George Mason's thrilling 63-61 victory over rival VCU was so satisfying for Patriots coach Paul Hewitt that he couldn't help but make a comment that may have had him sleeping on the couch Tuesday night.
Said Hewitt to the Washington Post: "I hope my wife isn't reading this, but this is the best Valentine's Day I had."
Forgive Hewitt's faux pas because there were probably numerous George Mason fans thinking the same thing Tuesday night after sophomore guard Sherrod Wright's buzzer-beating heroics. With 3.8 seconds on the clock and the Patriots trailing by one, Wright zoomed up court and sank a 25-foot jump shot as time expired, capping a comeback from a five-point deficit in the final minute and sparking a jubilant dog pile celebration near center court.
The victory was especially satisfying for George Mason because of the ramifications in the CAA title race. The Patriots (22-6, 14-2) remained tied for first place with Drexel (22-5, 14-2) and dropped VCU (22-6, 13-3) into third place, one game behind the two co-leaders with just two conference games left in the regular season.
Since the CAA regular-season champ very likely will be the only team with realistic hope of landing an at-large NCAA tournament bid, the real winner from Tuesday night may be Drexel. If VCU can get revenge on George Mason in Richmond in the regular-season finale for both teams a week from Saturday, Drexel can capture the outright CAA title if it wins its final two games against James Madison and Old Dominion.
Regardless, George Mason has to be elated with its position given the turbulent offseason it endured.
The Patriots appeared to be a potential top 25 team after reaching the NCAA tournament last March, but coach Jim Larranaga left for Miami, third-leading scorer Luke Hancock transferred to Louisville and starting guard Andre Cornelius was suspended for the first 10 games of the season. Skepticism increased after George Mason lost to both Florida Atlantic and Florida International in November, but the Patriots have steadied themselves, winning all but four games since to rise to their customary spot atop the CAA standings.
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