Fairfax, VA (SportsNetwork.com) - Melvin Johnson scored 17 points to help 18th-ranked VCU overcome injuries to two key players and record a 72-60 victory over George Mason.
The Rams played for the first time since NCAA steals leader Briante Weber tore the ACL and MCL in his right knee during Saturday's upset loss to Richmond, while top scorer Treveon Graham sat out nearly all of the second half with a sprained ankle.
VCU (18-4, 8-1 A-10) received strong contributions from their replacements, however. JeQuan Lewis posted 13 points filling in for Weber, while freshman Justin Tillman totaled 10 on 5-of-5 shooting with Graham limited to four points in 12 minutes.
"I think we responded just great," Rams guard Doug Brooks said. "Everybody stepped up to get the win. That's what we have to do from now on."
Jalen Jenkins finished with 15 points, Shevon Thompson racked up 16 rebounds and Patrick Holloway netted 13 points for George Mason (7-14, 2-7), but the Patriots shot just 30.8 percent in the second half after leading 34-32 at the break.
After Jenkins' tip-in 1:32 into the second half gave George Mason a 38-35 edge, the Patriots missed their next six shots and were held scoreless for a stretch of over 4 1/2 minutes as VCU began to take over.
Johnson buried a 3-pointer to jump-start a 14-2 Rams' run, though back-to-back triples by Corey Edwards and Holloway's reverse layup had George Mason back within 49-48 with just over 10 minutes to play.
A Michael Gilmore trey and Brooks' driving layup then gave VCU some additional cushion, and a 6-0 spurt later on had the lead at double digits at 62-52 with under six minutes left.
Jenkins' short jumper with 2:56 remaining pulled the Patriots within 64-59, but George Mason turned it over on its next two possessions and didn't make a basket the rest of the way.
A pair of late Mo-Alie Cox dunks off Patriots giveaways helped seal the outcome, with the last putting the Rams up 70-59 entering the final minute.
"It's just a tough loss, period," George Mason head coach Paul Hewitt said. "(VCU) played a really good ballgame, especially in the second half."
George Mason led for most of the first half as the Rams struggled on both ends early on. Jenkins tallied nine points over the opening five-plus minutes, and the Patriots hit 6-of-8 shots during a 14-0 run that staked them to a 19-10 advantage with 13:09 left in the period.
VCU caught fire later in the frame, sinking seven consecutive field goal attempts and evening the score at 32-32 following an 11-3 stretch Tillman capped with a pair of inside baskets.
VCU scored 27 points off 18 GMU turnovers, 11 of which came after halftime ... Isaiah Jackson amassed 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Patriots, who outrebounded the Rams by a 43-27 margin ... The Rams have now won four straight and 11 of the last 15 matchups between the in-state foes ... George Mason has dropped 11 consecutive games against ranked teams since a win over then-No. 18 Kansas State on Nov. 22, 2007.