BY NATALIE HEAVREN, SPORTS EDITOR
Mason improved to 8-7 in Atlantic 10 play and 16-12 overall with their 68-59 win over Saint Joseph’s University. For the second year in a row, the Patriots will finish with a winning season for the first time in fifteen years.
“It’s what this game is all about, it’s to win ball games,” said head coach Nyla Milleson.
She continued saying, “You’ve also got to give a lot of credit to this year’s team because there were a lot of doubters out there who thought we were probably going to fall off the face without Natalie Butler, and obviously there are many days that we still miss her and Tayler Dodson, but I think we have established ourselves and that we’re going to compete every single night.”
Here are three takeaways from the win.
- Turnovers (or lack thereof) are critical
Mason, who entered the game averaging 16.9 turnovers per game, committed just seven turnovers against the Hawks. Seven turnovers are the fewest turnovers the Patriots have committed since Nov. 20, 2015, when they committed six against the University of Utah.
While the Patriots forced only nine turnovers, they were able to score 16 points off of those turnovers.
2. Foul and free throw differential makes a difference
The Patriots committed just nine fouls against the Hawks while drawing 18. Saint Joseph’s shot just five free throws, while Mason shot 20.
Just five Patriots committed a foul, and Alexsis Grate was the only one to have more than two.
Camarie Gatling was able to stay out of foul trouble for Mason, something she has struggled to do recently. Going into this game Gatling committed at least four fouls in 10 of the last 11 games.
“Honestly, I just had a talk with Coach T before the game, and we were really going over the main things I need to focus on and the two things she really told me was my fouls, my ticky-tack ones and my rebounding,” she said. “And she told me that when I get those two under control, my game is different because I’m able to stay on the floor longer, which makes my presence bigger … And I knew my teammates were going to need me down the stretch, and they did, so I was there.”
Gatling scored 11 points and added eight rebounds, a block and a steal.
3. Sarah Kaminski found a way
Coming off of a game where she scored zero points, Sarah Kaminski scored a team-high 17 points and made shots when it mattered most.
She was the only Patriot to hit a three, going 4-7 from behind the arc and a perfect 3-3 from the free throw line. In addition to her 17 points, she added five rebounds, five assists and a block.
“We needed to hit some big shots later in the game, and I just had the confidence to make them,” said Kaminski. “Shooters don’t get down in a couple games when they don’t fall, and you can affect the game in many different ways.”
Milleson added, “I thought we were finally getting her in good positions, our decision-making coming down the stretch was much better than it was in probably three quarters but for sure the first half.”
With the win, Mason guaranteed that they will host an A-10 Tournament game on March 5 at 12 p.m. in EagleBank Arena.