-- For the second time in this young season, George Mason rattled a likely NCAA tournament team on its home court.

And for the second time, the Patriots traveled back to Fairfax with only a crushing loss to show for their efforts.

This 54-53 loss to defending Colonial Athletic Association champion Old Dominion on Wednesday night was even more heartbreaking than an overtime loss at Wake Forest last month.

This time, George Mason led virtually the entire game, until Old Dominion's Drew Williamson made a 25-footer with the clock running down to send an announced crowd of 6,475 into a frenzy.

The officials put 0.7 of a second back on the clock, but Lamar Butler's desperation three-pointer fell short and the crowd celebrated again.

"As they say in the movies, that's entertainment," Old Dominion Coach Blaine Taylor said.

George Mason's Jai Lewis, who had 15 points and 12 rebounds, broke a 51-51 tie on a layup with just under three minutes to go. Then the scoring in a highly entertaining but offensively challenged game completely vanished.

It was still 53-51 when Old Dominion's Valdas Vasylius missed a runner with about 40 seconds left.

It was still 53-51 when Butler missed the front end of a one-and-one with 29 seconds left. And it was still 53-51 when Old Dominion's Brian Henderson missed a three-pointer with time running down.

After a frantic scramble for the ball, the Monarchs (6-1, 1-0 CAA) retained possession with 4.4 seconds left. Taylor elected not to take a timeout, so Williamson took the inbounds pass, dribbled briefly and then shot from the top of the key over George Mason's Tony Skinn.

"I just wanted to get it up to give us a chance to rebound the ball," said Williamson, who was not the first option on the play. "As soon as it left my hand I knew it was going to go in."

Both teams entered the game having won three straight, and both teams have legitimate postseason hopes. Old Dominion won a school-record 28 games last season. The Monarchs have four starters back; they already have nonconference wins over Georgia and Fordham.

George Mason (4-3, 1-1) doesn't have the rising national profile of Old Dominion. But the Patriots went toe-to-toe with Wake Forest and won their last two games by a combined 70 points.

It quickly became clear that there would be no such blowout on Wednesday night. Old Dominion had a huge size advantage, with 6-foot-9 Australian forward Alex Loughton -- the reigning CAA player of the year -- and 7-3 reserve Sam Harris looming over George Mason's front court.

But Mason countered with a strong defensive effort and held Old Dominion 22 points under its season average. Loughton had 14 points at halftime but didn't score in the second half.

"I told the team afterwards, that's what you play basketball for, for those games," George Mason Coach Jim Larranaga said. "I'll tell you, there's a lot of nights when we don't play well and we win; I'm happy that we won but kind of disappointed that we didn't play better. Tonight, I'm not disappointed in the way we played."

* FORDHAM 62, VIRGINIA 60: Nicholas Vita banked in a jumper with three seconds to play for the winning points for the Rams (2-6) in Charlottesville.

J.R. Reynolds missed a shot just before the buzzer sounded for the Cavaliers (3-3).

Virginia played without point guard and co-captain Sean Singletary, who watched in street clothes while nursing a hip injury.

"We just toughed the game out," Rams Coach Dereck Whittenburg said.

* AMERICAN 80, MOUNT ST. MARY'S 60: Brayden Billbe scored five of his career-high 19 points in the final minutes and the Eagles (1-6) won their home opener over the Mountaineers (1-5).

* VIRGINIA TECH 94, NORTH CAROLINA A&T 66: Zabian Dowdell scored a career-high 25 points and Coleman Collins added 17 points and 14 rebounds in Blacksburg, Va.

The Hokies (6-3) led 45-33 by halftime and never looked back. The Aggies (0-5) fell to 0-30 against ACC teams.