The shot went up and the crowd fell silent, some in anguish, asking why? Why would Saint Louis University’s Forward Rob Loe take another three-point shot? And then, just when the disgust had come over the fans, BANG, the Billikens faithful exploded in joy and relief. The game was tied at 68 with 44.1 seconds left in regulation.
As the shot fell, the George Mason players, stood in shock. They thought they had finally pulled out their first ever Atlantic 10 conference victory. The energy was drained from the players on the Patriots bench. However, they still had a chance, but their shot to win the game in regulation clanked off the front iron. This forced the game into overtime.
"I was open, (Saint Louis Guard) Austin (McBroom) got me the ball at the end of the game and I was open so I shot it," said Loe on his game-tying shot in regulation. "I think everyone on the team is confident to make that—even the walk-ons. Everyone grows up thinking they are going to make a big shot like that and I think everyone wanted to be in the game just so they can hit that shot."
Loe had missed his two three-point attempts, so naturally, the arena was nervous about him taking his third three-point attempt. This attempt, however, was with 44.1 seconds left in the second half with the Billikens down three points to tie the game, but he made it.
In overtime, Loe did a heat-check, and nailed another three-pointer to open the extra session. From that point, the Billikens had the momentum and the game in hand as they claimed the 87-81 victory in overtime.
"They are a real good team. They are a real physical team," said Saint Louis Guard Mike McCall Jr. on George Mason. "I think that was the best rebounding team that we faced. The coaches kept telling us that we have to keep rebounding and keep them off the boards because they are going to keep coming (on the boards)."
Despite the 0-7 conference record, the Patriots did not play like a typical 7-14 team. They have just had some bad luck, especially at the end of this game. They had a hot-shooting game making 51.5 percent of their shots and physically matched up with the Billikens possession by possession.
George Mason was tough from the outset. They physically matched up the Billikens forcing contested shots from Dwayne Evans who is SLU’s best interior option. Mason put Erik Copes on Evans who was able to match his speed and strength on the interior limiting him to four points in the first half.
The Patriots kept it close throughout the first half. Their dribble-drive offensive was finding gaps in the usually staunch Billikens defense, but the rim was incredibly kind to the Patriots as well. Some of their shots bounced around the rim once or twice before finally falling in the bucket.
Saint Louis struggled to keep up in the first half. After Evans was effectively shut down, they turned to Mike McCall Jr. who was the key reason SLU was able to match Mason’s play in the first half.
McCall Jr. hit two key three-pointers in the first half. The first three gave the Bills an early 11-10 lead with 12:09 left in the first half. The second gave SLU the go-ahead basket just before the end of the half. The Billikens clung to a one point lead at halftime.
In the second half, Mason jumped out of the gate. They did not let the Billikens reestablish their interior game, which, is a common practice that the Billikens attempt to do coming out of halftime.
Byron Allen and Patrick Holloway, guards for George Mason, gave the Patriots momentum coming out of halftime. Allen drove hard to the basket. He created penetration forcing the Billikens to get out of position and gave the Patriots opportunities around the basket. When Allen got in the lane, he would kick the ball out to Holloway who would make a number of key three point buckets in the second half.
However, Saint Louis is one of the mentally toughest teams in the A-10. They kept coming back and would get within three points at least four times in the second half. Every time Saint Louis would get close, George Mason would undercut their momentum with a key bucket to silence the crowd. Blow by Blow, the Billikens realized that time was ticking and ticking away to reclaim the lead. If they wanted to pull out a victory, they would need to go back to their roots of playing strong defense and getting to the foul line.
The Billikens slowly gained momentum once again. They crashed the boards and forced the Patriots into some bad shots. In addition, SLU Guard Jordair Jett and Forward Dwayne Evans got to the foul line. This time, the Billikens only found themselves down one point with 2:42 left in the game.
After a series of offensive rebounds, George Mason’s Erik Copes tipped the ball in the basket for their final points in regulation. Another deflating blow for the Billikens. Yet, they responded once again as Saint Louis Guard Austin McBroom found Rob Loe for the three-pointer to tie the game at 68.
"I am really proud of our guys because they came ready to play," said Saint Louis Head Coach Jim Crews on the victory. "They fought, competed and stayed with things. When we got down, I thought this was really good on their part. In my memory, when we get it down to three, we would make a couple of good plays and then, boom, Mason would hit a three. That happened three different times and for us to have resilience to just keep going was good."