RICHMOND, Va. -- George Mason is going back to the NCAA tournament, and so is the smothering defense that sparked its run to the Final Four two years ago.
Folarin Campbell and the Patriots ended William & Mary's string of dramatic victories Monday night, winning the Colonial Athletic Association championship 68-59.
"We came here with a mind-set that it's really not about the offense," Patriots coach Jim Larranaga said. "It's so important that your defense be a consistent part."
Oh, and a few guys who can score is also good.
Campbell scored 20 points and Will Thomas added 18 and 13 rebounds as the Patriots (23-10) took the suspense out of whether they get a bid Sunday. Two years ago, they made their run as the CAA's first at-large entrant in 20 years.
"Sitting at the TV on Selection Sunday and knowing that our name is going to be picked, it's a great feeling," said Campbell, who added six rebounds and four assists.
Campbell and Thomas both played key roles on the NCAA team that stunned Michigan State, North Carolina, Wichita State and Connecticut in 2006 -- an improbable advance to the Final Four that ended in a 73-58 loss to eventual national champion Florida.
Some things about this team's approach will be the same, Thomas said.
"There's no pressure on us," he said. "But we're still going to do the same things we did two years ago: Go out and have the most fun of any team in the tournament."
The Tribe (17-16) were on a Patriots-like run in the CAA tournament until meeting up with George Mason, its relentless defense and designs on its own hoop dreams.
"When you're playing 35 minutes a game for four days, it wears you down toward that last 10 minutes in the final game," Campbell said. "I think that's what happened."
Winner of just three CAA tournament games in their first 22 years, the Tribe matched that with three victories decided in the final seconds. William & Mary also had three stars to thank for its first appearance in the conference title game in 23 years.
But the Patriots never gave them the chance, likely denying them only their second postseason appearance in 103 years of basketball and first trip to the big tournament.
William & Mary shot just 38 percent from the field.
Still, coach Tony Shaver said, the impact of getting close will be big, too.
"A win would have done unbelievable things for our program, but quite honestly, I think this weekend has done unbelievable things," the CAA's coach of the year said. "I hope we've created a little bit of a stir at William & Mary about basketball."
That stir is already alive and well at the mostly commuter school from Fairfax, and as the championship trophies were being handed out, fans chanted "Six more wins!"
The Patriots had given them a reason to believe again.
Campbell hit the first of his three second-half 3-pointers to cap a 9-0 run to start the second half, boosting George Mason's lead to 36-26. Thomas cleaned up inside as George Mason outrebounded William & Mary 35-28 and shot 49 percent. The Patriots' biggest lead was 14, and they went 14-for-16 at the line in the final 3:05.
Laimis Kisielius, whose basket with three seconds left knocked out top-seeded Virginia Commonwealth on Sunday, scored 22 points for William and Mary and made 8-of-16 shots; the rest of the team was a combined 11-for-34 and missed 14-of-19 3-pointers.
"It's always great to finish on a great note, but I think we're building something special here at William & Mary," said Kisielius, one of four Tribe seniors.
Still, he added, "I'd give all my scores away to get the win today."