Men’s Basketball Team Falls to Rams, 65-59

Posted: March 5, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

The George Mason men’s basketball team was unable to summon any magic on Monday night against Virginia Commonwealth in the Colonial Athletic Association Championship (CAA), dropping the game, 65-59.

The Rams used an 11-0 run in the final two minutes to overcome a five-point deficit and take a win, thus earning the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Will Thomas’ dunk and free throw gave Mason a three-point lead, and with 2:22 to go, Folarin Campbell made a pair of free throws for a 57-52 Mason edge. Mason had a chance to build on the lead, but they turned the ball over on the break, and that’s when Eric Maynor took over. The sophomore guard who was a first-team All-CAA selection made them pay with a basket and a free throw. He then stole the ball in the backcourt on the ensuing possession and tied the score with 1:40 to go.

Campbell missed a three-pointer as the shot clock expired, giving VCU the ball with a chance to take the lead. Maynor did so with a twisting layup with 46 seconds to go. He added a pair of free throws off an intentional foul with 19.1 to go and Walker added two free throws with 17.1 seconds to complete an 11-0 run and ice the game for the Rams.

The Patriots shot 47.1 percent from the field and made 6 of 15 from three-point range. The Rams were held to one of 12 shooting from behind the arc, but VCU repeatedly went to the foul line, making 18 of 24 shots.

The Patriots went to the line just six times, making five of their shots. Dre Smith led Mason with 12 points, while Gabe Norwood and Thomas each had 10. Maynor led all scorers with 20 points. Smith and Campbell were each named to the All-Tournament team, while Maynor was named Tournament MVP.

Mason didn’t have the hot shooting to start the game that it showed in its other CAA Tournament games. The Patriots did, however, manage to build a 7-2 lead, but the Rams rallied and tied the score at 9-9 with just under 13 minutes to go in the first half.

Jordan Carter’s drive kept VCU from taking its first lead of the game. After a Calvin Roland basket inside, Thomas’ putback of an offensive rebound again put Mason ahead by two. B.A. Walker’s backdoor layup made it 13-13, and when Louis Birdsong missed a dunk, VCU came down with a chance for its first lead of the game. It came on Eric Maynor’s free throw with 7:38 to go.

Dre Smith’s second basket of the night, a three-pointer from the left wing, made sure that VCU’s lead didn’t last for more than 30 seconds. After Wil Fameni scored on a putback for VCU, it was once again tied at 16-16. The Rams wouldn’t be denied, however, as Fameni scored inside and his free throw with 5:47 to go put the Rams in the lead, 19-18. Jesse Pellot-Rosa added to the lead with a basket inside, but the three-point lead did not last long as John Vaughan drained a three-pointer to make it 21-21.

After Frank Ndongo made a pair of free throws, Carter responded with a long three-pointer for a 24-23 Mason lead. Folarin Campbell’s jumper in the lane put the Patriots ahead by three, but Fameni’s jumper cut it to one with just over a minute to go in the half.

Mason got a traditional three-point play from Thomas on its next possession, and after a VCU turnover, Vaughan scored in transition off a beautiful bounce pass from Campbell to put the Patriots ahead 31-25 with about 30 seconds to go. Walker made a pair of free throws with 21seconds to go, and that’s how the half finished, with Mason ahead 31-27.

Both teams shot 50 percent from the field in the first half but Mason had six offensive rebounds to just two for VCU. The Rams were 8 of 10 from the foul line, though, while Mason was just 2 of 3. Fameni had 11 points on five of five shooting to pace the Rams, while six Mason players had at least four points.

The second half saw both teams struggle in their first possessions, with Mason turning the ball over twice and the Rams turning it over and missing a shot. But VCU was the first to strike as Maynor found Walker on an alley-oop less than a minute into the session.

When Smith missed a three-pointer, Maynor was able to draw a foul and make one of two free throws. But the Patriots came back with a 6-0 run as Monroe scored inside, Smith scored off a steal and he then had another basket off an offensive rebound of his own miss.

The Rams trimmed the 37-30 lead quickly. Roland scored inside, and he added a free throw to make it 37-33. Thomas was called for offensive goaltending on a Maynor attempt and the Patriots were suddenly clinging to a two-point lead. Several possessions later, Pellot-Rosa put back his own miss, and the score was 37-37 with a little more than 11 minutes to play.

Smith took care of the tie coming out of an official timeout with a three-pointer but Roland responded with a follow dunk, and then Jamal Shuler scored on a drive to make it 41-40, VCU.

Norwood gave the lead back to Mason with a three-pointer with under 10 minutes to go. The next time down, Thomas found a cutting Norwood for a dunk and a 45-41 Mason edge. Roland had yet another dunk the next time down to make it 45-43, but Mason got some breathing room when Vaughan scored a layup off an inbounds play. Fameni cut it back to two on a basket inside, tied it on a Maynor drive and took the lead on a Pellot-Rose tip-in. That gave the Rams a 49-47 lead heading into the final five minutes.

Norwood, who had never made two three-pointers in a game in his first 125 contests at Mason, calmly drained a three-pointer to put Mason back on top, and Thomas followed with a basket inside. It became 52-50 with Mason leading after Roland made a free throw with 3:57 to go. After the Patriots missed inside, VCU tied the score on a Roland basket in the paint.

The 2006-07 season could come to a close for the Patriots. With an 18-15 record, Mason has finished better than .500 for the ninth-straight season, a school record.

Monday’s defeat could also be the final game for four seniors – Tim Burns, Makan Konate, Charles Makings and Gabe Norwood.

Norwood finished his career as the school’s all-time leader in games played with 126, breaking the mark previously held by Jai Lewis, at 125. A bid to the National Invitational Tournament would allow Norwood to add to his record and the seniors to continue their playing careers. Those bids are announced on March 11.

Write to at