Monday, March 05, 2007

VCU 65, Mason 59

Mason led for most of the game, but VCU‘s sophomore point guard Eric Maynor wouldn‘t let his Rams lose. In short, he stole the tournament by scoring nine straight points in the last two minutes: VCU 65, Mason 59.

The following report on the championship game just came in from CAA assistant commissioner Rob Washburn. Since I have a pressing deadline on another story, I'll let him tell how it happened.

VCU Rallies Past George Mason

Top-seeded VCU staged a dramatic comeback in the final two minutes and defeated George Mason 65-59 in the title game of the 2007 Aeropostale CAA Men’s Basketball Championship before a sell-out crowd of 11,200 at the Richmond Coliseum Monday night.

One year after capturing the imagination of the college basketball world with a miraculous run to the Final Four, Mason [the sixth seed] looked primed to become the first team in league history to win four games in four days by taking a 57-52 advantage with just 2:22 remaining.

However, the Rams’ Eric Maynor would have no part of it.
The first-team All-CAA guard single-handedly spurred a 9-0 run all by himself on his way to a 20-point, championship Most Outstanding Player-performance.

The Rams (27-6) earned the CAA’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament with the win, which was its second in the past four years. George Mason fell to 18-15, despite nearly pulling off its third upset in three days. Monday’s final was played before a sell-out crowd and the battle between the cheering contingents in the stands was just as intense as the action on the court.

The first half was a see-saw physical battle, as the two squads slugged it out to an intermission score of 31-27 in Mason’s favor. Although the teams shot a combined 50 percent in the half, the score was tied at just 13 with under eight minutes to go after VCU used its full-court defense to hurry the Patriots, and Mason forced the Rams to settle for a 1-7 performance from the arc due to an in-your-jersey style of defense.

The [entire] game was a back-and-forth physical battle, one that was tied at 52 apiece with just over three minutes remaining. At the 2:57 mark [of the second half], Mason’s Will Thomas muscled home an improbable dunk while getting fouled, and converted the ensuing free throw to complete the three-point play. Teammate Folarin Campbell drained a pair of his own free throws at 2:22 to give the Patriots a five-point lead, and seemingly, the game’s final momentum swing.

It was then that Maynor took over the show.
The sophomore made a steal in the backcourt and converted a lay-up while getting fouled by Mason’s Gabe Norwood with 1:54 remaining. As Norwood began to dribble up the floor on the next possession, Maynor quickly snatched the ball again, and tied the game at 57 with a lay-up.

Following a Mason timeout, the VCU defense forced Campbell into an errant three-point attempt as the shot clock expired - a miss that Maynor gathered in as part of his seven rebounds on the night. He then drove the lane to hit an off-balance jumper with 45 seconds remaining, putting VCU up 59-57.

Mason had a chance to tie on a Campbell layup, but Wil Fameni swatted it into the Patriots’ student-section with 30 ticks left. Dre Smith then missed a three-pointer off the inbounds pass, and Maynor grabbed the board before being intentionally fouled.

For the game, Maynor tallied four assists and three steals to go with his 20 points and seven rebounds. He was joined by three other Rams in double-figures, and Fameni tallied 13 – including 11 in the first half – to go with eight rebounds. Fellow big-man Calvin Roland picked up the slack in the second stanza, netting 10 of his 12 after the half. Walker chipped in 10 including a 6-of-6 performance from the free throw line.

George Mason was paced by Smith, who had 12 points on 5-of-13 shooting. He drained a pair of three-pointers to total 14 in the Patriots’ four-games, a mark that stands as the new tournament record. Thomas and Norwood each tallied 10 points apiece.

Joining Maynor on the All-Tournament Team were teammates Michael Anderson and Jesse Pellot-Rosa, in addition to Mason’s Campbell and Smith, and Drexel’s Frank Elegar.

Click here to read the AP story by Howard Kurtz, Jr.

No comments: