By Natalie Heavren, Contributor
On Nov. 29, the Mason Women’s Basketball team, coming off only their second loss of the season, against a University of Maryland Eastern Shore Hawks a team that hasn’t won since their opening game on November 10th. The Patriots were looking to extend their home winning streak to six, which would be the team’s longest home winning streak since the 1992 and 1993 seasons.
The Patriots came out of the gate strong with graduate transfer from the University of Connecticut, Natalie Butler, scoring the first six points for Mason. This allowed them to start the game with a 6-2 lead. They would never relinquish that lead. The Patriots would score 25 points in the first quarter, holding the Hawks to just 16.
The second quarter was a back and forth battle, with each team scoring 16 points, bringing the halftime score to 41-32. Butler led the way with 17 points and seven of the team’s 21 rebounds. The Patriots not only got more rebounds than the Hawks (21-14), but they also held them to 41 percent shooting from the floor. They also forced the Hawks to spread the ball around, as the Hawks failed to have a player reach double digits in the first half.
The Patriots came out of the gate strong in the third quarter pulling away to a 59-41 lead with three minutes to go in the quarter. However, in the next 6 minutes, the Hawks would pull within nine points. The game would not get any closer until it was too late. The Hawks came within eight with 1:22 left in the game. Late fouls by the Hawks and 87 percent free throw shooting from the Patriots in the fourth quarter would secure the 82-68 Mason victory.
Both experience and youth helped to lead the Patriots to a win as Butler and freshman Nicole Cardaño-Hillary led the way with 25 points each. Butler added a team-high 13 rebounds and Cardaño-Hillary added a team-high five assists.
Patriots head coach Nyla Milleson had this to say about the two stars of the game, “They didn’t really have much answer for Natalie [Butler], which is going to be key. Nikki [Nicole Cardaño-Hillary] shot the ball extremely well.”
After the game, coach Milleson reflected on her team’s performance and said, “We’re a little up and down, probably not as consistent as we’d like to be. I thought we had spurts where we were very, very good, you know shot the ball pretty well, except for from the free throw line.” The Patriots only made 64 percent of their season-high 33 free throw attempts.
This victory brought the Patriots to 7-2, their best start since the 2003-2004 season, and more than halfway to matching their win total of last season (13).
The Patriots have eight days off, their longest break of the season. They return to Eagle Bank Arena on Thursday, Dec. 7 at 7 p.m. against Long Island University Brooklyn. They will look for their seventh straight home victory.