<
>

Colonials rally from 18-point deficit for OT win

GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) -- The shots kept falling, from contested
3-pointers to tough baskets in the lane. And each one appeared
destined to send George Washington home in an abrupt end to the
winningest season in school history.

Instead of panicking, the Colonials steadied themselves and
found a wild way to stay in the NCAA Tournament.

Maureece Rice scored 20 points and had a key defensive play in
overtime to help the Colonials erase an 18-point deficit and beat
North Carolina-Wilmington 88-85 Thursday night in the first round
of the Atlanta Regional, giving GW its first NCAA win in a dozen
years.

"The resiliency and will to win is just incredible," George
Washington coach Karl Hobbs said. "This team is very focused and
very hungry, and they're trying to fulfill their dreams."

Omar Williams had 16 points and hit the go-ahead basket for the
eighth-seeded Colonials (27-2), who will meet Duke in Saturday's
second round. Carl Elliott added 15 points and hit two free throws with 11.6 seconds
left to send it to OT, while Danilo Pinnock had all 11 of his
points after halftime.

GW's Pops Mensah-Bonsu had 10 points in his return after missing
four games due to a knee injury.

This was March basketball at its maddest, with 18 lead changes
and 10 ties. And the last wild momentum swing in a game full of
them went to the Colonials, who scored the game's final seven
points to earn their first NCAA win since beating UAB in the first
round in 1994.

It was GW's second-biggest comeback under the fifth-year coach,
trailing a 19-point rally to beat Marshall in November 2001. It
also marked the seventh time GW had rallied from at least nine down
to win this season, including a 17-point comeback against Xavier in
February.

That experience had the Colonials believing they could do it
again, even as the ninth-seeded Seahawks (25-8) pulled farther
ahead.

"It was nothing new to us," said Williams, who also had nine
rebounds. "[Hobbs] told us to stay together and keep playing hard,
and we'd eventually turn it around. That's what we did."

For the Seahawks, it marked the second straight time their NCAA
trip ended with so-close disappointment. Three years ago, UNC
Wilmington lost to Maryland 75-73 in the first round on a
buzzer-beating 3-pointer.

This time, the Seahawks couldn't hold onto a 64-46 lead with
11:11 left in regulation or an 85-81 lead with 2:06 left in
overtime.

"I sure hope CBS has something to do with selections in the
future, because we make for great TV," UNC-Wilmington coach Brad
Brownell said. "Every time we're in the Tournament, we give them
one heck of a game. Unfortunately for us, we came out on the losing
end of this one."

T.J. Carter scored 25 points to lead the Seahawks, who shot 59
percent and hit 11 3-pointers. John Goldsberry -- who went 8-for-8
from 3-point range as a freshman against the Terrapins -- finished
with 14 points and nine assists.

UNC Wilmington used a torrid stretch of 11-for-13 shooting to
break a 36-all halftime score and take the big lead. But George
Washington rallied behind a tenacious pressing defense, fueling a
19-0 run in a charged arena.

"We were trying to stay calm," said Vladimir Kuljanin, who had
12 points for the Seahawks. "That run was kind of demoralizing. We
didn't feel helpless, but we were wishing to just get that stop and
get the ball."

With Wilmington leading 85-81, Pinnock -- who played just 4
first-half minutes due to foul trouble -- drained a 3 to cut the
deficit to one. Then, after a missed jumper from Carter, the
Colonials pushed ahead for good on a hanging layup by Williams to
make it 86-85 with 1:06 left.

The Seahawks -- who seemed like they couldn't miss for much of
the game -- couldn't come up with a final answer. Carter missed a 3
on the next play, and Rice stripped Goldsberry on a drive to force
a turnover with 10.3 seconds left.

Elliott twice went 1-for-2 at the line in the final seconds to
make it 88-85, and Beckham Wyrick missed a long 3 to tie it just
before the final horn.

UNC Wilmington had a chance to end the game in regulation when
Carter drained a 3-pointer for a 79-77 lead with 25 seconds left.
But Carter fouled Elliott on a 3, and Elliott went 2-for-3 to force
the extra period.