BY NATALIE HEAVREN, SPORTS EDITOR
After starting 0-3 in conference play, Women’s Basketball has rattled off three straight wins after defeating the University of Rhode Island 75-69 at home on Sunday.
The Rams’ largest lead was 16-10 with 3:11 left in the first quarter. Though they did not take back the lead for good until the third quarter, the Patriots had a large amount of momentum for most of the last three quarters.
Though URI pulled within one of Mason’s lead with less than three minutes left, a common foul on the Rams’ Jalissa Ross and a technical foul led to four free throws for Nicole Cardaño-Hillary. She made all of them and put the Patriots ahead by five.
The game never got closer than four, and the Patriots went 9-12 from the free throw line down the stretch to secure the win.
Here are three takeaways from the game.
- Height is not the most important thing
Mason’s tallest player on the court yesterday was Allie McCool, who stands 6 feet 2 inches. However, Rhode Island played three players listed between 6 feet 3 inches and 6 feet 5 inches. While the height proved to be a problem early on for the Patriots, they were able to find other ways to score.
After the game head coach Nyla Milleson said, “We talked about it all week long, their length, their athleticism … I know one of the first timeouts we called we talked about everything’s got to be a little quicker, a little harder, a little bit better.”
Cardaño-Hillary was the fastest player on the court, and her ability to drive to the basket resulted in frequent appearances at the free throw line.
She was 15-17 from the free throw line, both new career highs. Cardaño-Hillary also shot 8-18 from the floor, 44.4 percent, her highest since Dec. 9 against Eastern Kentucky University.
Finding ways to continue to compete against height will be important as conference plays continues.
2. Rebounding is an emphasis for the team and it shows
“You know rebounding ever since Natalie Butler and Tayler Dodson walked out the door last March has just been an emphasis for us,” Milleson said when asked about rebounding. “I would probably say we surprised a lot of people with our battle on the boards. So it’s definitely an emphasis for us … Their size in there was difficult, but at the same time we were able to kick it out and we were able to save the possessions so it’s just an emphasis for us to really, really rebound.”
Last season the team averaged 44.6 rebounds per game. Even after the departure of Natalie Butler and Tayler Dodson, who combined grabbed nearly half of the team’s rebounds, the team continues to dominate on the glass.
The team is averaging 42.7 rebounds per game, and outrebounded a taller Rhode Island team 43-33.
3. Jacy Bolton and Cardaño-Hillary caught fire, but everyone contributed
Jacy Bolton scored nine of the Patriots’ 14 first-quarter points. She finished the game with 19 points and 13 rebounds in 39 minutes, recording her seventh double-double of the season.
Cardaño-Hillary finished the game with 32 points, two rebounds, three assists and two steals. She is just four points shy of scoring her 1,000th point.
However, though Bolton and Cardaño-Hillary did most of the scoring, no other player scored more than six points. Every other player contributed in key moments.
Sarah Kaminski made her second three of the game with two minutes left to put Mason up eight.
Allie McCool grabbed a career-high nine rebounds and scored four points in 19 minutes. She also made both her free throws with 44 seconds left to put the team up by seven.
“I’m glad you brought Allie up, she probably played the best game of her career today,” said Milleson. “Nine rebounds and battling against their big. I think 32 [Nicole Jorgensen] is one of the best centers in the conference so it definitely took everybody today, but rebounding has got to continue to be an emphasis for us.”
“I would say my biggest approach would be, what can I do to get her off the boards, what can I do to help my teammates …,” McCool said. “Whether it was an extra box out or just simply nudging her or hitting her when she was coming across the lane, we had to do what we had to do to make sure she did not touch the ball and make her as uncomfortable as possible.”
Mason returns home to take on George Washington University in the next installment of the Revolutionary Rivalry on Feb. 6 at 7 p.m.