RICHMOND, Va. – Senior Eric Maynor (Raeford, N.C.) made a little history and then vaulted Virginia Commonwealth University past George Mason, 76-71, before a standing-room-only audience of 7,594 Saturday at the Stuart C. Siegel Center.

With victory, VCU leapfrogged the Patriots atop the Colonial Athletic Association standings. The Rams are now 8-1 in league play and 15-5 overall. They have won seven straight games. VCU began the day in a three-way tie with Mason and Northeastern. The Huskies were scheduled to play Old Dominion Saturday at 7 p.m.

Maynor came to the rescue when the Rams needed it most. Despite leading by as many as 15 points in the second half, VCU found itself ahead just 65-64 with four minutes remaining. But Maynor buried a 3-pointer from the wing to halt what had been a 9-0 Patriot run. Following a George Mason turnover, freshman Bradford Burgess (Midlothian, Va.) knocked down a 30-foot heave with the shot clock winding down to push the Rams to a 71-64 margin with 3:03 showing. The Patriots would get no closer than four points the rest of the way.

“This was a great battle tonight,” VCU Head Coach Anthony Grant said. “Anytime you have that type of fight, that type of competition that was going on today, both teams are going to make runs. It’s how you answer those runs that determines your ability to win.”

Maynor finished with a game-high 28 points and six assists. Additionally, he became VCU’s all-time assist leader early in the first half, passing Edmund Sherod. Maynor has 587 career assists. He also continued to march up the school’s scoring list, jumping two spots to fourth with 1,640.  Maynor needs six points to pass Phil Stinnie (1,645) for third in VCU history.

George Mason (14-5, 7-2), playing without second-leading scorer John Vaughan, received 24 points from Cam Long. Dre Smith added 16 points. Vaughan suffered a concussion in the Patriot’s loss to Northeastern Wednesday.

For the Rams, sophomore Larry Sanders (Fort Pierce, Fla.)scored 15 points and hauled in seven rebounds. Junior Kirill Pishchalnikov (Maykop, Russia) added 11 points and six rebounds.

Mason owned a 40-27 edge on the glass, but VCU countered by committing only seven turnovers. Maynor turned the ball over once, his lone miscue in the last three games.

The Rams get their shot at sole possession of first place on Tuesday, Jan. 27 when it hosts Northeastern at 9 p.m. at the Alltel Pavilion at the Stuart C. Siegel Center. That game will be televised nationally by ESPNU.

Matt has been reporting on VCU sports for Ram Nation since 2007 with a focus on news, photos, and feature stories.