Fairfield rallies to beat George Mason

FAIRFAX, Va. – Mike Evanovich scored a career-high 32 points, setting a school record with nine three-point baskets to help the Fairfield University men's basketball team erase a 27-point second-half deficit en route to a 101-96 overtime win in the first round of the Postseason Tournament (CIT). Evanovich hit eight three-point shots in the second half, including the game-tying shot with one second left in regulation.

According to the NCAA record book, the 27-point comeback was the greatest during the month of March in Division I history, surpassing Missouri State's 23-point comeback against Southern Illinois in 2005. The Stags comeback is tied for fourth for second-half comebacks for all Division I games, with the record being Kentucky's 31-point second-half comeback against LSU in 1994 as well as Duke's 31-point comeback against Tulane in 1950.

George Mason jumped out to an early lead at 5-2 before Fairfield answered with back-to-back baskets by Colin Nickerson and Ryan Olander on consecutive possessions. Isaiah Tate pushed the home team back in front with a three-point shot at 8-6. Andre Cornelius scored the next three points while Mike Morrison followed with a jumper in the paint to give the Patriots their largest lead at 13-6.

Olander stopped the run with a tip-in basket at the 14:25 mark to pull the Stags within five points at 13-6. Cornelius hit another three-point shot to improve the lead to eight points, but Sean Crawford answered on the Stags next possession with a basket that made the score 16-10 with 12:44 on the clock. Fairfield came within three points after Mike Evanovich scored the team's lone three-point field goal at 8:28, which made the score 25-22.

The deficit remained at three points at the 7:17 mark when Cornelius netted a three-point shot which started a 9-0 run that gave the Patriots a 12-point lead. George Mason would take its biggest lead of the game with one second remaining as Mike Morrison converted an alley oop pass into a three-point play that resulted in a 49-30 halftime advantage.

The start of the second half did not start well for the Stags either, as George Mason continued to roll in the opening four minutes. The Patriots began the half with an 11-4 run that gave them a commanding 26-point lead at 60-34. They would add another point to their lead, reaching its biggest advantage with 16:08 remaining at 63-36.

By the next media timeout, the Stags cut the lead back to its halftime deficit of 19 at 69-50, courtesy of a 14-6 run. Derek Needham netted six points and Evanovich added five during that run. The Stags trimmed another 10 points off the lead over the next five minutes, as the deficit went under double figures for the first time since early in the first half. With six minutes on the clock, the Stags pulled within nine pints 74-65 after Evanovich made another three-point shot.

George Mason rebuilt the lead to 12 points when Luke Hancock made three of four free throws to make the score 77-65. However, Fairfield scored the next five points off two Anthony Johnson free throws and a three-point basket from Evanovich. With under 90 seconds remaining in regulation, the Patriots still held what seemed to be a secure lead at nine points, 84-75.

Fairfield netted nine of the next 10 points that nearly erased the deficit at 85-84. Evanovich wrapped two three pointers around a Needham trey during that run. Ryan Pearson made a pair of free throws with 19 seconds left for a three-point George Mason lead. The Stags completed the rally with Evanovich's eighth three-point shot of the half and ninth of the game with one second remaining, tying the game at 87-87.

Anthony Johnson scored on Fairfield's first possession of the overtime, giving Fairfield its first lead of the game since 6-5 with 16:45 remaining in the first half. Johnson scored nine in the half, as the Stags led by as many as five points at 100-95 with 27 seconds remaining.

Johnson finished the game with 25 points, while Needham added 21 points for the Stags. Andre Cornelius led all George Mason scorers with 28 points.

Fairfield will wait to see who itt will play in the CIT quarterfinals on Monday, March 22.