Richmond, Va. — George Mason’s Bryon Allen hit a reverse layup with 3 seconds remaining to eliminate Georgia State, 61-59, in the Colonial Athletic Association men’s basketball tournament on Saturday.
Georgia State’s season ends after winning the second-most games (21) in school history. The Panthers will now wait to see if they are invited to any of the postseason tournaments.
The Panthers have failed to advance to the semifinals of the CAA tournament since they began playing in the conference in 2005-06. George Mason will play Virginia Commonwealth in one semifinal. Drexel will play Old Dominion in the other.
Georgia State tied the game on a steal and layup by James Fields with 33 seconds remaining.
George Mason coach Paul Hewitt called a timeout with 18 seconds left to set up the final play. Starting on the left side, Allen dribbled right, cut down the side of the free-throw lane and went under the basket for the shot. By going under the basket, he kept Eric Buckner from blocking the shot.
“I tried to cut him off, but he went under and I didn’t want to foul,” said Buckner, who led the CAA in blocks (106) this season.
“Bryon made a bit-time shot,” Hewitt said.
While the Panthers were beaten by a layup, they were undone by their inability to hit free throws, a problem all season. The Panthers missed 13 of their 30 attempts, a 56.7-percent clip slightly less than their 66.1-percent season average. They missed 10 of 19 in the second half. Fields led Georgia State with 15 points. Rashaad Richardson added 10.
“It’s been an Achilles’ heel of ours all year,” a teary Ron Hunter said. “We didn’t make them when we needed to.
“If we made free throws we would have won 27 games. But we didn’t make them when we needed to.”
The teams played a mostly uneven game. Georgia State led by 11 with 9:39 left in the first half but couldn’t duplicate what it did in Friday’s first round against Hofstra and put away the Patriots on Saturday.
Eventually, George Mason rallied and took a 44-43 lead with 9:04 left.
With Georgia State trailing 56-55, Andre Cornelius hit a 3-pointer with the shot clock expiring to push George Mason’s lead to 59-55 with 2:45 left.
Buckner, the hero in Georgia State’s first tournament game, missed two free throws with 1:49 left that would have cut the Panthers’ deficit to two.
George Mason followed by turning over the ball and Devonta White went to the free-throw line after being fouled by Mike Morrison, who joined Ryan Pearson on the bench with five fouls each. White hit both free throws to cut Georgia State’s margin to 59-57 with 1:14 left.
Fields then tied the game at 59 with a steal and layup with 33 seconds left. Fields sliced in between two George Mason players who were trying to make a short pass at the top of the free-throw lane. He put one hand on it, burst between them and outraced a trio to the basket.