Mason men’s basketball kisses trying season goodbye

Fourth Estate Sports Editor Stephen Czarda and Online Sports Editor Kristi Anable  

Last July, when Mason officially entered the Atlantic 10 after being the centerpiece of the CAA for decades, students, alumni and the community alike applauded the move, ready to form new rivalries with the likes of local rival George Washington, 2013 Sweet Sixteen darling La Salle, a Top 25 St. Louis squad and rekindling past hatred with the likes of VCU and Richmond.

Selected in preseason predictions to have as many NCAA Tournament berths as the ACC and Big 10, fans circled the dates of March 12-16 in Brooklyn as the moment Mason would reenter the national spotlight with four experienced seniors and two highly touted freshmen leading the way.

At the beginning of the season, however, no one thought Mason would be the first team eliminated from the A-10 Championship—and by a 13th seeded team that won only nine games all season and were reeling entering the Big Apple, losers of eight straight. On Wednesday night, the Patriots were bounced by Fordham by a final of 70-67 at Barclays Center.

As Patrick Holloway’s possible game-tying three pointer bounced off the rim with the clock striking zero, the school that carried its glass slipper through a memorable 2006 Final Four run ended a trying season in familiar fashion—within five at the final buzzer.

Mason led only once in the contest and that was in the opening minutes. The Rams would lead by 11 points seven different times, and despite the Patriots second-half efforts, they could not counter Fordham’s inside presence on both ends.

The Patriots got to within one twice in the second half, with Sherrod Wright and Bryon Allen three pointers at the 9:01 and under one minute mark.

The Patriots shot 39.1 percent compared to Fordham’s 35.4 percent effort, but lost the rebounding battle 50-42 in the contest.

Mason’s three seniors combined for over 66 percent of the team’s scoring, led by Allen with 19 points. Johnny Williams recorded his second career double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Despite shooting 0-4 in the first half, Wright ended the night with 11 points after hitting his first bucket of the night at the 19:20 mark of the second half. Erik Copes, who has been inconsistent on the boards this season, led the squad with 11 rebounds and added nine points in the contest.

As Mason travels back to Fairfax, the rest of the conference will continue action at Barclays throughout the weekend. Depending on the final decisions of the selection committee, the Patriots could have played as many as nine NCAA Tournament teams this season.