Sherrod Wright beats VCU at the buzzer
There are 3.8 seconds left on the clock, the Patriots trailing by two. Ryan Pearson has the ball at the baseline looking for Bryon Allen, but he gets cut off. About to fall over the line, Pearson tosses with the ball to the only open target – Sherrod Wright.
Wright takes three dribbles. He pulls up for the jumper with a hand right in his face.
“I made the shot of my dreams,” Wright said.
It was pure euphoria on the evening of Valentine’s Day for the George Mason faithful who packed the Patriot Center for their contest against archrival VCU. Truly a V-Day love story for the ages.
“This is the best Valentine’s Day I’ve had in a long time,” said head coach Paul Hewitt with a laugh.
Wright’s desperation buzzer-beater from over 30-feet out earned him a spot in SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays on ESPN, but, more importantly, put him number one in the hearts of everyone who bleeds green and gold.
“I saw Ryan tip-toeing over the line so I just sprinted to the ball, took three dribbles, let it go. I was confident, it felt good, and it hit the bottom of the net,” Wright said.
As exciting as Wright’s shot was, it was perhaps equally exciting to watch the joy among the players and students. The players ran around like little kids, full of pure passion, and even stormed into the jam-packed student section to celebrate with their most valuable supporters.
“The shot falls and the first thing I do is run to Sherrod, man, I was just so happy, I just let out all of my emotions, I was so happy,” said Pearson with a smile from cheek to cheek.
It is always exhilarating to win a game with a buzzer-beater, but doing it against the Rams simply carries more weight. These are the two perennial powers of the CAA, each with a Final Four appearance in the last six years, each sitting in first place in the conference entering the game. Mason improved to 22-6, 14-2 in conference play, as VCU also sits at 22-6 but fell to 13-3 in CAA competition.
With the magical victory, the Patriots remain tied for first at the top with Drexel.
The win came down to more than just one shot, however, as the Patriots trailed by five points with 30 seconds left on the game clock, 56-51. The comeback was initiated by a courageous three-pointer from Pearson after a crucial offensive rebound. After two VCU free throws, freshman Vaughn Gray stepped up with a big-time jumper of his own.
However, VCU would make two more free throws.
Then it was Vertrail Vaughns turn to knock down a three. Vaughns had been struggling with his shot for most of the season, but stepped up when his team needed him most, cutting the lead to just one point. He went 4-of-7 from beyond the arc for the game with 14 points.
“Vertrail was in a bit of a slump, but I think he’s worked his way out of it,” Hewitt said.
And this time, the Rams’ Briante Weber would cash in on just one of two free throws, keeping the margin at two points and giving Mason a chance to win in regulation.
The rest is history.
Wright was certainly the hero of the night with his 11 points and the game-winner, but Pearson really carried the team throughout and played like the CAA Player of the Year.
Pearson achieved his 11th double-double of the season with 24 points and 11 boards, including the three-ball that got the unlikely comeback rolling. Whenever the Patriots were struggling to score, he came up with a big play to keep their hopes alive.
“I’ve been saying all year, I think Ryan is the best player in our league, and he played like it again tonight,” Hewitt said.
After such a momentous game, it will be interesting to see whether the squad has a letdown or uses it to propel them forward the rest of the season. That question will be answered Saturday as they host Lamar in the annual BracketBuster game at 4 p.m. as the home finale, it will also be a “White Out” game.
Ryan Pearson and his teammates weren't shy about running into the student section following the heroic comeback.