And then, after Skinn missed the front end of a one and one with 5.5 seconds left, Denham Brown beat everybody to the baseline for a reverse layup that dropped in at the buzzer and sent the game into overtime, Larranaga had one last message to his team.
"I told them, 'There's no place on Earth I'd rather be than here with you guys in the Verizon Center playing Connecticut. Now we have to beat them in a five-minute game.' "
And darned if the Patriots didn't shake off the devastation of having their victory snatched away by making five of six shots in overtime.
Connecticut finally fell off the edge. Brown missed a three-point shot as time expired. On his way to cut the net, Larranaga grabbed the P.A. and made some call-outs to the crowd, saying, "When I say 'George!' You say, 'Mason!' 'GEORGE! ... "
Two hours after the game, George Mason stayed in character. Larranaga, as usual, was giving interviews. And guard Butler was smiling, as he had all weekend.
He said he had dreamed of playing in the Final Four when he was younger, but once he got to George Mason he abandoned those thoughts.
"I learned a lesson," Butler said. "Don't stop dreaming."
J.A. Adande can be reached at email@example.com. To read more by Adande, go to latimes.com/Adande.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)
Teams seeded ninth or lower that have advanced to the Final Four since 1979, when the NCAA began seeding all teams:
1979 -- No. 9 PENNSYLVANIA
* Lost to Michigan State in semifinals, lost to DePaul in third-place game.
1986 -- No. 11 LOUISIANA STATE
* Lost to Louisville in semifinals.
2006 -- No. 11 GEORGE MASON
* vs. Florida in semifinals.