The Patriots won a defensive battle to extend their win streak.
BY GABRIEL KING, SPORTS EDITOR
Mason women’s basketball defeated Fordham 54-47 on Wednesday night at EagleBank Arena. The Patriots (17-3, 8-1 Atlantic 10) relied on stifling defense and strong free throw shooting to close out the victory.
“It wasn’t pretty, but it’s good to be on this side of ugly,” Head Coach Vanessa Blair-Lewis said. “All in all, our players stepped up and they won a game without playing their best.” Both teams shot an identical 34.5% from the field, leading to a close, low-scoring game.
The Patriots struggled in the first half, shooting 10-33 and committing eight turnovers. Fordham (7-14, 2-8) used a full-court press early and often, which forced Mason out of their rhythm. The Rams led by one at halftime, which was the Patriots’ first halftime deficit since Jan. 2 against Rhode Island.
Despite the slow start, Mason would begin the third quarter on a 9-0 run to retake the lead, which they held for the rest of the game. Ta’Viyanna Habib sparked the run with consecutive three-pointers. Habib finished the game with 13 points.
“We lacked energy in this game, at the start. Hitting those shots created energy, so it was really important,” Habib said. The run to begin the third quarter reenergized the Patriots, as they outscored the Rams 19-8 in the quarter.
Fordham made a late push, going on a 9-2 run in the fourth quarter to cut Mason’s lead to six with 1:15 left. Taylor Donaldson led the Rams, as she finished with 24 of their 47 points. However, late free throws from Nekhu Mitchell and Taylor Jameson secured the victory for the Patriots.
The strong finish leaves the Patriots with room for improvement heading into the second half of the season. “There’s so many things that we still need to work on to get better at,” Blair-Lewis said. “It’s kind of where you want to be going into tournament time.”
With the win, Mason moved into a tie with Richmond for second place in the A-10 standings, and half a game behind current leader Saint Joseph’s. A top-four finish would secure a double bye in next month’s Atlantic 10 Tournament for the Patriots.
On a national level, the Patriots sit squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble, as ESPN’s Charlie Creme projects Mason as the fifth team out of the field. An already strong résumé will be boosted if the Patriots can continue their dominance of conference opponents.
The schedule gets tougher for Mason in February, beginning with a road game at Loyola Chicago on Saturday. The Patriots will return home on Feb. 8 to host Saint Joseph’s in a showdown of two of the A-10’s best teams.