Paul Hewitt's suit jacket simply had to go.
George Mason held a 48-45 lead over No. 10 Saint Louis with 12:30 remaining, though the margin was seven moments before. Chances to extend the gap came in between and came away empty.
Shifty guard Marquise Moore drove for a basket and for a moment had the Patriot Center crowd cheering. Moments later, fans realized an official waved off the score, calling a charge instead.
Rather than charge the official over the disputed call, coach Paul Hewitt immediately walked away and down the length of Mason's bench, frustration showing with every stride. After reaching as far as he could while staying on the court, Hewitt paused, pressed his hands against his head, turned and retraced his steps.
Far from the official as play continued at the opposite basket, Hewitt removed his gray suit jacket. In one motion, he flung it over his team's bench with no menace in eyes, no exasperated look on his face. Standing near half court, referee Brent Hampton apparently saw the scenario play out differently, whistling Hewitt for a technical. Now the coach's eyes showed disbelief.
This sequence ultimately mattered little in the context of George Mason's 89-85 overtime loss to No. 10 Saint Louis (24-2, 11-0). For the second time this month, the Patriots (9-17, 2-10) fell to the Atlantic 10 leaders in an extra session.
This jacket-tossing sequence perhaps symbolizes Mason's season. Throughout conference play and against notable foes, the Patriots have donned the look of a team capable of big moments. Ultimately, they discarded the opportunity and were penalized with defeat in the end.
"We did everything we could to win that game," said the dejected Hewitt after his team's 11th loss in 13 games. "Just didn't make enough plays."
Eight of the setbacks have been by six points or less, including the 87-81 loss at St. Louis on Feb 1. The Patriots led by seven points midway through the second half, only to see the Billikens rally and win in overtime as St. Louis scored 10 points after regulation.
There were eerie similarities Wednesday night in Fairfax. The Patriots held a seven point edge in the second half, though neither team led by more than three points for the final 13 minutes of regulation.
Senior guard Sherrod Wright scored a career-high 34 points and George Mason took a 73-72 with 5.4 seconds remaining on two free throws by forward Jalen Jenkins. The defense then allowed St. Louis' Jordair Jett to dribble the entire court, get to the rim and draw a foul. The dreadlocked guard, who had 25 points, split the free throws to force overtime in which Mason immediately grabbed a four-point lead.
Loe immediately took the lead away with consecutive 3-pointers. Though the Patriots tied the game moments later, Loe's bombs started the decisive 12-2 run as the Billikens won their 18th straight game.
"Our effort was great, I'm not criticizing our effort, but we missed the rotation on two of [Loe's] shots," Hewitt said. "When you're playing a team as good as this, you can't miss your rotations. You have to be precise. You've got execute."
Asked about what these narrow losses to one of the nation's top teams says about his own squad, Hewitt said, "I give them credit for not getting discouraged and really coming back and practicing every day, playing hard. That's about all you can take away from it, absent the younger guys are getting some really good experience."
At this point it is indeed all about the future for Mason seeing as this season is littered with losses, several heartbreakers at that, though "We've still got some basketball left to play," Hewitt noted.
As for his thoughts on the technical, Hewitt remained silent.
"Um, can't take about it just yet," he said.
Coach, that's cool. In this case, within the framework of the season, actions spoke louder than words.