George Mason basketball fans who planned to spend the weekend at the ECAC South tournament are advised to find alternate means of entertainment. The Patriots came close to a third straight one-point victory over East Carolina tonight, but this time lost to the Pirates, 68-65.
Navy, after watching a 13-point lead cut to two in less than three minutes, needed and received perfect free-throw shooting from 26-point scorer Dave Brooks to hold off Richmond, 74-69, and match the academy season record of 18 victories.
The Midshipmen will play second-seeded James Madison at 9 p.m. Friday, following East Carolina's 7 p.m. game with top-ranked William and Mary.
East Carolina's Tony Robinson made a sudden transformation from goat to hero after he missed two free throws with nine seconds left and the Pirates up by one point.
Mike Shannon got the rebound for George Mason and aimed a pass in the direction of Carlos Yates. Before Yates could get the ball, Robinson stripped it from him and went in for the layup.
It was a disappointing night for Yates, although he led the Patriots in points with 20, rebounds with nine and assists with five. Closely guarded by Barry Wright, Yates was charged with six turnovers, at one stage losing possession without a shot three straight times.
Freshman Ricky Wilson, who benefited from several of Yates' passes, had a season high of 18 points. Early in the second half, he scored four straight baskets as the Patriots turned a 42-39 deficit into a 47-44 lead. A drought of more than 3 1/2 minutes enabled East Carolina to forge ahead, 55-49, and George Mason never caught up, although it closed within one on four occasions in the last two minutes.
"We lost and we'll bow our heads gracefully," Yates said. "But the officiating wasn't consistent. It was frustrating, because they were beating on me a lot tonight and on the other side he calls an easy touch."
The offensive star for East Carolina was senior forward Charles Green, from Spingarn High School in the District. He suffered a dislocated right shoulder on Jan. 12 and was considered doubtful for the rest of the season. He played six games with a brace, then discarded it tonight and had season highs of 20 points and 14 rebounds.
"We all felt we owed them one," Green said. "I knew it would be a dogfight. I've played against a lot of their guys from D.C. I had confidence in my shooting tonight. I don't know what it was. When the brace came off, I just felt good."
Navy, two points down after a half in which Richmond repeatedly hit the offensive boards, scored the first six after intermission. With their fast break working well, the Midshipmen took a 67-54 lead with 4 1/2 minutes left.
Moving into a stall at that point, the Midshipmen did not make a field goal the rest of the way. Two offtarget inbounds passes led to Richmond scores and boosted Navy's turnover total to 17. The Spiders scored three straight baskets without fouling and it was 68-64 when Navy's Tony Wells, after missing the front end of a one-and-one, fouled Tom Bethea on the rebound.
Bethea made both free throws and the large segment of Richmond fans in the announced crowd of 4,147 became more vocal. The Spiders chose to foul Brooks, a deadly shooter from the corner but only a 53 percenter at the line. Brooks made both shots for a 70-66 lead.
"The last five minutes we ran out of gas and we had to go to a stall because we were so tired," said Navy Coach Paul Evans.
James Madison defeated Navy by 10 points during the regular season. Of the rematch, Evans said, "I'm worried about our tiring after the tough game we had tonight."