Illinois State got off to nice start in Fairfax, Virginia, when freshman guard Paige Saylor stole the ball away from Patriots’ freshman Nicole Cardaño-Hillary after the opening tip and took it for a fast-break layup. Senior Hannah Green followed with a jumper and ISU was off to a 4-0 lead within one minute of the game.
After that, the Redbirds struggled mightily to find a rhythm on offense , especially in the second half and George Mason handed ISU its second loss of the season 56-37 Wednesday afternoon. It was George Mason's fifth win. ISU falls to 1-2 on the young season.
ISU led 15-12 after the first quarter, but responded with just seven, six and nine points in each of the following three quarters. There were two lead changes in the first quarter, and after George Mason took their second lead, they didn’t look back.
“Nine times out of 10 you hold a team to 56 points you’ll like your chances of winning, but man we just got to figure out a way to get it done offensively. Of course, it hurts without Simone but we’re not going to make that excuse. Everyone’s got to step up and we got to find a way,” head coach Kristen Gillespie said.
ISU shot just 15-57 (26 percent) from the field, and 5-25 (20 percent) in the second half. Their strength has been their ability to score points in the paint, but without Simone Goods and with George Mason’s height advantage, the Redbirds were held to just eight points in the paint. The Patriots, however, scored 26 points in the paint. They also outrebounded the Redbirds 53-32.
“Anytime you shoot 26 percent and get outrebounded by 21, it’s going to be real challenging to win,” Gillespie said.
Green led all scorers with 16 points on 7-16 shooting, and she led ISU with 10 rebounds and five blocks. Sophomore Megan Talbot struggled offensively, she shot just 4-16 from the field but wound up with 12 points and two three-pointers made. The Redbirds depth was also challenged heavily and was outplayed in this game. ISU’s bench finished 0-9 from the field with zero points. George Mason’s bench finished with 16 points on 6-21 shooting.
Patriots’ Natalie Butler finished the day with a double-double. She shot 6-12 from the floor, including one three-pointer and she finished 13 points and 15 rebounds.
Illinois State will look to get back in the win column when they return to Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena at 2 p.m. Sunday for their next game against the University of Missouri-Kansas City.