Evan Neisler recorded a career-high 14 points yesterday, but fell just shy of scoring the game-winning bucket.
With Drexel trailing George Mason by one point, Neisler hoisted a mid-range jumper with one second left, but the ball clanged off the rim. That left the Dragons short of recovering from a 17-point deficit and allowed the Patriots to escape the Daskalakis Athletic Center with a 56-55 victory.
"I didn't think we did anything special to get back into the game," Drexel coach Bruiser Flint said. "We just did what I told the guys after the game - what we're supposed to do. If we had started that out in the second half, honestly, we wouldn't have been down 17."
In both teams' Colonial Athletic Association opener, the Dragons (2-2) fell behind the Patriots, 44-27, but rallied to 48-46 with 6 minutes, 17 seconds left. Still, George Mason (6-2) regained control, leading by 55-48 with 47 seconds showing.
That's when the game really got eventful.
"We made it very exciting down the stretch, putting the ball in Drexel's hands with the chance to shoot for the win," George Mason coach Jim Larranaga said.
Neisler converted a three-point play with 27 seconds left to get Drexel to 55-51. Scott Rodgers then stole Cam Long's inbounds pass and Yannick Formbor promptly laid it in.
With 13 seconds remaining, George Mason's Louis Birdsong made the first of two free throws, with Neisler snaring Birdsong's miss.
Now trailing by 56-53, Rodgers drove toward the basket and drew a technical foul from Darryl Monroe.
"He actually got him around the neck - I'm not sure if it was intentional or not," Flint said. "It was a clothesline. I thought that was the obvious one, to be honest with you. If he didn't call it, I would have went ballistic."
With the clock at 2.9 seconds, Rodgers sank his foul shots to make it 56-55.
Because of the technical foul, Drexel regained possession, but Neisler's desperation shot didn't fall. Flint said the team failed to run the final play correctly.
"Actually, Evan was like the last option," Flint said. "Evan actually made a good adjustment in catching the ball right there. He didn't get a bad look at it though."
Neisler, who tied a career-best with 11 rebounds, helped Drexel establish a strong inside presence. The Dragons outrebounded the Patriots, 41-26, and scored 32 points in the paint. Drexel's big men accounted for 24 points, two games after they failed to make a bucket against Georgetown.
"We've got a lot of miss-layup big guys on our team," Flint joked. "But we actually made some shots today."
While the Dragons' big guys showed up, Tramayne Hawthorne seemingly did not. The senior guard, playing with an injured right knee, went 0 for 5 from the field.