Northeastern vaulted from a two-way tie for second place into a three-way tie for first in the Colonial Athletic Association by posting a 58-57 victory over George Mason last night, but the Huskies could claim no joy after watching their opponent's leading scorer faint from a head injury with 2:12 to go, and get carted off the court and taken to the hospital.
A pall was cast over a Matthews Arena crowd of 2,300 when senior guard John Vaughan came out of a ferocious skirmish for an offensive rebound beneath the basket holding his left eye. He retreated to NU's end of the floor, holding his eye all the way down the court, and had a delayed reaction, fainting and crumpling to the floor near the foul line after Nkem Ojougboh made the first of two foul shots.
George Mason sports information director Richard Coco said Vaughan suffered a concussion, and said Vaughan was released from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center last night and joined his teammates at the team hotel in Boston.
"He will return to Virginia [today], where he will be reevaluated by the team physician," Coco said.
Coco said Vaughan was awake and alert but complaining of a "bad headache" when he arrived at the hospital. "He asked for the score when coach Jim Larranaga came in to see him."
Jerry Berger, a hospital spokesman, said Vaughan "was in good condition."
According to Larranaga, Vaughan fainted and had to be revived by medical personnel from both teams. When he came to, Larranaga said Vaughan asked George Mason trainer Debi Corbatto "if he could get back in the game." He had scored a team-high 19 points (off the bench) on 7-of-10 shooting, including 5 of 7 from the 3-point arc.
Larranaga said Vaughan, whose head and neck were immobilized, had his pulse and blood pressure checked and both were fine. "His breathing appeared to be even. He wasn't gasping for air," said Larranaga, who was escorted afterward by police to the hospital. "I was observing his stomach and it appeared to be going up and down, like a normal person laying on their back."
Asked how the injury occurred, Larranaga said, "I think there was a collision underneath our basket the play before and maybe something happened then."
"Our thoughts and our prayers are with John Vaughan," said NU coach Bill Coen. "We're out here playing a game of basketball and sometimes you get caught up in the emotion of the game. It's a reminder to all of us that this is just a game. There's more important things going on."
Vaughan and fellow senior guard Dre Smith began the game on the bench, snapping a streak of 17 starts, after both were late to a meal before last Saturday's game against James Madison. Vaughan and Smith reported their tardiness to Larranaga.
"I thought he was having a heck of a game," Larranaga said of Vaughan, who is tied for the team scoring lead, averaging 11.6 points per game.
The Huskies, who were looking to bounce back from their first conference loss, last Saturday at Hofstra, controlled a 32-25 lead at halftime. They led for most of the game until the Patriots made a spirited run to take a 57-56 lead on a pair of foul shots by Cam Long (11 points).
The Huskies wrested the lead away when Manny Adako (9 points) converted a pretty dribble-and-dish feed from Baptiste Bataille with 25 seconds remaining, then came up with a defensive stop at the end of the game.
"You think about [Vaughan] and you think about what you need to do out there," said NU's Matt Janning (game-high 20 points). "It was just a tough turnaround either way."
Globe correspondent Peter Martin contributed to this report.