George Mason Holds Off Drexel Rally for CAA Opening Win

March 11, 2013 | Robert Canady

In a game that really was a microcosm of its season, Drexel University couldn’t overcome a large second half deficit against George Mason University and lost 60-54, in the opening game of the Colonial Athletic Conference (CAA) tournament at the Richmond Coliseum.

“You just watched us all season out there,” Drexel coach Bruiser Flint said, gesturing to the court. “We didn’t make a play all season when we needed one. That’s how it goes. Whether it’s a rebound, foul shot, a shot, every game has been like this one. We get our self in some holes, come back and need to make a play and we haven’t made it. So that sums up the season right there.”

The hole Flint was speaking of was a 15-point George Mason lead in the second half, after Drexel trailed by four (27-23) at halftime. Both teams started slowly in the second half, and Drexel had managed to chop a point off the halftime deficit to trail 28-27 with 16:42 to go. But Mason got a jump start on a 3-pointer from Vertrail Vaughns, followed by six straight points from Patriot guard Sherrod Wrightthat fueled a 16-1 run to give George Mason a 44-29 lead with 11:36 left.

George Mason's Bryon Allen keeps a steady eye on Drexel's Frantz Massenat

As they did in the game in Fairfax, Va. earlier this year, Drexel managed to methodically cut the lead back to a manageable amount trailing 53-49 with 4:54 left. During that spurt CAA preseason Player of the Year Frantz Massenat scored seven points, equaling his entire total of the first half. Mason’s Byron Allen quickly quieted that run with a 3-pointer at 3:56 to put Mason back up by seven.

A Drexel three by Damion Lee with 1:22 left brought the Dragons back to within two points. Vaughns missed a Mason 3-pointer and Derrick Thomas outfought Mason’s big guys for the rebound. Flint called a thirty-second timeout with 38 seconds to go and 30 seconds on the shot clock, to set up the tying or go-ahead play.

That play turned out to be a missed 3-pointer by Massenat with 19 seconds left. George Mason made four free-throws over the final four seconds to send the Dragons to a most disappointing end of a very disappointing season.

Both teams played and shot very poorly in the first half, each only tailing 34 percent shooting from the field. Massenat for the Dragons and Wright for the Patriots were caught up in their team’s first half doldrums as well, scoring seven and five points respectfully. However, both players showed why they were considered two of the best guards in the CAA this year. Massenat scored 13 points after the break and Wright poured in 18 points going 4-4 from the field and 10-11 from the line in the 2nd half.

George Mason coach Paul Hewitt shouts instructions to his team during its opening round win over Drexel on Saturday.

The game was very physical from the start with the referees letting both teams play, and allowed a lot of physical contact on both sides, resulting in only 13 total fouls being called in the first stanza.

Things changed a bit in the second half, as Drexel was whistled for five fouls in the first 4:15 of the half, including a sequence of three fouls called on the Dragons in a matter of ten seconds, which sent Flint into a foot stomping arm waving rampage. Mason entered the bonus with 13:35 to go and as a result went to the free throw line 19 times in the second half, dropping in 17 of them. The 17 points on free throws was one more point than the Patriots scored from the field in the half. However, the foul disparity wasn’t one-sided, as Drexel was whistled 21 times for the game and Mason 19 times.

George Mason will face regular season CAA regular-season champion Northeastern tomorrow in the first semifinal. Drexel closes the season and moves on.

“This season is over, next season hasn’t begun. We’ve got a lot of time before then. We’ll worry about next season later,” summed up Flint with a shrug.

Photos-Courtsey of CAASports.Com