LAS CRUCES, N.M. - Rahneeka Saunders hit a jumper with 1:01
left in the game to cut the score to 54-52, but the George Mason women's
basketball team could not connect on a bucket over the final minute as New
Mexico State escaped with a 55-52 victory Friday evening in the Aggie Hotel
Encanto Thanksgiving Classic. The Patriots will face Drake in the second round
on Saturday at 6 p.m.
Mason dipped to 2-2 on the season, while New Mexico State
improved to 2-2 with the win.
Saunders hit a jumper with 1:01 on the clock to move the score
to 54-52 as the Aggies missed the front end of two one-and-one trips over the
next 40 seconds, but Mason could not tie the score before Danesia Williamson
hit the front end of a pair of free throws with 10.6 on the clock for the 55-52
score. Mason setup a play but could not get a trey off before the final buzzer
as New Mexico State snuck away with the victory.
For the game, Duckett paced Mason's offense with a team-best
11 points, setting a career-high for the senior. Janaa Pickard followed
chipping in 10 points as the Patriots outrebounded the Aggies, 38-31, led by
Pickard's nine boards. Williamson led all scorers with 18 points as Mason held
the leading scorer at half to only four points in the final 20 minutes. Kelsie
Rozendaal posted a team-best eight rebounds for the Aggies.
Trailing by nine out of the break, Mason slowly chipped away
at its deficit and used an 8-0 run jumpstarted by Amber Easter to slice the score
to 42-40 with 11:52 on the clock. The largest lead the Aggies would hold the
remainder of the game would be five points at 7:45 on a jumper from Jasmine
Rutledge, making the score 47-42.
Mason took its first and only lead of the game following a
7-0 run fueled by two points from Pickard and four points from Tharrington. At
the 4:38 mark, Pickard hit the back end of a pair of free throws for a
one-point ballgame and as Tharrington was fouled, the senior hit both attempts
of a one-and-one for Mason's 48-47 lead at 3:23. The lead was short-lived,
however, as New Mexico State regained the lead on the next possession and held
it for the win.
Behind eight triples in the first half by the home squad,
New Mexico State held a 37-26 lead at the halftime break. Williamson drained
four of the Aggies' three-pointers and led all scorers with 14 points at
intermission. Pickard led Mason with eight points as Kyana Jacobs added six and
Duckett chipped in five.
Williamson opened the scoring hitting her first trey of the
game at 17:36 as Tharrington cut the score to one point with a jumper to
follow. The Aggies opened an 8-4 lead at 16:02 with Williamson's second trey of
the half as back-to-back buckets from Jacobs knotted the score at 8-all with
13:32 on the clock.
Trailing by eight at 10:23, the Patriots cut the score to
18-14 using consecutive jumpers from Pickard as NMSU pushed its lead back out
to nine, 28-19, with 3:08 remaining in the first. Duckett cut the score to
seven with a pair of free throws, but the Aggies hit three triples to close out
the half and hold the 37-26 lead.
In opening round action of the tournament, UC Irvine
defeated Drake, 69-64, to pick up its first win of the season. Mason will face Drake
tomorrow, Saturday, Nov. 24 at 6 p.m. (EST)/4 p.m. (MST).