BY NATALIE HEAVREN STAFF WRITER
Women’s basketball defeated Longwood 77-65 on Dec. 1 to improve to 2-1. The Lancers, who were once down 15, tied the game at 57 with 6:55 left in the fourth quarter. Mason then scored the next nine points to retake control of the game.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
MARIKA KORPINEN IS SETTLING IN AS A SENIOR LEADER
After being shadowed by Daijah Jefferson and Jazmyn Doster in the first two games respectively, Marika Korpinen exploded for 19 points, 12 rebounds, 7 assists and 1 steal Tuesday night, recording her first career double-double.
Prior to the season starting, head coach Nyla Milleson mentioned that Korpinen would have to step into a larger role this season, something she has done successfully, scoring in double figures each of the team’s first three games.
After the Longwood game, Milleson noted she was proud of Korpinen for both her leadership as a captain of a young team and how well she’s adapted to her different role this season. Korpinen has been sharing point guard responsibility with freshman Taylor Jameson, a position she has not played a lot Mason, and has had to take on the role of a primary scorer for the team.
“It’s a lot of responsibility of being a leader, trying to get everybody prepared, locked in, but also running the point on the court,” Korpinen said.
She added, “It’s a little stressful, but I mean I’m enjoying it. Just, I need to get more comfortable having the ball in my hands, but I think I’ve done a pretty good job of trying to share the ball — just trying to get everyone going, pushing the pace. I just want to make the team better.”
Milleson praised Korpinen for her adjustment, saying she has done a “phenomenal job” so far, and that “there’s lots of people that want to be a great player. But there’s very few people that really take the responsibility of what it takes to be a great player. And, and Finn does that, both on and off the floor.”
Korpinen has two goals this year: to be a better person and to be a better athlete. She prides herself on how hard she works. Before coming back to Mason this season, Korpinen had to figure out how to train in Finland with limited resources.
“I didn’t have a basketball court, I didn’t have a place to lift,” she said. “My dad built a garage gym for me. I did FaceTime workouts with Coach Dunn in the rain outside on the basketball court, I just want to be better. I want to be a better person. A better athlete and that’s, that’s all in my mind.”
So far this season Korpinen is averaging 13.0 points, 8.3 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1 steal per game. If she continues to play at this level she will be a difference-maker for the Patriots this season.
MASON PROVED THEY CAN KNOCK DOWN THREES
After struggling to hit threes last season, averaging 5.6 per game, the Patriots went 9-13 from behind the arc in the first half against Longwood. Additionally, six different players made the first six threes.
While the team went 0-8 from three in the second half, the team was still able to benefit from the spacing.
“We feel like we’ve got some people that can shoot it and I think our pace helped us get those threes, because we were penetrating and able to pitch, and they didn’t necessarily come out of a slow-down set,” Milleson said.
She also added that hitting threes allows Jazymn Doster to get better looks in the post.
Continuing to hit threes will be an important part of Mason’s success going forward.
THE MINDSET OF SHARING THE BALL IS WORKING
After the last two games, Milleson said that the team is committed to the mindset of sharing the basketball.
Since this summer, Milleson and the coaching staff have been stressing the importance of sharing the basketball and celebrating the success of others.
“What we were seeing in practice and what we felt could happen is that we could be balanced and we do have multiple scores. But to see it come to reality is a really fun thing to watch,” she said.
For the second game in a row, Mason had five players in double figures, something that Daijah Jefferson noted makes it difficult for defenses to play against them.
“It’s hard to guard when you have to scout for five or six scoring threats versus just two or one. So I feel like, the more we share the ball, the better we’ll be down the stretch,” she said.
The Patriots will be tested when they travel down to Harrisonburg to take on James Madison on Dec. 6 at 2 p.m.