February 14, 2008
By David Driver
Used with permission
For the News & Messenger
Will Thomas, as a junior at Mount St. Joseph's, started to attract the atten-tion of George Mason basketball coaches.
"He was on our list. We became believers," said Chris Caputo, a Mason assistant who saw Thomas play at the Baltimore high school.
"I absolutely love Will Thomas," Mason head coach Jim Larranaga said earlier this week. "He is the smartest player I have ever coached."
Now, four years later, Thomas most likely played the last game of his college career in the Baltimore area Wednesday as Mason defeated host Towson 85-73 in a Colonial Athletic Association contest.
Thomas, a 6-foot-7 senior, had 17 points and 10 rebounds, John Vaughan had 19 points and Dre Smith had 18 as Mason bounced back from a loss Saturday at ODU. It was the 12th double-double of the season for Thomas and that leads the CAA.
Mason (18-7, 10-4 in the CAA), who led by 16 points at halftime, took over second place in the conference as William and Mary lost at UNC Wilmington on Wednesday. The Pats remain two games back of VCU, who won at home Wednesday against JMU.
Towson fell to 9-15 overall and 5-9 in the CAA and lost its 12th straight game to Mason.
Thomas, whose team saw a 20-point lead reduced to six, pumped his fist after his basket in the lane gave Mason a 73-63 lead with 3:23 left. Thomas, with a big smile, greeted a small but loud group of Mason fans as he came off the court following the televised game.
"It is a great feeling. We had more defensive intensity down the stretch," said Thomas, who had nearly 30 friends at the game. "We want to get one of those top four spots in the CAA. We are still chasing VCU."
The Patriots made eight of their 13 shots from 3-point range in the first half and had just four turnovers at the break. Mason led 46-30 at halftime and a free throw by Thomas gave the Pats a 54-39 lead early in the second half.
Towson cut it to 57-51 with 10:20 to go but Smith hit a 3-pointer to make it 60-51. A basket by Thomas gave Mason a 62-51 lead with 8:27 to go and a pair of treys by Smith made it 69-58 with 5:00 to play. Thomas hit two free throws to give Mason a 71-60 lead with 3:57 to play and Towson never threatened.
Folarin Campbell had 16 points for Mason, who hit 12 of 23 3-pointers and won the rebound battle 40-25.
Thomas scored in the closing seconds of the first half to give Mason a 46-30 lead at the break. He had 20 points and 14 rebounds against Towson in a win in Fairfax Jan. 5. Before a large crowd Wednesday night, his dunk off an offensive rebound early in the game gave Mason a 4-2 lead and the Pats never trailed after that.
"George Mason is just a good balanced basketball team," Towson head coach Pat Kennedy said. "They are a very potent team offensively."
Thomas, who set a school record with his 94th straight start, entered the game with an average of 16.1 points and 10.3 rebounds per game.
"What can you say about the guy? You put the ball in his hands, it adds a whole different dimension," Caputo said.