 55 points.

That's likely not going to cut it against a Terps squad tallying 76 points per game even if the Patriots produce another imposing defensive effort. Behind 7-foot-1 center and potential NBA Draft lottery pick Alex Len, Maryland ranks third in the country in rebounds.

"They're good, they got some size, but we're ready to take on the challenge," said Wright, the only Patriot scoring in double figures at 14.9 points. "In practice we’re just picking our spots, fixing our offense. Well, not fixing it but getting in sync with each other. We have to become cohesive as a group. We’ll be fine.

"I know we’re not where we want to be scoring points wise, but I trust in my team and I know we can make big shots. Not stressing, but we’ve got to put more points on the board."

If that sounds like leader talk, it is. If it comes across as natural for the thoughtful Mount Vernon, NY native, it's not.
 
"Since I have to be the leader on the team I have to lead by example. I have to find ways to help my teammates, find ways to pick up my teammates. That’s different for me because I’m more of a keep to myself person rather than lead by example. I had to change my mentality and be able to lead, to help others and criticize others so that they could play better, but always a positive message."

If his teammates were following Wright's offensive example, the Patriots would have scant scoring issues. As a sophomore he shot 53 percent from the field, 86 percent at the free throw line, 40 percent from 3-point territory. This season - and despite opposing defenses setting the sights on Wright as Mason's primary weapon - the field goal percentages from inside and outside the arc are comparable. Wright's also yanking down five rebounds per game.

Not that it's all about the numbers.
 
"Of course you have to work hard over the summer and I did that, working with the coaches on the mid-range, on 3’s, other tools that I need to become a complete player," Wright said. "Mindset wise just had to change how I think on the court. I have to think more about getting people involved or taking over the game when my team needs me. Getting that key stop or getting that key rebound or just picking up my intensity on both ends of the floor."

Wright will be working hard on both ends of the floor against Maryland's stellar wing options, namely Dez Wells and Nick Faust. The fifth start of bruising center Erik Copes career comes against Len, who is averaging 15.2 points and 9.0 rebounds, and coming of a double-double Tuesday as the Terps (5-1) won by 20 at Northwestern. Bryon Allen's been a late-game hero, but the Patriots require more from their point guard during the first 39 minutes for there to be a last minute winning opportunity.

"We’re all figuring out our roles," Wright said, "and that includes a different role for me." I’m still learning. It’s early in the season and we still have things we need to do and have to work on. It’s a big step for me and I’m ready for the challenge."

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.