ShawnDre' Jones

Richmond senior ShawnDre’ Jones goes up for a shot during the Spiders’ loss to George Mason. Jones finished the game with 10 points.

FAIRFAX

Superman has Kryptonite. The Invisible Man has his footprints in the snow. Water does it for the Wicked Witch of the West.

The Richmond Spiders have the George Mason Patriots.

Superman is helpless against Kryptonite. Nothing gives away your invisibility quite like walking through a fresh snowfall. Nothing melts the Wicked Witch of the West faster than a splash of water in the face.

What a world, what a world.

Nothing says frustration for the Spiders quite like the Patriots.

George Mason has beaten Richmond five straight times. It has been better than Richmond in 10 of their past 12 encounters. GMU coach Dave Paulsen has won the past six games he has coached against Richmond (two came when he was at Bucknell). Richmond coach Chris Mooney has beaten a Paulsen-coached team, just not lately.

No one should be surprised if the Spiders were saying, “What a world, what a world” on Tuesday night.

Things are trending in the right direction for the Patriots, and not just against Richmond.

“If you try to read trends into 18-, 19-, 20-year-old males, you’re going to have long sleepless nights,” said Paulsen.

Point taken.

But it’s impossible to look at five straight victories by one team over another and not see a trend. That’s home and away. Nothing seems to protect the Spiders from the Patriots’ Kryptonite, fresh layer of snow and splash of water.

What is it about the Patriots that they’re so toxic to the Spiders’ system?

“I don’t know,” said Mooney. “I can’t answer that question.”

Point taken.

If he had the answer, he wouldn’t keep it to himself.

“They’re a good team, a really good team,” said T.J. Cline, Richmond’s senior forward and leading scorer. “I think they’re a tough matchup for any team in this league. Why they’ve had our number the last five games, I couldn’t tell you.”

If not for two losses to Saint Louis, residents of the bottom quadrant of the A-10 — the Patriots’ Kryptonite, perhaps — George Mason would be in battle for the top spot in the league.

“You paint the Mona Lisa with a mustache,” said Paulsen. “It is kind of crazy. Part of it is matchups. Part of it is confidence. Part of it is styles of play. The A-10 is such a diverse league in styles of play. And part of it is when you get them. We played Richmond the first time (this season), and we’d had eight long days after Saint Louis, and we came out with a chip on our shoulder.

“Tonight, we had (won) three in a row and guys were feeling a pretty good rhythm.”

But Richmond had won four of its past five. The Spiders had inserted themselves into the race to the top in the A-10.

After a rough start in the nonconference portion of the schedule and after a tough couple of years, the Spiders appeared to be back.

They’ve played with a toughness that has been lacking for a while. They stick around in games.

But it’s tough to stick around when Cline is on the bench in foul trouble. And that’s where he spent 12 minutes in the first half.

Richmond trailed 41-28 at halftime, and it proved to be an insurmountable deficit.

The Spiders made a run in the second half and cut the lead to 4 several times. But George Mason was too big, too strong, made too many backbreaking shots from the field and was too good from the foul line, 29 for 32. Richmond was 4 for 8 from the line.

All is not lost for the Spiders. They have VCU at home Friday night. They can make a statement about who ultimately wins the regular season title. But they have to get past Tuesday night’s result first.

“I don’t think that will be any problem,” said Cline. “It’s kind of perfect we’re playing VCU when we need to bounce back. They have our attention. That game at the Siegel Center (an 81-74 VCU victory) was a really good game.

“We feel confident. I’m sure they feel confident. The pride of the city is on the line. I can’t wait to be in the Robins Center Friday night.”

The best thing of all about Friday night for the Spiders? George Mason won’t be there.

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