Northeastern storms back from 24-point deficit to oust Mason in CAA semifinals

Bryon Allen drives through the Northeastern defense in Sunday's CAA semifinal (Photo by Jenny Krashin/Broadside).
Bryon Allen drives through the Northeastern defense in Sunday's CAA semifinal (Photo by Jenny Krashin/Broadside).

Northeastern University's Jonathan Lee stood at the top of the arc, dribbling down the remaining seconds of the first CAA semifinal on Sunday against George Mason University. The crowd at the Richmond Coliseum rose to their feet, a smaller attendance than seen in year's past but rowdy nonetheless.

Lee found an opening on the right side and drove to the rim for an uncontested layup with 3.0 seconds left in regulation, leading to a 69-67 victory over the Patriots. 

"We've executed that play all night and when the clock's winding down, you just put your head down and go to the basket," Lee said. "I had a wide open layup because they were pressuring everyone else, so the basket was wide open."

Lee's game-winning shot was his 14th point of the night, tied with fellow senior guard Joel Smith for the Huskies' team points lead. However, the bulk of their scoring didn't get underway until the second half in which they scored 50 points. 

Mason came out of the gates with a suffocating defensive effort, holding Northeastern scoreless for 9:34 seconds into the first half. The Patriots jumped out to a 13-0 lead in the opening minutes and everything was clicking. Every shot Northeastern couldn't find the bottom of the net. Foul shots rattled out and the rust of having a first-round bye was apparent.

But the Huskies wouldn't let the Patriots run away with the game. 

With 3:36 left in the first half, Sherrod Wright shot a floater as the shot clock expired and the Northeastern bench received a technical foul for arguing the call. Vertrail Vaughns, who led all scorers in the first half with 10 points, hit both free throws and gave the Patriots a 31-7 lead. 

However, the final three minutes of the half belonged to the Huskies, who went on a 12-0 run to end the half, cutting the Mason lead to 12. The run continued into the second half with David Walker and Joel Smith hitting three three-pointers in the first 1:28 of the stanza. 

The Patriots' lofty lead was gone as if the first 17 minutes of the game had never happened. 

"If there's one thing I didn't do a good enough job of cleaning up this year was the fouling," said Mason coach Paul Hewitt. "We committed three really bad fouls down the stretch. The reach over the back. With the shot clock winding down, we hit a guy shooting a jump shot. I didn't do a good job of cleaning that up."

The Huskies managed to keep the game within single digits throughout the second half and their pressure defense forced Mason to turn the ball over 11 times in the second half---four turnovers in the final two minutes. 

Junior guard Bryon Allen led the Patriots with 20 points on 9-of-12 shooting. Freshman forward Marko Gujanicic added 12 points and three other Patriots each contributed 10 points. 

The Huskies move on to face the James Madison Dukes tonight for a chance at an automatic NCAA Tournament berth. 

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