|James Madison Tops Women's Basketball, 66-54|
FAIRFAX, Va. - Despite three players in double-figures, the George Mason women's basketball team could not overcome a strong start from James Madison to open the second half, falling 66-54 on Wednesday in the Patriot Center.
Mason finished the regular season with a 14-15 overall record and 8-10 mark in the Colonial Athletic Association, while James Madison improved to 23-6, 14-4.
Amber Easter led Mason with her eighth double-double of the season, scoring 18 points to go along with 15 rebounds to match her career-high. Taleia Moton chipped in 15 points, while Evelyn Lewis added 10. Moton and Rahneeka Saunders each dished out three assists.
Four players reached double-figures for James Madison led by Tarik Hislop's 18 points. Nikki Newman and Kirby Burkholder added double-doubles, while Lauren Whitehurst finished the game with 14 points. The Dukes, who saw scoring solely from their five starters, won the rebounding battle, 42-39.
The visiting Dukes ran out of the gate with an 11-4 lead by the 15:28 mark in the first half, but Mason cut the score to 11-10 fueled by two layups from Lewis. JMU reopened a nine-point lead at 19-10, but the Patriots took advantage of inefficient shooting from the Dukes and cut the score to 21-17 at 4:12 using a triple and jumper from Easter. Moton hit a jumper less than a minute later to make it a one possession game before Lewis nailed a layup to tie the score at 21-all with 1:34 to play. Moton handed Mason its first lead finishing a fast break attempt, but Newman drained a triple to close the half and give James Madison a narrow 24-23 lead at halftime.
Madison opened the second half on a 12-2 run to expand its lead to 36-25. The Dukes maintained a double-digit lead until Easter sparked a 10-4 Patriots run as Mason cut the score to 46-40 at 9:57 on a Joyous Tharrington bucket. James Madison pushed its lead back out to 12 points, but Easter followed an old-fashioned three-point play with a pair of free throws at 6:02 for a 53-46 score.
Whitehurst put the Dukes back up by 10, but Mason cut the score to four points using four free throws from Lewis and Pickard and a bucket from Easter for a 56-52 score with 4:07 to play. Hislop hit four free throws over the next two minutes, pushing the score out to 60-52. Pickard made it a six-point ballgame with a layup at 1:04, but Madison closed the game going 4-for-6 at the free throw line and a jumper from Whitehurst for the final 66-54 score.Mason has earned the No. 7 seed in the upcoming CAA Women's Basketball Tournament and will take on No. 10 Northeastern at 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 8. The tournament will be held at The Showcase Arena in Upper Marlboro, Md. for the second consecutive year.