Nova Comes Up Short in Tourney

Collapse complete as Wildcats lose 61-57

Wildcats Corey Stokes
Getty Images

Villanova’s spiraling season finally ended Friday afternoon as they blew a late 6-point lead to lose to George Mason 61-57 in Cleveland.

Luke Hancock hit a 3-pointer with 21 seconds left, capping Mason's comeback and keeping the one-time March darlings playing with a win over Villanova in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Villanova missed its last shot Friday and Mike Morrison slammed home one final basket for the Patriots (27-6), who will play Ohio State or Texas-San Antonio on Sunday in the East region.

This was the latest and last collapse for the Wildcats (21-12), who end the season on a six-game losing streak. They failed to get out of the first weekend of the NCAA tournament for the second straight year.

George Mason, which earned an at-large bid, won its first tournament game for the first time since its Final Four run in 2006. The Patriots trailed the Wildcats by 10 in the first half.

Hancock scored 18 points, and Morrison had 10 points and 11 rebounds.

Corey Fisher led Nova with 20 points and six assists. Fellow guard Corey Stokes chipped in 14 points and five boards.

Fisher and Stokes each went cold in the final 20 minutes after a great first half that rekindled memories of a 16-1 start to the season.

The Wildcats ended up winning their final game on Feb. 19.

They went the final 3:28 without a field goal in this game.

There were tears and hugs in the Villanova locker room as players accepted defeat.

"We never expected to go out like this," Stokes said, using a towel to dry his eyes. "I'm proud of my teammates. We played our hearts out. We missed shots. They played great defense down the stretch."

George Mason won its first NCAA tournament game since it knocked off Connecticut in the 2006 regional final, a run that coach Jim Larranaga said he never tires of talking about.

He's got a new story now.

George Mason can still become this year's George Mason -- although as a single-digit seed for the first time in program history, a run through March as the tournament's favorite mid-major will be a tougher sell.

That's fine with the Patriots, who just want to keep this rolling.

Villanova began the game like the team that was ranked No. 5 in the country, not the one that took a nosedive in the second half of the season. Fisher and Stokes worked their way open and swished 3s as easy as free throws.

Fisher scored 11 straight points and Stokes followed that run with three straight 3s. The two Coreys scored 22 of Villanova's first 23 points and helped them to a 10-point lead.

Yarou scored the first non-Corey field goal with 6:55 left in the first half.

Stokes missed a late 3, but Fisher bounced on a loose ball rebound and tossed up a floater to keep it a nine-point lead for Villanova. But unlike Michigan's rout over Tennessee, this was no 8-9 mismatch. On the brink of falling into trouble, the Patriots cranked the defensive pressure and hit free throws that help get them to 35-29 at halftime.


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