Saturday , Mar , 25 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Cinderella still dancing: George Mason downs Wichita State

Washington, DC (Sports Network) – Folarin Campbell scored 16 points as George
Mason continued its Cinderella run in the NCAA Tournament with a 63-55 victory
over Wichita State in the Washington, D.C. Regional semifinals.

The 11th-seeded Patriots (26-7), who received an at-large bid out of the
Colonial Athletic Association, never trailed after scoring the game’s first
nine points. George Mason can secure a berth in the Final Four by beating top
seed Connecticut, which pulled out a 98-92 overtime win over fifth seed
Washington in Friday’s second game at the Verizon Center.

Before this year the Patriots had never won an NCAA Tournament game in three
appearances. However, George Mason upset sixth seed Michigan State in the
first round and then stunned third seed North Carolina before disposing of the
Shockers to reach the Elite Eight.

Lamar Butler and Tony Skinn each added 14 points for George Mason while Will
Thomas scored 10 to go along with 10 rebounds.

“This team is probably the loosest team I’ve ever played on as far as game
preparation,” Butler said. “Coach already does a great job of keeping us loose
in practice, dancing, singing, claps, we were loose tonight and there was no
tension whatsoever throughout the team.”

Paul Miller had 16 points for seventh-seeded Wichita State (26-9), which had
beaten Seton Hall and Tennessee earlier in the tournament. Karon Bradley
tallied 13 points and Kyle Wilson scored 12 for the Shockers, who went 3-of-24
from three-point range and shot 31.3 percent overall.

“With the way they came out shooting the ball tonight, it really put us in a
hole and kind of got us on our heels and I think we panicked a little bit,”
Miller said. “That’s why we didn’t play so well in the first half.”

It was the second game between the Shockers and Patriots this season. Skinn
knocked down a three-pointer with 10.8 seconds to play to give George Mason a
70-67 win in Wichita State on February 18.

It was a partisan crowd for George Mason, which is located less than 20 miles
from the nation’s capital.

“Having that kind of support from our student body and from the community, the
George Mason community and the Fairfax community, even the whole D.C. Metro
Area has kind of adopted this team,” Patriots head coach Jim Larranaga said.
“We’re all just loving it.”

The Patriots scored the game’s first nine points, as Butler buried a three
that was followed by two more successful shots beyond the arc from Campbell.
Another three by Campbell extended the lead to 14-3, and the Shockers failed
in their bid to play catch-up.

“I’ve been working on my jump shot lately, just going into the gym and trying
to work on it and it’s been paying off,” Campbell said. “These last couple of
games I’ve been hitting big threes. At the beginning of the game I was left
wide open and I just took the shot and they just happened to fall.”

Two free throws by Skinn with under two minutes left in the half moved George
Mason to a 32-15 lead, and the Patriots were comfortably in front 35-19 at the
intermission.

The Shockers used an 8-2 push to get within 45-35 following two free throws
from Sean Ogirri with just over eight minutes remaining. However, the
Patriots’ Jordan Carter drilled a three-pointer to quell Wichita State’s
rally.

The lead remained in double digits until Bradley hit two free throws with 2:01
remaining to pull the Shockers within 57-48. The closest Wichita State got was
62-55 following a Wilson three-pointer from the left corner with 23 seconds
left.

Butler answered with a free throw two seconds later, and the Shockers turned
the ball over on their next possession before the Patriots ran out the clock.

Game Notes

Before this year, the Patriots lost in the first round of the NCAAs in 1989
(Indiana), 1999 (Cincinnati) and 2001 (Maryland)…George Mason shot 45.5
percent, including 8-of-16 from beyond the arc…Wichita State held a 43-32
advantage in rebounds.

GMASON WICHITAST