FAIRFAX, Va. – Last year, the GW men’s basketball team earned the signature win of its non-conference schedule against George Mason, trouncing the Patriots at the Smith Center 60-49. GW dubbed the game “The Battle of the Orange Line,” looking to create a local rivalry and drawing thousands of fans to the Smith Center in the process.
The rivalry traveled to Fairfax this season, and any questions as to whether or not George Mason’s fans remembered the Patriots’ less-than-warm welcome last year were swiftly answered.
“The fact that we’re still bitter about last year, we really wanted to stick it to the Colonials,” George Mason graduate student Chris Jones said. “Last year [the GW] fans were good over there, and we got beaten badly. We wanted revenge.”
Asked if the rivalry would last beyond this season, Jones said that it still needed time to grow.
“I’d like to see a few more games before we can call it a rivalry,” he said. “It could be good, but it’s not there yet.”
While the 10,000-seat Patriot Center didn’t fill to capacity for the contest, the game did generate some buzz around the George Mason campus. A “Battle of the Orange Line” Facebook event listed more than 1,200 attendees, and the Patriot Center student section was completely full for George Mason’s 60-46 win.
Like the team’s fans, George Mason head coach Jim Larranaga said his team drew motivation from last season’s defeat.
“We certainly mentioned last year’s shellacking at the Smith Center, and all the returning players certainly remembered that very well,” Larranaga said. “We try to use a lot of different things to motivate our players, and you normally get their attention when someone has beaten you badly. So we had very good attention at practice.”
Members of the Colonial Army who made the trip to Fairfax for the game said that even despite the loss, they hoped the two schools would face off again next year and continue to grow the rivalry.
“I hope the ‘Battle of the Orange Line’ can continue,” GW junior Scott Backer said. “I’m really happy we created this tradition and I hope it can go forward.”
GW junior point guard Tony Taylor said he was happy with the support the Colonials had on the road Wednesday night from the Colonial Army, most of whom wore shirts that read, “Beat Mason.” Taylor said the fan enthusiasm both at home and on the road has made the matchup more fun.
“It’s a great rivalry, I think we should keep this going. Fan support is great, home and away, it’s a great game to play,” Taylor said. “The George Mason fan support was very good, but we also have some great fans. They came out to show us a lot of love, they were cheering for us and we could hear them all the way from where they were sitting.”
GW head coach Karl Hobbs, despite his disappointment with the loss, said he thinks the two schools have the potential to create a unique kind of rivalry.
“Our players [and their players] all know each other,” Hobbs said. “We do a thing over the summer where our guys go to there place, and their guys come to GW. It’s almost a friendly rivalry, it’s not your typical, ‘We don’t like you and you don’t like us.'”