Center sinks late shot to cap huge comeback
An air-balled free throw minutes earlier suggested that Erik Copes was the last man who would take the final shot for George Mason.
But with the clock ticking down Saturday at Patriot Center, Copes found the ball in his hands and nothing to do with it but shoot. The sophomore center knocked in a 12-foot jumper with 0.5 seconds left, making him the unlikeliest of heroes in a 60-58 come-from-behind victory over William & Mary.
"Never in my life," Copes said when asked whether he ever had hit a game-winning shot.
"Glad you didn't tell me that before," George Mason coach Paul Hewitt joked.
Copes' shot came on a pass from Bryon Allen (14 points, six rebounds, four assists, three steals) after the point guard failed to get free on a ball screen. Copes (10 points, six rebounds) flashed to the elbow off a fake screen.
"I saw Bryon got stuck, so I stopped and had my hands ready, my feet set," Copes said. "I was like, this is going in."
Nearly as inexplicable as Copes' game winner was the three-game home losing streak George Mason (17-11, 10-6) snapped. The Patriots appeared on their way to another perplexing defeat, trailing 50-37, and seemed to have no answer for William & Mary sophomore Marcus Thornton (22 points), who hit six 3-pointers.
But over the next 9:57, the Patriots held the Tribe without a field goal. Freshman Patrick Holloway (15 points) hit a pair of 3-pointers, and sophomore Anali Okoloji (four rebounds) came off the bench and led the defense, disturbing Thornton with his size and agility.
"His rebounding and his physical presence changed the game when we looked pretty much dead in the water," Hewitt said.
With 4:36 left, Holloway's fifth 3-pointer of the game capped a 14-0 spurt and gave George Mason the lead. The Patriots hiked their edge to five points, but with 14 seconds left, William & Mary (12-15, 6-10) tied it on a layup by Tim Rusthoven, setting the scene for Copes' heroics.
"Obviously he was a little too much open," William & Mary coach Tony Shaver said. "We loved to see Copes taking a jump shot as opposed to a lot of other weapons that they have."