If you like to hear whistles blown and enjoy watching free throw contests, the Winthrop Coliseum was the place to be Sunday afternoon. The Lady Eagles topped winless George Mason, 58-42, in a game that featured 48 fouls and 70 free throws.
Winthrop built a 39-20 lead in the second half on a pair of free throws by Ashley Fann. George Mason cut the lead to 43-34 with 7:24 left but never really threatened.
The Patriots, out of the Colonial Athletic Association, dropped to 0-8. Winthrop is the second Big South opponent to beat George Mason this season. High Point took a 66-55 win Dec. 1.
Winthrop improved to 4-3 and will have 11 days to prepare for its next game. The Lady Eagles will travel to the Bahamas to play in the Sunsplash Shootout Dec. 18 and 20. Georgia Tech is on the schedule for the first game. Winthrop will get either Memphis or UT-Arlington after that.
Winthrop was lacking some offensive firepower. Senior shooting guard Tiffany Rodd, the team's second-leading scorer at 10 points per game, sat out with a bothersome high ankle sprain. She will use the time off to heal before the team flies to the islands.
She was recognized in a pregame ceremony for becoming the school's 13th women's player to reach 1,000 career points. She stands at 1,001.
Shanice Cole and Jennifer Walker returned to the floor Sunday. Their suspensions were lifted by coach Bud Childers prior to the game. The two were benched Nov. 11, four days before the season opener, for violating team rules.
Cole started at forward against George Mason. She had seven points and four rebounds.
Walker, who scored a game-high 12 points, was the first player off the bench when she replaced Ashley Haugtvedt six minutes into the game.
Cole, filling in for Rodd, was surprised by the starting assignment and looked a little uncertain of herself in the first half. She settled into her game in the second half and had a couple strong drives to the basket.
"I'm just excited to be back and help the team out," Cole said.
Walker made an immediate impact on the game when she entered at the 13:59 mark in the first half. She scored eight points in four minutes to help the Lady Eagles extend their lead to 16-6.
Walker was eager to get back into a game situation.
"It's been hard watching the team struggle in a couple games without being able to help," the 6-foot-3 senior center said. "I'm just happy to be back."
Winthrop made 24 of 34 from the line. Both the attempts and the makes were by far season highs. The Patriots finished 20-of-36 from the stripe.
Yvonne van Daalen scored nine points and Ashley Fann added eight points and 11 rebounds for the Lady Eagles.
George Mason was led by forward Whitney Ward, who scored 11 points, and Eugenia Broadus with 11 rebounds.
Senior small forward Franchesca Davenport remains indefinitely suspended and has been further restricted in her involvement with the team. She has not been allowed to practice with the team. She was at the Coliseum on Sunday but did not dress for the game nor sit on the team bench.
"The team is fine, always has been fine," Cole said assuredly. We (Cole and Walker) went through what coach Childers told us to do and we have moved on."
Davenport's status for the rest of the season, however, is uncertain.
With so many fouls called and so much time spent at the free throw line, this was an odd game to follow. Childers said his staff, at one point, counted 13 straight possessions that resulted in a foul call.
"It was a weird game. When we saw how it was going to be called, we made the decision to pound it inside to Walker and Fann and Haugtvedt," Childers said.
The trio combined for 28 points in the game.
Winthrop won the game without making a 3-pointer, a rarity that had Childers wondering if that had ever happened in his four-plus season as coach at the school.