Patriots Rally for Crucial Road Win at Rhode Island on Saturday
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Patriots Rally for Crucial Road Win at Rhode Island on Saturday

WHO: Women's Basketball at Rhode Island
WHERE: Ryan Center – Kingston, R.I.
FINAL SCORE: Mason 68, Rhode Island 65
RECORDS: Mason (11-15, 6-7 A-10); Rhode Island (11-13, 5-6 A-10)
KEY PLAYERSKristi Mokube 19 points, 10 rebounds; Taylor Brown 17 points; Chinyere Bell 12 points

 

1st

2nd

3rd

4th

TOTAL

George Mason (11-15, 6-7 A-10)

9

14

23

22

68

Rhode Island (11-13, 5-7 A-10)

16

15

8

26

65


BOX SCORE (HTML)

KINGSTON, R.I. – Faced with a 14-point first-half deficit on the road, which has been anything but kind this season, the George Mason women's basketball team didn't panic.

Instead, the Patriots chipped away, received scoring inside and outside, rebounded and showed poise at the free-throw line.

Together, it added up to a 68-65 victory over Rhode Island on Saturday afternoon at the Ryan Center. Kristi Mokube led the charge with 19 points and 10 rebounds and Taylor Brown made a season-high four 3-pointers and chipped in 17 points. Freshman Chinyere Bell tied a career high with 12 points as the Patriots picked up just their second road win of the season.

“What a great road win for our team to battle back from a big first-half deficit,” head coach Nyla Milleson said. “We kept our poise and composure, knocked down shots, got big rebounds and finished the game with big free throws. Very proud of our resiliency today.”

The win gives the Patriots six conference wins – their most in three years and their most since joining the A-10 before the 2013-14 season. Notching their second conference road win is also a sign of improvement as the Patriots won one road game in league play over the last two years.

With just three regular-season games remaining, it also pushes them up to eighth place in the conference standings. The top 10 teams receive a first-round bye in the A-10 Tournament, which runs March 2-6 in Richmond, Va.

“I had a flashback to two years ago (at Rhode Island) when we were struggling so this year it was very exciting and very relieving,” Brown said. “I'm just proud of my team and proud that we stuck together and came out with a win. Definitely a lot of improvement. As a senior who has been there when we couldn't buy a win it is incredible. I'm just really proud of the success we have this season. I truly believe if we keep playing together and play hard we will continue to have more.”

Clinging to a one-point lead with three minutes left, the Patriots (11-15, 6-7 Atlantic 10) made a pair of stops to stay in front. Then Brown delivered a dagger. The fifth-year senior, who had sunk a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired just minutes earlier to unknot a tie, once again delivered from beyond the arc – well beyond the arc.

At least five feet behind the 3-point line, she drilled a trey from the top of the key for a 63-59 lead with 1:27 left.

“We were rebounding well so I knew either way I knew my teammates were going to get the rebound,” Brown said. “I shot with confidence regardless and the ball went in.”

Mason made five of its last six free throws, including two by Kara Wright with 2.9 seconds left, to hold on for the win. The Patriots finished 19 for 25 from the free-throw line.

They also excelled on the glass, outrebounding Rhode Island 41-28 and scoring 16 second-chance points off 19 offensive rebounds. Mokube grabbed 10 rebounds, including seven in the first half, for her fifth double-double of the season and ninth of her career. Tiffany Padgett added nine rebounds and Wright finished just one shy of her career high with eight rebounds.

The Patriots got off to a rocky start, missing their first nine shots. Their first basket didn't come until 2:31 left in the first quarter. Led by Charise Wilson, who finished with a game-high 30 points, the Rams went on an 11-0 run in the second quarter. Dominque Ward's 3-pointer with 4:22 left in the first half extended Rhode Island's lead to 29-15.

But the Patriots ended the half with some momentum as Mokube grabbed offensive rebounds and went right back up for a layup on two straight possessions to cut the halftime lead to 31-23. Out of halftime, Mason made adjustments and put on the defensive clamps down low, holding Samantha Tabakman to four points after she scored 13 in the first half.

Rhode Island (11-13, 5-7) didn't score for nearly the first four minutes of the half and only mustered eight points in the third quarter. The Patriots took advantage. They went on an 11-2 run, capped off by a Brown 3-pointer to put the Patriots in front 34-33 for their first lead of the game.

The Rams briefly took the lead back before the teams exchanged free throws.
Mason took command of the game, however, as the quarter ended. Bell found Mokube underneath for a layup. She drew a foul and sunk the free throw for a go-ahead 3-point play.

That was just the start of a 10-3 run that gave the Patriots their biggest lead. Mokube scored again and then Bell put together an impressive last 33 seconds. First, she completed a 3-point play with a jumper and free throw. Then, she registered a steal and raced down the court, banking in a jumper with three seconds left for a 46-39 lead.  

The Rams battled back, though, staying close and finally tying the game at 57-57 with 4:30 left thanks to a layup by Wilson. It was short-lived, though. On the ensuing possession, with the shot clock dwindling, Brown put on a move and jetted backward for a stepback 3-pointer as the horn sounded. The shot gave Mason a 60-57 lead – one they wouldn't relinquish in holding on down the stretch.

The Patriots have the week off, returning to action at 2 p.m. next Saturday against Richmond at EagleBank Arena.

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