George Mason advances to school's first Elite Eight

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Lamar Butler dribbled out the final seconds of

George Mason's latest improbable victory, then dropped the ball and

wagged eight fingers toward a TV camera.

As in, "Round of eight, here we come!"

Butler hopped and skipped to the locker room, yelling over and

over: "We're not even supposed to be here!"

Playing a short drive from George Mason's campus, Folarin

Campbell scored 16 points and the 11th-seeded Patriots used a

shutdown defense to beat seventh-seeded Wichita State 63-55 Friday

night in a mid-major matchup, moving within one victory of the

Final Four.

"We've been trying to prove ourselves all year. We heard what

the critics were saying -- that we didn't belong in the

tournament," senior guard Tony Skinn said. "The confidence level

has risen, and we've gotten a chance to show the country what we're

capable of."

Plenty, such as denying the ball to Missouri Valley Conference

player of the year Paul Miller, who led the Shockers with 16 points

and nine rebounds, and Wichita State's second-leading scorer, Sean

Ogirri, who had all of four points on 1-for-8 shooting.

Wichita State finished 20-for-64 on field-goal attempts,

including a startling 3-for-24 on 3-pointers. The tone was set

early, as George Mason broke out to a 9-0 lead and took a 35-19

edge into halftime, thanks in large part to Wichita State's

9-for-30 shooting from the field to that point, 1-for-11 on 3s.

"As hard as I tried," Shockers coach Mark Turgeon said, "I

couldn't get them out of that funk."

How unexpected was George Mason's giddy, bracket-disrupting run

through the NCAA Tournament? The Patriots didn't receive a single

vote in this season's final AP Top 25 -- and never had won a single

game at the NCAA Tournament until last week.

But they stunned sixth-seeded Michigan State and No. 3-seeded

North Carolina, the defending national champion. George Mason's

defense was superb in those games, too, as was Campbell, a 6-foot-4

sophomore who, like the rest of the Patriots' starting five, hails

from nearby Maryland.

He averaged only 10.7 points this season, but that's up to 17.4

in the tournament. How fitting: An unheralded player lifting an

unheralded team.

"Every time we go out there," Butler said, "we feel we have

something to prove."

Butler and Skinn added 14 points apiece for the Patriots (26-7),

who will meet top-seeded Connecticut in Sunday's Washington

Regional final. UConn beat fifth-seeded Washington 98-92 in

overtime in Friday night's second game.

So now Connecticut will have to figure out a way to dent the

Patriots' tough D. They tied for eighth in Division I this season

by holding opponents under 39 percent shooting and shut down

Michigan State and North Carolina for long stretches.

"They're very well-coached. They've caused a lot of problems

for a lot of teams," said Wichita State's Kyle Wilson, who scored

12 points and helped his team make the final score respectable.

But Wichita State (26-9) just couldn't put the ball in the

bucket often enough to make a real game of it.

George Mason led by as many as 19 in the second half, and

Wichita State's offense never got going consistently. One sequence,

with about 2½ minutes left, captured the Shockers' rough night:

They got three straight offensive rebounds, but the first two

putbacks were strongly contested and didn't fall, and on the third,

P.J. Couisnard simply missed an open layup.

Wichita State started hitting some shots late, getting as close

as 62-55 on Wilson's 3-pointer with 23 seconds left. But that was

it, and George Mason held on despite shaky foul shooting, then

jumped on each other, shouted and pointed to their vocal cheering


The Shockers were playing about 1,200 miles from Wichita, Kan.

George Mason's main campus, in Fairfax, Va., is about 20 miles from

the Verizon Center, where the Patriots played one "home" game

this season.

More than three hours before tipoff, dozens of George Mason fans

were milling around outside in yellow shirts, green caps, "Go

Mason" signs, and even the occasional three-cornered black hat

that's something the original Mr. Mason might have worn in the

1700s when he was writing the Virginia Declaration of Rights -- upon

which the Constitution's Bill of Rights was based.

Campbell helped get the local fans into the game, waving his

arms toward them as he ran back on defense after making each of his

first three 3-point attempts. Wichita State's first six possessions

went this way, meanwhile: two missed field goals, three turnovers

and a blocked shot.

That the Shockers and Patriots were playing at all at this stage

was a bit of vindication for mid-major schools. The Shockers

reached the regional semifinals by beating the Big East's Seton

Hall and the SEC's Tennessee, which was seeded second.

There were questions on Selection Sunday about whether the MVC

deserved all four of its NCAA invitations and whether the Patriots

belonged as an at-large choice from the Colonial Athletic

Association, in part because the team lost two of its last four


That they belong is no longer in doubt. But how far can they go?

"Anything," George Mason coach Jim Larranaga said, "is