Women’s basketball completed a season sweep of George Mason in a tightly contested conference win Wednesday night.
The Colonials (12-11, 7-4 A-10), led by junior forward Kelsi Mahoney and senior forward Kelli Prange, defeated the Patriots (18-7, 7-4 A-10) 65-61 on the road. Mahoney finished with 17 points and Prange finished with 13.
The win was GW’s third straight and moved them into the fourth position in the Atlantic 10 – tied with the Patriots and Saint Louis.
George Mason got off to a quick start against the Colonials defense, starting the game with three unanswered baskets and maintaining the lead for the entirety of the first quarter.
Head coach Jennifer Rizzotti said the lack of scoring early on wasn’t ideal, but she was happy with her team’s execution of a more patient style of play.
“I don’t know that anything went wrong, we just kind of tried to be really patient early and make the defense work a lot,” Rizzotti said. “Sometimes we make shots, sometimes we don’t, our whole kind of philosophy is that we want to make them have to defend us for 30 seconds.”
An offensive rebound and consequent reverse layup by senior guard Brianna Cummings brought the Colonials within one point with less than a minute remaining in the first quarter and spurred a change of momentum in GW’s favor.
The second quarter saw significant improvements for the Colonials. Their field goal percentage improved from 28.6 in the first quarter to 53.3 in the second, and they grabbed more than double the rebounds during the second frame.
Mahoney said the second quarter improvements were indicative of a season long effort for the team to play in a tough mindset when coming from behind.
“It just comes down to our mental toughness and our focus,” Mahoney said. “We’ve been preaching it all season long. We can beat and play anyone in this conference and coming out today and doing that is just something we have to build on.”
Strong three-point shooting by Mahoney throughout the quarter allowed the Colonials to take a commanding 29–23 lead at halftime.
As George Mason chipped away at GW’s lead in the second half, Prange was crucial in keeping the game close for the Colonials. Her basket at the end of the third quarter regained the lead.
“Sometimes it’s just about the lineup that we have out there,” Rizzotti said. “We have a more defensive-minded lineup to start the game, and Kelli comes in she gives us an immediate impact and then she’s allowed to really dictate what we do offensively in the second quarter.”
Prange, who recently missed several games due to a concussion, said she feels completely settled into her new role coming off the bench.
“I definitely think that coming off the bench I can analyze the game to see what I can do and bring to this team,” she said. “That’s a new role that I have to take under my belt.”
The Patriot defense honed in on Mahoney, who was limited to five points in the second half after scoring 14 in the first half. She said a tighter defense on her allowed her teammates to step up for the team.
“If they’re focusing on me, that just means that one of my teammates is going to be open,” Mahoney said. “So working on freeing one of my teammates, setting a screen, taking a backscreen, whatever it is just to give my teammates another opportunity.”
Although GW led by as many as seven in the fourth quarter, a persistent George Mason offense brought the game within a basket at multiple points near the conclusion of the fourth quarter.
The game’s final minutes were marked by frequent stoppage, with multiple fouls and timeouts called within the final three minutes.
Cummings fouled out with 0:28 left in the game, leaving the Colonials in an unfamiliar situation.
“I haven’t done any game situations where Bri is not in the game,” Rizzotti said. “Typically we have her get the ball at the end, and she can just get open on anybody, and we didn’t have her out there to bail us out.”
With the Patriots within two and 13 seconds left on the clock, junior guard Mei-Lyn Bautista knocked down a shot to pull the Colonials ahead. With seconds left, she completed a huge steal to solidify GW victory.
“It’s good to see us continuing to battle, we’re finally above .500, we’ve moved up a place in the A-10, we’re kind of becoming the team we thought we could be,” Rizzotti said.
The Colonials return to action Sunday against Dayton at the Smith Center. Tipoff is scheduled for noon.