NORFOLK, Va. - The George Mason women's basketball team dropped a hard-fought 60-57 decision at Norfolk State Monday night in Echols Hall to open the year 2012. Christine Weithman led the Patriots offensively with 14 points hitting four three-pointers as Mason closed out non-conference play with a 7-5 overall record. With the win, Norfolk State snapped a five-game losing streak and improved to 6-7.
Weithman hit four triples in the second half to lead the Patriots as Taleia Moton led Mason at the break with 11 points, but was held scoreless in the final 20 minutes. Norfolk State had three players reach double-figures led by Batavia Owens with 16 points. Whitney Long and Rachel Gordon followed with 15 and 14 points, respectively. The Spartans won the edge on glass, 45-33, paced by Gordon's 11 points securing her double-double for the game.
Tied at 26 coming out of the break, Norfolk State opened the final period strong, building its lead out to six points using a 6-0 run through two minutes. Mason cut its deficit down to a single possession twice before a Gordon bucket set a 38-32 NSU lead with 13:57 to play. A trio of triples from Weithman followed by an old-fashioned three-point play from Evelyn Lewis spread over four minutes gave Mason a 46-44 lead with 8:10 on the clock.
An Amber Easter bucket at the 5:05 marker gave Mason a four-point lead, but the Spartans knotted the score on an Owens jumper just under two minutes later. Weithman hit her fourth three-pointer of the half to return the advantage to the Patriots, but after a pair of free throws, the Spartans took a 56-55 lead off a Long lay-up with 46 seconds to play.
As time hit 20 seconds on the clock, Long hit a pair of free throws pushing Norfolk State's lead to three at 58-55, but Weithman drew a foul and hit both of a one-and-one for a 58-57 ballgame with 12 seconds left to play. Rae Corbo successfully connected on a pair at the charity stripe as Pickard got off a miscued three-pointer at the buzzer sealing the win for Norfolk State.
The Patriots startled the Spartans out of the gate, hitting 50 percent from the field (4-8) and forcing five NSU turnovers to claim a 10-0 lead by the first media break with 15:36 on the clock. The pace changed thereafter when Gordon hit Norfolk State's first field goal at the 11:59 mark. The jumper sparked a 15-4 Spartan run through the third media timeout at 7:13, giving the narrow 16-15 advantage to the home squad. Consecutive buckets from Rahneeka Saunders and a jumper from Moton returned a five-point advantage to the Patriots with 5:23 left in the first half.
The Spartans stayed within three points before Tyisha Bridges tied the score for the first time at 24-24 with 1:11 to play in the first half. Joyous Tharrington connected on both attempts of a one-and-one, but Owens hit a layup with 36 seconds left sending the game into the break knotted at 26-apiece.
Mason closes this three-game road swing and returns to Colonial Athletic Association traveling to William and Mary for a 7 p.m. tip on Thursday, January 5.