On Senior Night, Patriots' Birthday Boy Blows Out Tribe
George Mason 60, William & Mary 54
Thursday, February 28, 2008; Page E03
Folarin Campbell's final regular season appearance at Patriot Center coincided with his 22nd birthday, so it was only fitting that the senior guard capped an emotional evening with the most emphatic basket of last night's 60-54 victory over William & Mary.
With the Patriots ahead by five and less than two minutes remaining, Campbell rocketed down the baseline, took advantage of Will Thomas's screen and "just took off," he said of his dunk that provided him with the final two of his team-high 17 points. "I'm playing with adrenaline right now, I am so excited, it's just a wonderful feeling."
With Mason's victory and UNC Wilmington's loss to league leader Virginia Commonwealth, the Patriots (20-9, 12-5) seized sole possession of second place in the Colonial Athletic Association with only Saturday's trip to Northeastern remaining. It marked the eighth 20-win season in program history and the third in Coach Jim Larranaga's 11 years.
John Vaughan had 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting, freshman Cam Long added 12 points, one shy of his career high, and Thomas added 10 points and eight rebounds in his final home game.
Speaking of Campbell and Thomas -- starters on the 2006 Final Four squad -- as well as Jordan Carter, Larranaga said: "This senior class has meant so much to not only me, but I think the whole George Mason University community . . . guys who have made a lot of sacrifices together to bring our program to this point. I told them that there is still a lot of basketball ahead of us."
David Schneider made five three-pointers and had 19 points for the Tribe (14-14, 10-7), which missed 12 of its final 13 shots and made just 8 of 28 three-pointers. Vaughan's defensive work on Schneider was a critical part of the defensive effort after the Patriots fell behind by a point with about six minutes remaining.
The Patriots stormed to a 10-3 lead on the strength of Vaughan's two three-pointers, but found themselves in danger of being behind at halftime at home for the first time this season.
Ahead by five, Mason committed turnovers on 6 of 7 possessions to allow the Tribe back into the game. Laimis Kisielius scored W&M's final eight points of the half, including a three-pointer for a 26-23 edge, but the Patriots regained the lead on Vaughan's layup and Long's three-pointer with 28 seconds left.
Long continued to produce after the break, hitting a three-pointer and a free throw to provide a 37-30 lead, but the Tribe's long-range shooting kept it tight. When Schneider drilled his fifth three-pointer on six attempts, the deficit was just 45-43 with 11 minutes remaining.
Later, Nathan Mann's three-pointer with 6 minutes 5 seconds to go put the Tribe ahead, but Campbell and Thomas combined to make 3 of 4 free throws and Vaughan swished a three for a 55-50 advantage.
Campbell's dunk with 1:44 left stretched the lead to seven before Mann's layup ended a stretch that included seven misses, a turnover and a missed free throw.
"I knew once he went baseline that he was going to attempt it," Vaughan said of Campbell's key play. "It was just a great play, a great drive and a great finish at the rim."
Patriots Notes: Thomas set the program record for starts (113) and tied the mark for games played (126). . . . For the fifth time in 10 seasons, the Patriots ended the regular season with just one home loss. Their average home attendance was 6,494, second in the CAA behind Old Dominion.
Will Daniels matched Wilmore with a game-high 24 points for the Rams (20-9, 6-8), who have dropped five straight.