Northeastern Rallies Past George Mason, 69-67
RICHMOND, Va. - A driving Jonathan Lee lay-up with three seconds remaining capped an incredible comeback as top-seeded Northeastern advanced to the title game of the 2013 CAA Men's Basketball Championship, presented by Jani-King, with a 69-67 victory over No. 4 seed George Mason.
The Huskies trailed by as many as 24 points in the first half and found themselves in a six-point hole with less than three minutes remaining, before scoring the game's final eight points to earn a spot in the championship game for the first time.
Lee led four Huskies in doubles figures with 14 points to go along with five rebounds, three assists and three steals. Senior backcourt mate Joel Smith scored all 14 of his points in the second half and added a team-high four assists. George Mason's Bryon Allen led all scorers with a career-high 20 points on 9-of-12 from the field, while adding five rebounds and four assists.
Mason opened up as much as a 24-point first-half advantage thanks in large part to a swarming defensive performance. The Patriots held the Huskies scoreless for the opening nine and a half minutes of the contest. NU missed its first nine shots from the floor and turned the ball over seven times, before a Lee lay-up at the 10:26 mark broke the brought. In the mean time, Mason built a 13-0 advantage by hitting five of its first seven shots from the field.
After Northeastern closed to 14-4, Mason ripped off another big run to extend its lead to 24. Vertrail Vaughns scored seven of his 10 first-half points during a 14-0 Mason run. A Corey Edwards lay-up at the 4:41 mark gave Mason a 28-4 advantage.
The Patriots' lead was 31-7 before Northeastern sprung to life, closing the half on a 12-0 march as it hit six of its final seven shots from the field. Demetrius Pollard provided a big spark off the bench for NU, scoring eight points over the final four and a half minutes of the half. After Pollard's second 3-pointer of the contest with just over a minute remaining, Lee drove the right side of the lane for a lay-up, cutting the Mason advantage to 31-19 at the intermission.
The Huskies carried the momentum over into the second half, scoring 14 of first 16 points to pull even. Northeastern started the second frame with three straight 3-pointers, including a pair from Smith. A steal by Lee on the defensive end led to a fast-break lay-up for the Huskies at the 16:59 mark, tying the contest at 33.
Mason regained the advantage on the ensuing possession as Allen drove the left side of the lane for a lay-up. The Patriots pushed the lead back to eight after Edwards drove and dished to Paris Bennett for a three-point play that gave Mason a 45-37 cushion.
Northeastern once again had the answer with a 10-2 run. A conventional 3-point play from Reggie Spencer off a strong finish with a two-handed slam started the spurt. Pollard pulled the Huskies square once again at 47 with a triple from the right wing midway through the second half.
Northeastern took its first lead of the game, 52-51, with 8:29 remaining on a 3-pointer from Smith. Mason, though, answered right back on its ensuing possession with a triple from Marko Gujanicic. The game was again tied at 58 following a pair of Jonathan Lee free throws with 6:23 left.
A Quincy Ford free throw put NU back on top, 61-60, before Allen sparked a 7-0 Patriots run. He threaded a pass to Gujanicic for a lay-up and scored on a leaner in the lane, while drawing the foul. He completed the 3-point play and Jonathan Arledge capped the run with bucket, giving Mason a 67-61 lead with 2:54 remaining.
Four straight free throws from Northeastern drew the Huskies within 67-65 with 2:22 remaining. With just under a minute remaining, Smith drove the right side of the lane and dumped a pass to Ford for a lay-up, tying the contest for the sixth time at 67. On the ensuing Mason possession, Ford came up with a strip under the goal, setting NU up with possession and the shot clock off. As time wound down, Lee drove down the right side for the game-winning lay-up.
Mason shot 63.4 percent (26-of-41) from the field, including a sizzling 78.9 percent (15-of-19) in the second half, but was done in by 20 turnovers. After shooting just 33.3 percent (8-of-24) in the opening half, Northeastern connected at a 60.9 percent (14-of-23) clip in the second frame and 46.8 percent (22-of-47) overall. The Huskies hit nine of their 18 3-point attempts, including 7-of-11 in the second half, while knocking down 16-of-24 from the free throw line.
Pollard added 13 points off the bench for Northeastern, including 3-of-3 from 3-point range, while Ford finished with 10 points a team-high six rebounds. Mason placed five players in double figures, including 12 from Gujanicic, who added a team-high six rebounds. Arledge, Sherrod Wright and Vaughns each chipped in 10 points.
Northeastern will face the winner of the second semifinal between Delaware and James Madison in the championship game on Monday night. The title game of the 2013 CAA Championship, presented by Jani-King, is slated for a 7 p.m. tip from the Richmond Coliseum and will be televised nationally on the NBC Sports Network.
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