Evanovich scores 32 to lead Fairfield's stunning comeback over GM in CIT
The Stags were certainly made of something special Tuesday as they came back from a 27-point deficit in the second half to force overtime and then beat George Mason, 101-96, before 2,062 stunned fans in the first round of the CollegeInsider.com tournament.
"Having a chance to advance is the best feeling in the world," said Fairfield senior Mike Evanovich, who came off the bench to score a career-high 32 points with a school-best nine 3-pointers on 14 tries.
The Stags posted their first postseason win since the 1973 NIT when they beat Marshall before losing to Virginia Tech in the second round. Their last postseason appearance was in 2003 when the Stags hosted Boston College in the NIT.
"This is the best comeback I have ever been a part of," said Needham, who missed nine of 10 shots in the first half but finished with 21 points and seven assists.
Fairfield is slated to play Monday against a team to be determined.
Senior forward Anthony Johnson had 25 points and 11 rebounds and Lyndon Jordan came off the bench to score 10 points for the Stags, who went over the 100-point mark for the first time since the 1990-91 season.
Fairfield (23-10), which lost to Siena in the MAAC title game, felt it was snubbed by the NIT committee and then had to go on the road to face George Mason (17-15), a Final Four team four years ago but a club that stumbled in the second half of the season.
"We just played hard. Any way to keep playing is a big deal," said Johnson, whose team trailed, 49-30 at halftime.
Fairfield coach Ed Cooley said he told his team at halftime they had "no heart" and pointed out George Mason was killing his team on the boards. The Patriots had a 25-12 rebound advantage in the first half, with nine offensive boards. But the Stags regrouped and outrebounded the CAA team 24-19 in the second half.
"I really challenged our senior leadership at halftime," Cooley said.
The Stags answered the challenge in the second half.
Evanovich, who had 27 points in the second half, tied the game at 87-87 with one-tenth of a second left in regulation when he hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key.
George Mason, playing without second-team all-CAA player Cam Long (suspension) and Kevin Foster (plans to transfer), took a 63-36 lead on a 3-pointer by Andre Cornelius with 16:08 to play. But the Patriots lost their biggest lead at home under coach Jim Larranaga.
Johnson had 11 of his team's 14 points in the overtime session, mostly on inside moves and free throws.
Cornelius had 28 points to lead George Mason and Morrison scored 19 of his 25 in the first half.