LAS CRUCES, N.M. - Rahneeka Saunders drained a career-high
33 points to lead the George Mason women's basketball team past Drake, 76-70,
Saturday afternoon in the Aggie Hotel Encanto Thanksgiving Classic in the Pan
American Center. Saunders hit a pair of triples and used an 11-of-13 effort at
the charity stripe to post the senior's first career 30-point game.
Mason shot 69.4 percent from the charity stripe (25-36) led
by Saunders as Amber Easter and Janaa Pickard each went 3-for-4 at the line. Pickard and
Easter added 11 and 10 points, respectively, to the scoreboard for the Patriots.
Drake won the rebounding battle 46-35 led by Morgan Reid's double-double of 14
points and 14 rebounds. Kyndal Clark added 14 points as Stephanie Running
contributed 12 to the Bulldog's offense.
Saunders scored eight of Mason's final 11 points over the
final 1:45 to propel the Patriots to their first win on the road this season. A
layup at 2:22 by Running tied the score for the third time in the ballgame as
the teams stood knotted at 65-all. Reid returned the lead to Drake hitting the
front end of a pair of free throws 27 seconds later, but Saunders connected on
a layup with 1:45 on the clock to push Mason in front 67-66.
With seven seconds used off the clock, Drake saw its final
lead of the game come on a bucket from Alyssa Marschner before Saunders put
Mason up for the final time with 1:19 on the clock. Following the jumper at
1:19, the senior took a successful trip to the charity stripe, connecting on a
pair to give Mason a 71-68 lead with just over a minute to play.
The Bulldogs cut the score to one point at 71-70, but that
would be the closest Drake would come as the Patriots used a layup from
Saunders and a trio of free throws from Easter to complete the 76-70 victory.
Trailing 10-7 in the first half, Joyous Tharrington sparked
a 14-0 run over four and a half minutes to put the Patriots up 21-10 with 10:05
on the clock. Saunders expanded Mason's lead to 22 points draining a triple at
the 3:52 mark for the Patriots' largest lead in the contest. Drake closed the
half using a 13-5 run for the 44-30 halftime score.
Drake cut the score to single digits with less than five
minutes expired in the second half before a layup from Saunders at 14:39 gave Mason
a 54-41 advantage. The 13-point lead would be the largest the remainder of the
contest as the Bulldogs slowly chipped away at their deficit and tied the score
for just the second time at 4:01 on a layup from Running, setting up the final
four pivotal minutes of the ballgame.
Mason forced 16 Drake turnovers, converting the miscues into
20 points. Committing only nine turnovers, Mason shot 42.1 percent from the
field (24-57) - the last time Mason shot better than 42.1 percent was on
February 26, 2012 against VCU. The game saw three lead changes and five tied scores
as Drake dropped to 1-3 on the season with the loss, while Mason improved to
Saunders was named to the Aggie Hotel Encanto Thanksgiving Classic All-Tournament team at the conclusion of the tournament.
Mason returns to the court and opens a two-game homestand
welcoming UAB to the Patriot Center on December 2. Tip is slated for 2 p.m.