John Feinstein: A Long Shot Comes Through for the Patriots
The game clock had ticked under 10 minutes Sunday night in the Richmond Coliseum, and George Mason appeared it might be preparing to play in the NIT.
Most of the Patriots' Colonial Athletic Association tournament semifinal against Towson must have felt like a visit to a dentist's chair; they were unable to get anything going against a 21-loss Towson team that had suddenly started to live up to its nickname when the event began here Friday.
The 11th-seeded Tigers had taken out sixth-seeded Drexel and third-seeded Northeastern, and with 9:08 left, they were leading second-seeded George Mason, 43-37. To that point, the Patriots had scored a grand total of eight points in the second half.
As Darryl Monroe stepped to the foul line for Mason, senior guard John Vaughan walked over to sophomore point guard Cam Long.
"It's kind of something we do when we're starting to get late in a game," Long said later. "He comes over and says to me, 'It's time to take care of business,' and I say, 'Right, we both need to take care of business.' "
This time, though, Vaughan looked Long in the eye and shook his head.
"No," he said. "You need to take care of business."
Clearly, Vaughan knew something. He knew if George Mason was going to reach the CAA final for a third straight year, Long was going to have to get them there. On a team that starts three seniors and a junior, the sophomore has to make the kind of plays that keep a team alive in March.
"It's funny because in high school, even in middle school, it was always me they looked to make the big shots," Long said. He smiled. "I never made them. I'd get a last shot, miss and we'd go into overtime."
It's different now. Saturday night, with the Patriots clinging to a 51-50 lead in the final three minutes against James Madison, Long hit a jump shot and then a three-pointer to lead them to a 61-53 victory. That was merely a prelude to the way he took over against Towson, carrying George Mason to a 56-48 victory and a Monday night date with Virginia Commonwealth in the championship game.