Buzzer-beater lifts Mason over VCU, 62-61
Redshirt sophomore Sherrod Wright sank a three-pointer as the final horn sounded on Wednesday evening at the Patriot Center, sending the George Mason men’s basketball team past visiting VCU, 62-61, in a battle to stay atop the Colonial Athletic Association standings.
The Patriots rallied from a five-point deficit inside of 30 seconds to pick up the win, improving to 22-6 and 14-2 in CAA play. VCU (22-6, 13-3), meanwhile, saw the nation’s seventh-longest active win streak come to an end at 11 games.
Wright finished the game with 11 points while senior CAA Player of the Year candidate Ryan Pearson notched his 11th double-double of the season with a team-high 24 points and 11 rebounds. Vertrail Vaughns chipped in 14 points, including four 3-pointers. Bradford Burgess and Troy Daniels each had 13 points to pace the Rams.
Trailing by five after a pair of Briante Weber free throws at the 43-second mark, Pearson kicked off the furious rally with a trey from the right side, cutting it to two. Daniels answered with two at the stripe, and with 11 seconds showing on the clock, freshman Vaughn Gray drained a jumper to make the score 58-56 Rams. After being fouled immediately, Weber sank two more at the line to put the deficit to four points with just 11 seconds left.
Vaughns stepped up and jarred his final 3-pointer of the evening with six seconds left on a feed from sophomore Bryon Allen, and the score was left at 60-59 VCU. Weber took the inbound pass and nearly turned it over but was fouled, and hit the backend of his two free throws to make it 61-59. It was then that Pearson sent the ball into play to Wright, who dribbled to 25 feet from the rim before spotting up and sinking the biggest shot of his career.
VCU jumped out to a 10-5 lead to start the game before the Patriots came back to tie the score at 10. The margin stayed within four points for the next nine minutes, until a Daniels 3-pointer with just over five minutes left in the first half made it 23-18 Rams. Mason answered, tying the score at 23 on a Vaughns 3-pointer at the 2:38 mark, and after back-to-back baskets by Burgess and Brandenberg, Mason found a response with a Pearson bucket and another trey from Vaughns, setting the halftime score of 28-27.
Pearson led all scorers with 10 points and also had a game-high five rebounds in the first half, leading Mason’s 21-16 advantage off the glass. The Patriots out-shot the Rams by a 40.7-to-37.5 percent margin, as the visitors saw nine points from Theus lead the way in the opening 20 minutes.
The Rams opened the half with a 6-0 run as the Patriots missed their first five field goal attempts before a Wright jumper at the 15:56 mark ended the drought. VCU would continue to lead until Mason mounted an 11-0 run, taking control of the scoreboard at 47-44. Four straight by the Rams switched the advantage, and Mason answered with layups by Allen and Pearson. VCU then embarked on an 8-0 run which set up the final sequence.
Mason will next step out of conference play, hosting Lamar on Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. as part of the Sears BracketBusters series. The game will be the final home contest for Mason’s three seniors in Pearson along with Mike Morrison and Andre Cornelius.