NEW YORK (AP) — Ryan Canty and the Fordham Rams hit the glass to secure the program's first conference tournament victory in seven years.
Canty had a career-high 19 rebounds, Bryan Smith scored 14 points, including four free throws in the last 22 seconds, and Fordham held off George Mason 70-67 in the first game of the Atlantic 10 tournament Wednesday night by pounding the offensive boards.
The last-place Rams (10-20) snapped an eight-game losing streak and won an Atlantic 10 tournament game for the first time since 2007.
"It's important for Fordham," fourth-year coach Tom Pecora said. "It's a big step for us. For them to win this, I think it's another step in our growth process."
Fordham, playing a long subway ride from its Bronx campus, faces fifth-seeded Dayton on Thursday at Barclays Center, the home of the Brooklyn Nets.
The Rams had 24 offensive rebounds, seven from Canty.
"I try to crash the boards every time I see the ball go up," the 6-foot-9 junior said.
Canty scored seven points and made 1 of 2 from the line with 4.6 seconds left to make it 70-67.
"When he gets to the rim you see bodies fly," Pecora said.
Patrick Holloway had a long 3-point attempt to tie at the buzzer, but it bounced off the back of the rim.
Bryon Allen scored 19 points to lead 12th-seeded George Mason (11-20), which finished a disappointing first season in the A-10 with its second loss of the year to the Rams.
"We competed. We battled. We just didn't get some of the breaks we needed down the stretch," third-year George Mason coach Paul Hewitt, who was an assistant coach on the last Fordham team to reach the NCAA tournament in 1992.
Reserve forward Johnny Williams had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Patriots and leading scorer Sherrod Wright added 11.
Allen's 3 with 15.7 seconds left cut the lead to 67-66, but that was as close as George Mason got. The Patriots only lead of the game was 1-0.
Fordham led by as much as 11 in the first half, but Allen went on a run for George Mason to end the first half. The senior guard scored the Patriots' last eight points, capping it with a fast-break layup that beat the buzzer, cutting the Rams' lead to 33-26 at the break.
The Rams shot 25 percent from the field in the second half but kept attacking the basket, hitting the offensive boards and drawing fouls. It wasn't pretty, but it kept George Mason at bay.
"That's one thing we focus on all year is rebounding and today they beat us on it," Williams said.