WASHINGTON — George Mason is no longer the cute little underdog. The Patriots, by golly, are going to the Final Four. The suburban commuter school from Fairfax, Va., beat top-seeded Connecticut 86-84 in overtime Sunday in the Washington Regional final, ending the stranglehold that big-time programs have enjoyed for 27 years in college basketball's biggest showcase.
They lacked in size, athleticism and history relative to their opponent, but the 11th-seeded Patriots made up for it with tenacity.
Buoyed by a partisan crowd and playing some 20 miles from their campus, George Mason rallied after trailing by 12 late in the first half and nine early in the second. They hit six straight 3-pointers in the second half, shot 5-for-6 in overtime and outrebounded UConn 37-34 even though the Huskies have three starters taller than any of the Patriots' frontcourt players.