FAIRFAX, Va. - Amber Easter matched her career-high of 20 points, while Rahneeka Saunders tied her career-high of nine assists as the George Mason women's basketball team handled the visiting VCU Rams, 71-58, Sunday afternoon in the Patriot Center. The Patriots, winners of two straight, improved to 9-9 overall this season and 3-4 in Colonial Athletic Association play with the victory, while VCU dipped to 11-7, 4-3 with its second consecutive loss.
Mason recorded a season-high 19 assists led by Saunders' nine and Evelyn Lewis' three. Shooting 12-of-14 from the floor, Taleia Moton set the Patriot Center field goal percentage record in a game (.857), leading the way with a game-high 29 points. Easter tied her career-high of 20 points, while Janaa Pickard added 10 points to the board. Easter and Moton combined for 30 of Mason's 36 second-half points. The Patriots collected nine steals led by Moton and Saunders' three apiece, while also winning the rebounding battle, 31-27. Easter was just shy of a double-double, securing a team-high nine rebounds.
VCU hit 7-of-15 three-point attempts, 6-of-9 in the second half, led by Courtney Hurt and Andrea Barbour, both going 2-for-4 from long range. The senior duo led the Rams offensively with 17 and 15 points, respectively.
Mason scored 38 of its 71 total points in the paint, outscoring the visiting squad by 18 and also converted 17 forced VCU turnovers into 26 points.
The first 10 minutes of action saw five lead changes and a tied score before Mason grabbed its third lead of the contest on a Moton three-point play at 9:41 for an 18-16 advantage. Moton's play sparked a 10-2 Mason run as the Patriots built their lead out to seven points on an Easter jumper before the Rams answered with a quick 6-0 spurt, cutting the lead to 25-24 as time hit 6:06.
Lewis and Saunders pushed Mason back out with a five-point lead with consecutive buckets as VCU was held to a pair of free throws the remainder of the half. Ignited by Pickard's second triple of the stanza, the Patriots closed the period with a 6-0 run for a 35-26 halftime advantage.
A 6-0 Patriot run jumpstarted the second half as the home squad opened a 15-point advantage before Barbour hit both her three-pointers to follow. The Rams' first five field goals in the second stanza would come from three-point range, but Mason maintained a strong lead, holding a 53-43 advantage at the second media break.
After Mason worked out to its largest lead of 16 points at 7:32, VCU chipped at its deficit and eventually cut the lead to a nine-point game on a three-point play from Barbour at the 2:29 marker. The Rams would remain scoreless the rest of the way as Mason closed out the contest with a 4-0 run for the final 71-58 victory.
The win over VCU snapped a six-game win streak the Rams held over the Patriots entering the contest - Mason last defeated VCU on March 8, 2006, also in the Patriot Center.
Mason closes out this home stretch welcoming Towson to the Patriot Center on Thursday, January 26 for a 7 p.m. meeting.