Women’s basketball notched their fourth straight win in conference play against George Mason at home Wednesday night.
The Colonials (11-14, 4-8 A-10) managed to hold off the Patriots (8-16, 2-10 A-10) 65-57 in a close one, relying on a hot start offensively and complete control of the boards in the first half to hand George Mason their fourth straight loss.
“I think we’ve really made a commitment to spend more time on the offensive end really working on getting shots within our offense,” Head Coach Caroline McCombs said. “And so we’ll do a lot of break downs throughout practice.”
Redshirt junior forward Mayowa Taiwo led the way for GW, notching a monster double-double scoring 18 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. The Colonials routed the Patriots on the glass 4-to-24 on the night.
“I just had to keep my offensive mindset and keep attacking the defense,” Taiwo said. “It was a frustrating game with calls and physicality. But my teammates kept encouraging me and had my back.”
Junior guard Sheslanie Laureano also netted 14 points while hitting 3-of-7 from deep. On the visiting team, sophomore guard Taylor Jameson accumulated 20 points on 5-of-11 shooting from beyond the arc in a strong outing as well.
The Colonials got off to a hot first-quarter start, catalyzed by an early offensive showing from Laureano, who hit three shots from beyond the arc in the first half.
Defense has continued to be the fulcrum of the GW squad, as they limited the Patriots to just 22 attempts and 41.5 percent from the field in the first half. That defense gave way to fast-break scoring opportunities resulting in 12 points off of fast breaks and turnovers.
Deep in the second quarter, after George Mason made two free throws, the early GW lead had been cut down to just two before Laureano capped a 7-0 Colonial run with another 3-ball.
The Patriots were forced into two shot-clock violations as the half came to a close, allowing GW to maintain a five-point lead of 29-24.
Junior guard Essence Brown kicked off the scoring in the third quarter with a pair of jumpers. Graduate student guard Kyara Frames then hit a trey while being fouled and converted the “and-one” opportunity to put the Colonials up by 11, their largest lead of the game up to that point.
George Mason countered with a 3-ball of their own, but Taiwo converted a layup, and freshman guard Maxine Engel put up a basket, prompting the Patriots to call a timeout with 5:51 left in the quarter and GW ahead 41–29. Engel scored once more, but George Mason found themselves in a groove soon after.
Following a layup on the prior possession, Jameson drilled a 3-point bucket and then pickpocketed Engel near midcourt, before pulling up to drain another 3-ball to cut the lead to six. McCombs called a timeout with 3:26 left to stem some of the momentum.
“We had to lock back in on defense and take care of the ball,” Taiwo said. “We started giving them easy points, and we needed to get more stops.”
Taiwo converted a difficult layup out of the timeout, showing off her extension while falling away from the basket. But the Patriots closed out the quarter on a 12-2 scoring run, with Jameson sinking another 3, and had managed to cut the deficit to four at a score of 45–41.
George Mason shot 4-of-6 from beyond the arc and capitalized on the Colonials’ mistakes, scoring six points off turnovers and the fast break.
The Patriots opened the scoring in the fourth quarter, cutting the lead to two, before Frames drew a foul and converted one from the free throw line. Brown hit a wide open jumper off a pass from Frames, and Taiwo made another difficult layup, twisting and turning away from the defender to will the ball into the basket.
After George Mason clawed their way back within two once more, Taiwo secured her double-double with a layup and 4:37 left to play before powering her way through a foul on the next possession and sinking the “and-one” opportunity to put the Colonials up 55-48.
“She has tremendous composure on the floor,” McCombs said.
Taiwo continued to keep the Patriots at bay, finishing a backwards layup with 2:08 left. On the next Colonials possession, she created some space for herself inside the paint, hitting a contested jumper that swirled around the rim of the basket before finding its way into the net with 1:17 left.
Laureano drew a foul and missed both of her attempts at the line, but she drew another foul and redeemed herself, converting both from the charity stripe to put GW up 63-55.
“It felt good,” Laureano said. “I’ve been frustrated. So my team had my back – they’ve been talking to me – so I knew I had to make those two free throws.”
Engel made both of her shots from the line, and Brown played some tenacious defense on the other end to force a rare Jameson airball before Frames ran the clock down a few plays later.
McCombs said the team has learned from a string of close losses they had earlier in the season as they have built their win streak.
“I think we’ve learned from those experiences, VCU, St. Bonaventure,” McCombs said. “It hurts, it hurts when you lose those close games at the end, so you really start evaluating that and start practicing your end game situations even more.”
The Colonials will hit the road again for a Sunday matchup against Saint Joseph’s at 2 p.m.
This article appeared in the February 17, 2022 issue of the Hatchet.