March 19, 2006
Forwards Will Thomas and Jai Lewis dominated up front, and the 11th-seeded Colonials dug out of an early 16-2 hole to upset the Tar Heels, 65-60 on Sunday.
George Mason (25-7) became the first Colonial Athletic Association team to reach the round of 16 since 1988, when Richmond went. The Patriots will play Wichita State on Friday in the Washington Regional semifinals.
George Mason got an at-large bid, which rubbed some of the power conferences the wrong way. After a rough start, the Patriots switched to a recently installed zone defense and showed they belonged, knocking off the region's No. 3 seed.
Carolina (23-8) faded down the stretch, missing four straight shots and repeatedly fouling. George Mason went 9-of-12 from the line in the final 3 minutes to pull away.
It was yet another second-round stunner for coach Roy Williams, who suffered one of his worst in the same arena 16 years ago. His Kansas team was considered a title contender in 1992, but got knocked off by Texas-El Paso in the second round.
Williams was so upset as it wound down that he picked up his folding chair and slammed it down courtside.
This one will leave the Tar Heels blue for some time. They lost their top seven scorers from their title team, but a quartet of freshman had them thinking another deep tournament run was possible.
The fab freshman played down to their experience level in the second half, which started with a tone-setting 8-0 run by George Mason.
Thomas and Lewis repeatedly drove for layups and bank shots against Carolina's front line, sparking a second-half comeback. The Patriots also took Carolina forward Tyler Hansbrough out of the game by double- and triple-teaming him.
Hansbrough, who set a Carolina freshman record with 14 20-point games this season, was only 4-of-11 from the field when he went to the bench with his third foul and 13:08 remaining He finished with 10 points on 5-of-13 shooting. David Noel, the Tar Heels' top returner, had a team-high 22.
Lamar Butler led George Mason with 18 points and hit two free throws that put the Patriots ahead to stay 56-54 with 2:52 to go.
North Carolina made its opening run against a man-to-man defense that couldn't keep up. After George Mason switched to the zone that was installed a couple of weeks ago, the Tar Heels bogged down, shooting 36 percent from the field and getting to the line for a total of four free throws in the game.