Ricky Wilson and Ken Sanders keyed a second-half surge as George Mason regrouped to turn back determined American, 68-60, in a Colonial Athletic Association tournament quarterfinal game last night at Patriot Center.
The Patriots (18-10), after winning their sixth straight game and ninth in 10, will meet Richmond in a semifinal here Monday night at 9. Navy will play UNC-Wilmington in a 7 p.m. semifinal Monday.
AU concluded its season at 10-18.
Sanders finished with 19 rebounds, breaking the tournament record of 17 set by George Mason's Mike Shannon against Old Dominion in 1982, and 22 points. Wilson had 15 points and six assists and Rose, after playing only briefly in the first half because of foul trouble, had eight points and seven rebounds.
AU guard Frank Ross, the conference's leading scorer (23.2), had 14 points in the first half but managed only two baskets (on 13 attempts) in the final 20 minutes.
George Mason, which has defeated AU all seven times the teams have met, couldn't do much with a hot-shooting Eagles team in the first half. But the hosts tightened up defensively and began controlling the boards. With Ross controlled, AU, as has been the problem all season, was unable to find another scorer.
"Early, they were getting a few second shots and I knew we had to cut that out if we were going to get on a roll," said Sanders.
"AU doesn't play like a team that has lost as many games as they have," Harrington said. "AU played well in the first half but the last eight minutes of the half they didn't score that many points."
AU managed only 20 points in the second half. With the score tied at 44, Wilson scored five straight points. AU got within a basket, 51-49, before Sanders made three free throws around Tracy Battle's short jumper and George Mason had its largest lead to that point, 56-49, with 9:30 remaining.
AU got baskets from Ross and Pat Witting to get within three again, 58-55, with 6:50 left. But Sanders scored inside and Rose made four free throws to make it 68-58 with just seconds remaining.
The Eagles couldn't have played any better in the first 20 minutes. They hit open shots, forced turnovers and, except for a few instances, kept the Patriots from getting any second and third shots. In addition, the Patriots lost their second-leading scorer 3:21 into the game when Rose went to the bench with his third personal foul.
Wilson, the Patriots' toughest defender, had problems with Ross, who quickly scored 10 points as AU took a 22-11 advantage.
Mason got over its tentativeness and began chipping away at the Eagles' lead. Sanders had nine rebounds, five of them offensive, and had four inside baskets as George Mason closed to within 35-30 with five minutes to play. Brian Miller made two long jumpers to tie the score at 38 at intermission.